USA Basketball: And Then There Were Four

All four of the teams that finished the prelims at the top of their groups have made their way to the semifinals: USA, Lithuania, Turkey and Serbia. Team USA is looking to reclaim their first World Championship since 1994. On Thursday they had to get past Russia in the quarterfinals.

Russia played smart and hard for three-quarters of the game. But ultimately the United States’ defense wore them down and forced big turnovers, which led to easy baskets.

Kevin Durant continues to step up on offense and was sensational along with Russell Westbrook, who played his best all-around game of the tournament.

Lamar Odom also played one of his best games so far. In a subtle way he was the most important player in the game for the United States. Odom was huge on the glass and made things happen with the basketball.

Today USA faces Lithuania in the semifinals. They had an exhibition game against Lithuania just prior to the tournament and beat them 77-61. But the U.S. struggled during the first half and didn’t take its first lead until they got into the third quarter, so the score is deceiving. USA will need to get off to a quick start in today’s meeting. They don’t want to let Lithuania build confidence or momentum.

Coming off of seven straight wins, the wildcard Lithuanian team is having an incredible run. And judging from Lithuania’s outstanding performance against number one ranked Argentina on Thursday, they will be Team USA’s toughest challenge to date. Though a small country, Lithuania has a big tradition of basketball and they are hungry for this title.

Lithuania pounded Argentina with their great shooting. They relied heavily on 3-pointers, hitting 9 out of their first 11 attempts and finishing with 12 for the game.

Both the United States and Lithuania are very physical and athletic, so USA must be on high alert defensively. Derrick Rose will try to push the tempo on offense.

21-year-old Durant will be heavily counted on for scoring, as he’s been throughout the tournament. And Coach K will also be able to turn to his deep bench for reinforcement.

In the second semifinal match of the day Turkey will meet Serbia. No doubt the prospect of competing in the finals has the entire host country on the edge of its seat. The Sinan Erdem Dome will be packed with passionate fans who are ready to jam and the atmosphere will be unbelievable.

USA vs. Lithuania airs live on Saturday, September 11, 2010 at 12 PM ET on ESPN Classic; replay at 1:30 AM ET on ESPN2. Turkey vs. Serbia airs live at 2:30 PM ET on ESPN Classic. Click here to view the rest of the 2010 FIBA World Championship broadcast schedule.

USA Basketball: USA Narrowly Escapes Brazil in Their Toughest Test of the Tournament to Date

Team USA was fortunate to hang on for a 70-68 win over Brazil today, making it three in a row. USA leads Group B in the preliminary round of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

Although Kevin Durant had another huge 27-point performance, this was the USA’s sloppiest showing so far this summer. They had no ball movement offensively; they went to one-on-one play way too often; and they did not bring the same defensive intensity we saw in their previous matchups.

Credit Brazil for having an outstanding game and making huge shots. They put forth a great effort, but looks like the fatigue factor may have set in during the second half as Brazil didn’t come close to making the same number shots as in the first half. They certainly could have used the help of Anderson Varejão, who continues to rest a sprained right ankle.

Game 3 was a nail-biter up until the very end, when Leandro Barbosa missed a layup at the buzzer that would have tied up the game and forced overtime. Team USA’s lack of defensive intensity combined with the high number of turnovers nearly cost them the game. But thanks to their perseverance and a little luck, USA remains undefeated.

Fortunately Team USA can use their day off tomorrow to regroup and get their legs back under them before facing Iran on Wednesday. And the fledgling team will get a couple more international games under its belt before facing some of their more dangerous adversaries.

From the Booth: Coach K and Team USA

Mike Krzyzewski has been a prominent member of our coaching staff here at the Michael Jordan Senior Flight School for many years. But this summer he’s unable to join us as he’s already over in Europe with the USA Men’s National Team preparing for the FIBA World Championship in Istanbul, Turkey. After defeating China in a scrimmage and France in an exhibition game last week in New York, Team USA will face Lithuania in Madrid on Saturday – followed by Spain on Sunday and Greece on Wednesday.

Here’s a segment from our Real Training Camp coverage of Team USA’s week-long training session in Las Vegas in which Coach K shares a lesson he learned when coaching Michael Jordan during the 1992 Olympic Games.

[nba-video vid=channels/nba_tv/2010/07/20/20100720_usa_coach1.nba]

From the Booth: Summer League 2010

On Sunday Spurs general manager R.C. Buford sat down with me and Joel during the Clippers-Spurs game to talk about adding new pieces to the cornerstones of their program in order to rebuild the franchise for the future.

[nba-video vid=channels/nba_tv/2010/07/17/20100717_courtside_Buford.nba]