As the competition improves and the games become more significant, it seems inevitable that Team USA will rediscover its anger and deliver a few minutes or a quarter when it blitzes opponents into submission.
That certainly was not the case Friday, when a 94-91 win over Serbia allowed the USA Men’s Basketball Team to clinch the No. 1 spot in Group A and advance to face France on Sunday, but did nothing to suggest it is ready for a Rio Olympics takeover.
Six USA players scored in double figures: Kyrie Irving (15 points), DeAndre Jordan (13), Kevin Durant (12), Carmelo Anthony (12), Paul George (12) and DeMar DeRozan (11).
Team USA (4-0) is playing well enough to win but not nearly at the level expected of a team built around such NBA star power. After racing to 23-5 first-quarter lead in less than seven minutes, the Americans appeared to spend the rest of the game in cruise mode. Seemingly flummoxed by Serbia’s ball movement, the lead dropped to nine at the half and stayed in single figures for most of the second half.
Serbia, which outshot Team USA 52 percent to 49 percent with a chance to tie the game in the final seconds, ended when Bogdan Bogdanovic missed an open 3-pointer from the left wing.
The Americans, ponderous on defense and stagnant on offense, seemed reluctant to put forth the level of effort that answers any questions about desire — which is noteworthy given they were coming off a relatively close 98-88 win over Australia on Wednesday.
“We’ve just got to start getting some movement,” George told NBC Sports reporter Ros Gold-Onwude. “We’re relying on our natural talent so much; it’s so easy to guard us. Teams are just loading up and watching us play one-on-one.”
Though Team USA held on for the victory, it leaves plenty of room to wonder if they can pull it together next week and approach its vast potential.
How the Warriors fared:
Durant: 12 points (2-of-4 from the field, 7-of-8 from the line), five rebounds and one assist in 30 minutes as a starter.
Draymond Green: 0 points (0-of-2), three rebounds and two assists in 13 minutes off the bench.
Klay Thompson: 3 points (1-of-6), three assists and one rebound in nine minutes off the bench.