Team USA started slow, but finished strong as they overcame France 98-71 in the first match of Group A pool play in London.
“We played very well,” said shooting guard Kobe Bryant, who had 10 points in 12 minutes. “In the first quarter we gave up way too many free throws. It made the game a little choppy. It was tough for us to generate some momentum. But then after that we were able to get into a good flow.”
Chris Paul agreed with Kobe about the slow starts, but he also thinks they will get better about it as the Games progress.
“We’re definitely a team that can get better as the tournament goes. It seems like we get better as the game progresses and we’ve got to continue to do better to get off to good starts. It’s a lot of shots that we leave out there, seems like every game, and our defense can always get better.” Chris Paul notched 5 points, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 2 rebounds in 20 minutes of play; he started the game at point guard.
Carmelo Anthony thinks that Team USA’s defense was the difference in the victory.
“In the first half [France] did what they had to do,” Anthony said. “They slowed the game down. They got us to foul them a lot. In the second half, once we figured it out, really settled down on the defensive end, our defense really took off.”
Chris Paul also added that foul trouble got in the team’s way early on.
“We got off to a slow start, got a little bit too anxious, got a lot of fouls early to say the least. Like we’ve been saying all along, our defense is what makes us so good. As long as we go out and do that every night, we’ll give ourselves a chance to win.”
Luckily, Coach K has the depth on this team that if one or two players get into foul trouble, then he doesn’t lose much talent-wise when he has to go to his bench early. The real test for this team will be against Brazil and Spain whose front lines should the US team cause for concern.