Gregg Popovich’s Team USA squad finally got it together against Argentina in Tuesday’s exhibition contest ahead of the Tokyo Olympics, jumping out to a big lead from the get-go and then cruising to a 108-80 victory. It had to feel good after losing two straight games in embarrassing fashion.
Popovich talked about the performance afterward and invoked John Stockton and Karl Malone. Basically, Team USA just wants to keep things simple and get in a habit of doing those things really well, like Stockton and Malone did all those years together on the Utah Jazz.
Via The Athletic’s Joe Vardon:
“I always go back to (John) Stockton and (Karl) Malone,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “Jerry (Sloan) ran the same play for 20 years, they just ran it really well, and that’s what we want to do. We want to play defense a certain way, offense very simply, but still taking advantage of everybody’s abilities.
“It was better,” Popovich also said. “Bit by bit, every day I hope.”
It helped that Team USA shot the lights out, but part of the reason they shot so much better was the way they played. They played with pace and moved the ball instead of relying on so much one-on-one play, leading to better shots and an improved rhythm. The defense had its issues at times, but it wasn’t anything close to the disaster it was over the first two games.
Team USA will have the most talented team in the Olympics, but figuring out how to play together and consistently making the simple play will be crucial to their success. Other teams aren’t as talented, but they have more chemistry and are more familiar with the international game.
If Team USA can put it all together, they should win their fourth straight gold medal, but it’s not going to be easy.