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As we enter Day 4 of the Olympic basketball tournament and as Team USA has secured its second win at the tournament beating Venezuela 113-69, we are starting to wonder if anyone could hypothetically beat the star-studded team.
To be perfectly honest, this Team USA was never supposed to have a real rival in this year’s Olympics, both because of its own strength and the relatively bad situation in which its main traditional rivals find themselves. Still, after most teams have played at least two teams in the group stage, it is possible to observe a few trends that might shape the rest of the tournament.
We will start with Group A, the group in which Team USA is a clear favorite.
Before the tournament started, France was definitely the main rival in the group for the US. Their main players all earn their living in the NBA, like for instance Tony Parker who has been the San Antonio Spurs’ point guard for quite some time now. Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Hornets also plays for the French national team, as do Rudy Gobert and Boris Diaw of the Utah Jazz. Joffrey Lauvergne came off a decent season for the Denver Nuggets while former NBA player Nando de Colo won the Euroleague this year.
In their first game of the tournament, however, the French team suffered a relatively surprising loss at the hands of the Australian team which also boasts a few NBA players. The NBA point guard duo of Patty Mills and Mathew Delavedova, as well as Joe “Slo-Mo” Ingles and Andrew Bogut, all play in the NBA and they gave the French team quite a beating in that game.
The Australians continued with great play in their second game against the Serbian national team which many experts actually saw as one of the biggest threats to Team USA. The Aussie team won that game as well, capitalizing on the poor defense of the Serbian point guard Milos Teodosic and the fact that Nikola Jokic couldn’t find his rhythm.
Group B was supposed to be Spain‘s for the taking, but, as it turned out, fate had other plans. Team USA’s biggest rival in the last ten years played their first game in the tournament against the Croatian team, and they showed obvious signs of aging. Pau Gasol and Juan Carlos Navarro are both 36. Rudy Fernandez is 31. The young and up-and-coming Croatian team took advantage of this, led by two NBA players – Bojan Bogdanovic and Darko Saricwho blocked Gasol’s final attempt to tie the game.
Group B also features an even more aging Argentinian team that does not look like its old self at all. The Brazilian team might have to hand the reigns to young players like Raul Neto of the Utah Jazz if they wish to stay relevant. The Lithuanian team has two NBA big men leading it in Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors and Domantas Sabonis who will be playing for the Oklahoma City Thunder in his rookie year.
Like we mentioned, the three teams that were supposed to be the toughest challenge for Team USA – Spain, France, and Serbia, all showed some gaping holes in their play. The Spanish team seems old and tired; the French team lacks shooting and the Serbian team has yet to show they can contain opposing point guards.
The main reason why Team USA will probably breeze through this tournament is that this is a very strong squad, despite the fact that some of the biggest stars like LeBron James, Steph Curry or Russell Westbrook are not playing.
Led by players such as Kevin Durant, Paul George, Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins, they just seem too strong to be rattled by any of the other national teams.
One thing that we definitely love about the other national teams, however, is the abundance of NBA players doing their best to lead their teams against Team USA. They might not have adequate support casts among their fellow countrymen, but it is still great watching them put up a fight.