Team USA barely squeaked by Serbia on Friday, 94–91. The U.S. was up only nine at the half, and the game came down to the final seconds. Here’s what you need to know:
Play of the Game: I have this vision of a dystopian future of NBA basketball that evolves beyond the need for positions. All games are full-court, street-rules, one-on-one battles between point-forward-center hybrids who are all 7-plus feet tall. Some might say that time is already here. But in my vision, the courts are lined with moats of lava.
The inspiration for this idea is DeMarcus Cousins, who — for the sake of this metaphor — is already walking upright on land.
Putting a much smaller Milos Teodosic in the spin cycle was a good start for Boogie, who’d spent the lion’s share of the last two games mired in foul trouble. It’s crazy what can happen when you don’t pick up two quick fouls to start off a game. Once more, from a different angle, so we can truly appreciate this spin move in all its resplendence:
Let Cousins start at point guard for the Kings next year. We’ve been holding him back for too long. Also, let’s selectively ignore that this was the last good thing that Boogie did for the remainder of regulation. And that Miroslav Raduljica later gave him a taste of his own medicine.
Player of the Game: Nikola Jokic, and it’s not close. The Nuggets sophomore wasn’t given much playing time against France, Venezuela, or Australia (Serbia’s earlier preliminary-round matchups), but tonight your boy was serving. In 30 minutes, Jokic scored 25 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbed six boards. In addition to scoring buckets on the U.S., Jokic also acted as a fulcrum for Serbia’s offense. So, yeah, that should happen more.
Warriors Chemistry Watch: Klay Thompson, who didn’t play in the second half, had three points on 1-of-6 shooting, bringing his field goal percentage to 20 percent over the last two games.
Kevin Durant took four shots.
And missed two of them.
However, one of them was a 3 from the Corinthians arena in São Paulo, which gives me a reason to share this again:
Concern Troll: A three-point win and increasingly sloppy defense? Fake concern may be turning into actual concern. The Serbs played a lot like the Spurs, in that it seemed as if they all live together and have movie nights and a weekly book club.
Good ball movement and deep 3s kept Serbia within single digits of a superior (talentwise) team. Team USA struggled mightily for stops, and barely moved the ball. If the Americans plan on returning from Brazil with a gold medal (and Melo absolutely does), they’re going to have to tighten things up and not lean so much on individual play.