US men confident heading to Olympic hoop quarters
LONDON (AP) — Defiant and defensive, Mike Krzyzewski hardly sounded like he coaches the best team in the world.
He's tired of the criticisms of the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team, fed up with questions about why it isn't as easy for the Americans as it used to be. For more than 13 minutes Tuesday, Krzyzewski fought back against every notion that his squad should never dare find itself in a close game.
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Now it's time for his players to answer for themselves.
The quarterfinals start Wednesday against Australia, the Americans needing three victories — however they get them — to win the gold medal that seems such a foregone conclusion most times, but far from a sure thing during long stretches of their last two games.
"We're undefeated, now we're 0-0. Like, our team's done a really good job," Krzyzewski said. "I mean, we have great camaraderie, we're healthy. Again, you all can do whatever you want with the dominance thing, but it ain't happening. It's just not happening and we know that. So if you're looking at a game for us to dominate every minute of the game, it will not happen. They're too good. People are too good and so if you can win minutes, segments, then that adds up to a win, which is what we want to do."
The U.S. went 5-0 in pool play, facing only one close game but showing an alarming lack of commitment to defense in the last two victories for a team that has always insisted that defense is its strength.
Or maybe it's no concern at all, not when a team can score the way these Americans can.
Kobe Bryant sure isn't worried.
"No, because in literally one minute we can go on like a 10-0 run," he said. "So I'm not concerned right now."
The Americans were locked in a one-point game with Argentina at halftime Monday after allowing 56 percent shooting. Then they buried the Argentines under a 42-17 avalanche in the third quarter, rolling to a 126-97 victory. That came two nights after the U.S. was shredded for 58 percent in its 99-94 victory over Lithuania.
The U.S. is allowing 79.6 points per game, a number that would rank nearer the bottom of the 12-team field if not for all the teams whose average was ruined because they had to play against the Americans and their tournament-best — by a marathon length — 117.8 points averaged.
"I would like to see our defense play a little bit longer, as close to 40 minutes then to 20, 25, 30," LeBron James said. "But you know we have so many heavy hitters and so many home run hitters that we could break up a two-point game into a 13-, 14-, 15-point game in two or three possessions, you know, two or three minutes. It's great to be a part of something like that.
"It's not dangerous for our team because it's not like we're out there not playing hard. It's not like we're out there not caring, because when we get to the sideline we say 'Hey, we've got to pick it up defensively, we've got to start playing defensively' and then we lock in. So I like the way we've been playing."