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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11 responses to The Final Four

  1. When you watch the second half of the game, you’ll feel better. No one in this tournament has the depth of the US. We wear teams down. Besides, our shooting was flukey bad in this game and we still won by 20. If we had even two extra threes fall in the first half, the game would look much different. The US would have been tentatively in control in the first half, and taken complete control in the second. I’m just glad we had our off night against Germany.

  2. I also hope when I watch the second half I’ll be less tired.

    I think you’re right about the USA depth, and that should be enough. If these were best-of-five I’d feel a lot better.

  3. I completely agree about the best of 5. Heck, I’d take WNBA style best of 3. One and done means weird things can happen. And of course that worries even me.

  4. Sorry I haven’t been posting too much guys, I am back in Baltimore for a few more days taking a break from school and seeing the folks.

    I’ve had a ton of time on my hands and luckily I spent a good time of this watching the USA games. The shooting in the first half was really tough to watch, but the second half was much better and was much more like how the USA has been all tournament.

    I’ve developed such an intense dislike of Chris Sheridan during these World Championships though. It’s close to my number one reason why I want the US to win would be just to laugh at Sheridan.

  5. Against Germany the USA played against a soft zonal defense, who was letting the US have free 45º shots… The fact that they missed a lot and still won says something about the value of the team, but…

    Nor Argentina nor Spain will give that much freedom in the final game (Greece is no menace to the US), which means one thing… During the game, the US will miss Michael Redd, the player who best fits the International game due to the quickness and accuracy of his shots.

    I am rooting for Spain in these World Championships (hey, Portugal’s only neighbour is Spain) but I think the US will prevail in the fourth quarter, as they have a deeper bench.

  6. Man, imagine guys like Kobe, Michael Redd, Chauncey feasting on the international teams’ zone defenses! I wonder how the chemistry will be like when Kobe joins the 2008 Olympic squad…most likely either Carmelo or Lebron will have to come off the bench as well.

  7. I watched the second half and I feel a little better, but the USA’s halfcourt offense has about as much movement as the Lakers under Rudy T. a couple years ago. At least Akins and Jumaine could drill the three consistently.

    Renato, I think you’re right about Redd. I’ve always thrown Kobe in there because he has a great jumper as well, but given the choice he’ll drive first.

  8. FB and G fave Kelly Dwyer has some good takes on team USA:

    “And though Team USA’s marks from outside were an embarrassment, you can’t fault Coach K’s crew for putting up shot after shot. If a guy has an uncontested 20-foot jumper, he’s doing himself a disservice, and everyone on the team a disservice, if he doesn’t shoot the hell out of that thing.

    On the other hand, if Carmelo Anthony (three of nine from behind the arc), Dwyane Wade (zero for five), Hinrich (one of five), Paul (one of five) or Battier (zero for three) force the action and put the ball on the floor, there is an offensive foul or potential turnover waiting in the paint. It makes no sense to force one particular style of scoring, considering this team was created with the ideal of being able to win in a number of ways.”

    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/kelly_dwyer/08/30/usa.germany/1.html

  9. Another Turiaf update:
    - great game against Germany, 6 for 6fga, 3 for 5fta, 6 reb

    For the tournament so far:
    - 13pts per 40min
    - 12 reb per 40min
    - TS%=65% (which is close to the avg for the us team)

    maybe we have enough PFs

  10. I found a bar to watch the game at midnight (so very hard to do when you’re 19) looking forward to a US stomping and instead I basically got to hear the voice of Chris Sheridan laughing at me..lovely

  11. Don’t be too down. Even Sheridan had predicted silver, so he was still wrong (ha, ha). But yeah, just a bad game. I eat my previous words. The US should have won this game, but they didn’t. Hope a few more years as a team can fix things in time for 08.