SAITAMA, Japan – Team USA didn’t really get a stern test from Germany today, but it did get a stern warning.
The Americans were victorious, 85-65, which advanced them to the FIBA World Championship semifinals Friday against Greece. Yet it was a bit of an eye-opener, because the usually suspect defense actually carried the day, and the supposed iron-horse offense sputtered.
LeBron James scored 13 points with five rebounds and four assists and helped defend German star Dirk Nowitzki, who was held to 15 points. Carmelo Anthony recovered from a poor start to lead the U.S. team with 19 points.
Facing an aggressive full zone for the first time in more than a week, Team USA seemed to forget its strategy. Instead of driving gaps and making interior passes, the Americans were happy to hoist away 3-pointers at an astounding rate – and miss them at an equal clip.
Never embarrassed to shoot, the Americans were averaging 23 3-point attempts per game in the world championships coming into the quarterfinals. In this one, they jacked up 40, making just 10, often because it was the easy thing to do against the zone.
Anthony went 2 of 12 from the floor in the first half, and Dwyane Wade finished 1-of-11 shooting.
The zone issue is important because the Greeks are experts at zone defense and have bigger and rougher defenders than the Germans. No doubt they took copious notes on Team USA’s struggles.