The US Means Basketball team lost a stunner yesterday to the tiny island of Puerto Rico 92-73, dropping its all time Olympic basketball record to 109-3. It wasnt the loss itself that was so shocking, never mind that Team USA had beaten Puerto Rico five times in exhibitions since July, it was the manner in which they lost. Puerto Rico held the lead for 33 of the games 40 minutes.
Larry Brown simply got out-coached. He stayed with ineffective players too long (local products Stephon Marbury and Richard Jefferson to name two) and refused to adapt to Puerto Ricos game. The Puerto Ricans did and excellent job of crowding the lane and not giving Tim Duncan a chance at any easy buckets and also fouling the US anytime they got out on the break, thus limiting the Americans points in transition.
"I'm humiliated, not for the loss -- I can always deal with wins and losses -- but I'm disappointed because I had a job to do as a coach, to get us to understand how we're supposed to play as a team and act as a team, and I don't think we did that," Larry Brown said.
Utah Jazz point guard Carlos Arroyo torched Marbury time and time again, easily getting by him and setting up shop in the lane to find open teammates. Arroyo, who makes $3.368 million per year in the NBA compared to Marburys $14.625 million, tallied 24 points, 7 assists and 4 rebounds to Marburys 2 points, 1 assist and 1 rebound. It took Brown until the 4th quarter to try someone else on Arroyo but by then it was too late. Jefferson looked lost on the court, shooting 3-10 from the field, including 0-6 from three point land.
Gothamist finds it troubling that a team that had trouble scoring 30 points in the first half kept offensive dynamos like Lebron James and Carmelo Anthony glued to the bench. James and Anthony played 13 and 3 minutes respectively.
Once again three point shooting was the Americans Achilles heel. They finished the game 3-24 from downtown (including an incredible 16 straight misses), while Puerto Rico shot 8-16. Keep in mind the international line is almost three feet shorter than the NBA line. Statistically Shawn Marion is the best three point shooter on Team USA and he finished 63rd in the league last year in 3 point shooting percentage. Ouch.
The US can still win the Gold in Athens. To reach the medal round, all they have to do is finish in the top four of their six team division. But unless Larry Brown changes his game plan significantly, there seems to be little chance of that happening.