It was exactly the type of game Team USA needed.
After being on the wrong side of history because they threw away a 25-game Olympic winning streak, this iteration of the USA men’s basketball team bounced back in the best way possible by routing Iran.
It wasn’t even about the score (they beat Iran by 54 points). It wasn’t about the 3s (they hit 19-of-39). It wasn’t about the balanced scoring (six players scored in double figures).
It was about the way they just went out there and hooped. The aggressiveness of Team USA was glaring right from the tipoff, and in no way did it die down the same way it did versus France.
The result? A team stacked with stars who freestyled, blitzed, and generally dominated Iran from start to finish.
A tweak in the starting lineup could’ve been the catalyst. Slotting in Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday, the NBA Finals cast members who came off the bench against France, immediately worked wonders for Team USA.
While Draymond Green and Bam Adebayo clogged the offense in their first game, Book and Jrue spaced out the floor in a way that meant giving Damian Lillard a 3-point layup.
By halftime, Dame had six 3s and Team USA was up by 30.
All the good things happened for Team USA. The shots that didn’t fall versus France fell versus Iran. Five players—Holiday, Kevin Durant, Zach Lavine, Jayson Tatum, and Khris Middleton—hit two 3s each. It looked a lot like the familiar USA basketball that hustled, ran the break, and knocked down the long shots.
It certainly helped that Iran had no NBA-caliber player outside of Hamed Haddadi, but this type of win is something Team USA needed.
Whether they’d use it as fuel for the next game against Czech Republic or as a calling card for their missing identity, a 54-point win in a quick, frenetic, and competitive Olympics basketball goes a long way.
It would be premature to conclude that the mistakes from the France game have been corrected. The only way to check that is to put Team USA in a similar tight-game situation and see if they can close out.
Or, they can always just shoot the lights out every chance they get, run opponents to the ground, and play fun, NBA All-Star level basketball with a mix of top-tier Olympic-style discipline.
If they’re able to repeat this against Czech Republic (ranked 12th in the world) and against the more dangerous teams like Australia and Spain, then the historic, monumental loss to France wouldn’t seem that bad.
Looking at how they shook off the negativity, got up, and fired away, the France loss might’ve even been the type of loss Team USA needed.
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