(Boulder-CO) Early this morning the Redeem Team squared off with Greece in their first real challenge of the 29th Olympiad. And if you’ve found a way to block out the disappointment that was the 2006 World Championships, let me remind you that Greece was the team that upset the Americans who ended up settling for Bronze in those games.
But that’s why our boys are dubbed, “The Redeem Team”.
In the first quarter, the USA looked to keep the Greeks honest from downtown and they did so by allowing Greece penetration while staying home on the three-point arch. Content to allow Greece two pointers, the result was Greece only being able to put four three-point attempts in the air in the first ten minute period - all of which missed.
However, with the game still close after the first ten minutes the United States turned up their defensive intensity on the perimeter in the second quarter and blew the contest wide open with a dizzying display of fast break dunks. The increased pressure rattled Greece out of their desired penetrate-and-dish game plan and catapulted USA into halftime with a 19-point lead. LeBron James once again sparked the team with emphatic rejections around the rim and Chris Bosh (who played his best game of these games so far) bothered Greece’s ball handlers with his length and quickness. As for the Greeks, their game plan was failing. After only being able to put 16 points on the scoreboard in each of the first ten minute quarters, Greece was 0-7 from three-point range in the first half and trailed the USA, 51-32, at intermission.
In the second half it was just more of the same and then some as the USA extended their lead to defeat Greece, 92-69.
The USA had found the recipe for disrupting the Greeks, and Greece, like most of the other international competitors in these games, is not equipped for coming from behind.
Chris Bosh and Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 18 points each. Bosh added four rebounds and two blocks on 7-8 from the field and 4-5 from the free-throw line in a very well-rounded effort. And speaking of well-rounded… Dwayne Wade and LeBron James were once again nothing short of spectacular! Wade continued his brilliant overall performance so far in these games with 17 points, six steals, five assists, three rebounds, and the capstone highlight thus far of these games. After coming up with a backcourt steal that left him off balance and heading out of bounds, Wade showed tremendous presence of mind as he turned, collected the ball, and tossed an incredible alley-oop to Kobe Bryant for a thunderous slam!
LeBron James, along with three more demoralizing rejections, added 13 points, a team-high eight rebounds, tied Chris Paul for a team-high six assists, and added his own collection of jaw-dropping aerial displays.
Up next for the Redeem Team is another tough test in pool play against Spain and Pau Gasol on Saturday. Another strong defensive effort is in order for the USA to stay perfect heading into the elimination rounds as Spain has numerous NBA players on its roster.