The Final Four

Kurt —  August 30, 2006

There are just four left, the world’s Final Four. The USA deserves to be there. But after looking stats and watching the first half of the USA/Germany game live this morning (thanks to an unhappy baby who apparently wanted to be up for the game at 3:30 on the West Coast), I still have concerns about what happens when the USA reaches the finals.

I’ve discussed the stats for Team USA before, but compared them to NBA numbers, which is not the best context — a better one is how they compare to the other 22 teams in the FIBA tournament. So, thanks to deepak_e at the APBR board, here are some updated stats for the four remaining teams, with their ranking among the 22 teams next to it).

Team eFG% Pace Off. Rating Def. Rating
USA 56.9% (2) 98.4 (1) 129.2 (1) 98.4 (7)
Spain 57.9% (1) 92.6 (8) 120.1 (T-2) 89.0 (2)
Argentina 56.2% (3) 89.7 (12) 120.1 (T-2) 87.3 (1)
Greece 53.9% (5) 86.6 (19) 111.5 (6) 89.2 (4)


(A quick key for those of you new here: eFG%: Shooting percentage combining two and three pointers; Pace, possessions per game; Off. Rating, points scored per 100 possessions; Def. Rating, points given up per 100 possessions.)

Yes, the USA has been the best-shooting team in the tournament, but after watching them against Germany I still am not comfortable. The Germans did not turn the ball over, so the USA had to rely on its half-court offense and in the first half they missed a lot of open jumpers. And they led by one (40-39) at the break. For the game they shot a weak 43.5% (eFG%) and just 25% from three.

That likely will be good enough against Greece. Looking more closely at the stats (I have yet to watch a Greece game), they can’t stop a team from shooting well, allowing opponents to shoot 53.5% (eFG%) against them in the tournament (that’s 18th out of the 22, for comparison the USA allows 49.8%, 10th best).

What Greece counts on is creating turnovers —30.6% of opponent possessions end in a turnover (for comparison, the gambling USA defense has led to 29.1% of opponent possessions becoming turnovers).

Except that is a bad mix against the USA — Paul, Wade, LeBron, Hinrich, really none of the USA primary ball handlers are going to give up many turnovers. And, if you don’t stop them from shooting well… let’s just say it should be a long night for the Greeks. Look for the Greeks to try to slow the tempo way down, and I’m curious how the USA will adapt.

But both Spain and Argentina play a better, more traditional defense. And they are not going to turn the ball over much. For that game, the USA will need its half-court offense to click. But let’s worry about that hurdle once we’re past the Greeks.


Kurt

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