Basketball is, at its' heart, a simple game. The team that either shoots better, or forces the other team to shoot poorly, almost always win. There's a reason why coaches are always preaching defense, as the saying goes, "because we'll need it to win a game when our shots are not falling". It is an accurate, if overused, axiom-but one that was hugely relevant this morning in Japan.
There will be much hand-wringing about Greece's "upset" win over Team USA, but their well-earned victory boiled down to 2 simple truths; America shot poorly, and couldn't keep Greece from shooting it well. Here are the numbers that matter most; the USA was outscored by 3 points from the three point line, and 3 points from the free throw line. 3 + 3 =6. Greece won 91-85. Katanoo?(Greek for "understand?").
That the Americans shot 10 more three pointers and 4 more free throws than the Greeks only underscores how poorly they shot the ball. That Greece shot 63% from the field shows how poorly America defended, but also how well the Greeks knocked in shots, contested or not.
You see, you can not fairly analyze a game from just one perspective. And my red eye perspective suggested to me that Greece came in with the attitude of "let's work for good shots, hope they go down more than they have in the past, and also hope America has a bad shooting night". Doesen't sound too Greek to me. That is sound strategy, one employed by teams like Villanova and NC State in their upset wins in the 80's. One of the benefits of being an underdog is that you tend to play "looser". Loose muscles can perform to their expected levels-tight muscles can not. And favorites do tend to tighten up when they are being outplayed and are in danger of losing. Despite all of Coach K's efforts at freeing up our guys to just load up and shoot, our shooters looked tight to my trained eye. Tired too. Tight and tired will typically lead to 32% three point shooting and 59% from the line.
We can delve deeply into the why's and how's at a later date-there are certainly ample discussions to be entertained, including topics such as "men vs. boys", "where was Battier(12 minutes)?", "what happened to our press and run team?", etc. And I would love to introduce Bron Bron and some of his teammates to a term called "help defense". Especially against the pick and roll. But for now we need to give the Greeks their due. They shot it much better than Team USA, period. And in a do or die playoff, that is all they needed to do to advance.