LONDON – Three games from gold, the U.S. men’s Olympic basketball team believes its best is still to come.
First up is Australia in the quarterfinal round, though the Aug. 8 game, and each one after that, may as well go by another name to the Americans.
The Americans have two choices: Win, and move closer to the title, or lose and go home in disgrace.
The U.S. was 5-0 in pool play, perfect in the standings if not quite on the court. The defense hardly seems at a championship level, though that never mattered because the Americans could outgun all of their opponents.
With only one close game in preliminary-round play, the U.S. men showed an alarming lack of commitment to defense in the last two victories for a team that has always insisted that defense is its strength. The U.S. men are allowing 79.6 points per game.
The Americans were locked in a one-point game with Argentina at halftime on Aug. 6 after allowing 56 percent shooting. Then they were able to outscore the Argentines 42-17 in the third quarter, rolling to a 126-97 victory. That came two nights after the U.S. was shredded for 58 percent in its 99-94 victory over Lithuania.