Team USA’s men’s basketball team defeated Venezuela 113–69 on Monday. It was — surprise! — a bad game. Here’s all you need to know:
Play of the game: Witness the glory of Gregory Echenique, a Venezuelan amalgam of three of my favorite inessential NBA big men of the last 10 years. He is a 6-foot-9, 260-pound Tonka truck that combines the size and maneuverability of Glen Davis, the glutes of Chuck Hayes (good eye, Doug Collins), and the beard of Kyle O’Quinn, which creates the illusion of his head being the size of an Easter Island moai. Here Echenique is, doing the damn thing on DeMarcus Cousins.
Look at how low this dude can get! Just before he makes the spin, his ass is lower than Boogie’s bended knees — and his girth forces Cousins to keep a wide stance to make sure he’s actually covering the guy. By getting that low, his spin radius widens significantly. He gets right by Cousins. Beautiful. Echenique was Doug McDermott’s former running mate at Creighton, and is a veteran of the Venezuelan national team. He’s come a long way; back in 2011, when he was trying out for the national squad, he noted that the biggest thing he’d learned from then-coach Eric Musselman was “to not hug my guy on defense.” In a way, he found success against Team USA by forcing his opponents to do just that. Late in the game, Echenique rolled himself up like a Jurassic-era roly poly and made it impossible for Cousins to do anything but hug him for his fifth foul in nine minutes of play.
… Or maybe it’s this:
Quit embarrassing yourself, Paul! It’s only been two games!
Player of the game: Can Echenique be the player of the game, too? He scored 18 points on an über-efficient 6-for-7 from the field and spent the entire game running out to the perimeter, setting screens for pick-and-rolls that he knew were never coming his way. On his one putback dunk, he wound up on the play by running around in a half-circle — this guy is the player of my heart. No? How about Kobe Bryant’s cousin John Cox, who attempted nearly a third of Venezuela’s total shots, finishing with 19 points on 20 attempts in honor of his cousin (who is Kobe Bryant)? No? It should go to a representative of the team that won by 44 points? Fine.
We’ll give the honor to DeAndre Jordan, who dunked everything in sight and prevented a lot of what Venezuela wanted to do on offense simply by standing tall in the painted area. What a treasure it is to watch Jordan on a team guaranteed to make it past the second round of elimination.
Warriors Chemistry Watch: We caught a glimpse of Klay Thompson’s worst-case scenario in Oakland next season. This was a bad game, and Thompson was its avatar. He was awful, missing all of his shots, and even drawing boos from the Rio crowd after airballing a 3 with six minutes remaining in the second quarter. Walking back to the bench, he was consoled by Carmelo Anthony and Kyrie Irving. He passed right by Draymond Green, who either fell into one of his trances, or was too ashamed to look at him. Thompson spent a good portion of the game sitting at the end of the bench, Sad-Keanuing next to Irving and Harrison Barnes. The former ruined his life in last season’s Finals; the latter was the series’ scapegoat who will be watching from Dallas if things go awry in Golden State.
Concern Troll of the Game: Team USA’s sloppiness was met by Venezuela’s swarming, grabby defense to produce an 18–18 Pollack painting in the first quarter. Venezuela did exactly what you need to do against an athletic team loaded with perimeter talent — make the game as physical as possible and draw the clock out to limit Team USA’s possessions. Could a team with substantially more talent than Venezuela adopt a similar mentality and actually put the U.S. through a scare? On Wednesday, Team USA plays Australia, a squad that completely dismantled France — which is favored to reach the medal podium — and put away Serbia earlier on Monday. The Boomers have four NBA champions (Aron Baynes, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, and Patty Mills) in their starting lineup. The U.S. only has two (Thompson, Irving) in its. If you could create a human being out of the game plan Venezuela deployed against Team USA, it would look something like Dellavedova. Let’s not underestimate Australia.