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August 18, 2008
Olympic Recap
Round Robin, Day Five

by Kevin Pelton

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United States 106, Germany 57

Possessions: 77
Offensive Ratings: United States 136.5, Germany 74.3

Entering the final game of group play, both the USA and Germany already knew their respective fates, so there was little on the line at Wukesong Arena. Mike Krzyzewski and the U.S. coaching staff have emphasized playing each game at a consistent level, and the result was a 49-point win that wasn't close.

There is little to take from this game for the USA, though the performance of Dwight Howard has to be encouraging. Going up against German center Chris Kaman, Howard had a terrific game, finishing with 22 points on 9-of-10 shooting, and 10 rebounds. He also committed just two fouls, something which figures to take on greater importance in the medal rounds. As far Herr Kaman, the hype-to-performance ratio for his Olympics was off the charts. After a terrific start to group play against Angola's vertically-challenged frontline, Kaman was largely a non-factor as Germany lost its last four games and went out quietly. Against his native country, Kaman had six points, four rebounds and four fouls.

Kaman's disappearing act left Dirk Nowitzki, as usual, to carry too heavy a load for Germany. He scored more than a quarter of the team's points, with Yao Ming narrowly edging him out for the highest percentage of his team's scoring. Good teams were able to focus their defense on taking Nowitzki away, and he got 10 shot attempts against the U.S., scoring 14 points.

Overall, the USA had its best defensive outing of the tournament, holding Germany to 30.1 percent shooting. The final group defensive statistics (at the bottom of the column) are tremendous for the U.S., which led all teams by a mile in allowing a 41.9 percent effective field-goal percentage. Argentina was next closest at 49.0 percent. Opponents shot 42.9 percent on twos and 26.9 percent on threes against the USA, both marks best amongst all defenses.

This team is ready for the single-elimination medal rounds. Nothing is guaranteed, even as well as the U.S. played against Greece and Spain, but there is nothing more the team could have done to this point.

Greece 91, China 77

Possessions: 66
Offensive Ratings: Greece 137.8, China 116.9

The biggest game of the day in terms of positioning put third place in Group B on the line between the hosts and Greece. It was never in much doubt, with Greece leading by 22 at the half and coasting to victory. Since losing to the U.S., Greece has put together two very impressive offensive performances. A China defense that came in allowing 105.6 points per 100 possessions was torched to the tune of 137.8 by Greece.

The Greek scoring largely came from three players. Ioannis Bouroussis followed up his 22-point outing against Angola with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting and nine rebounds. He was matched by Vasillis Spanoulis, who shot 8-of-10 and handed out five assists. Antonis Fotsis was the third high scorer, posting 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Greece shot 65.9 percent on twos, and while China (65.5 percent) nearly matched that, advantages on the glass and in terms of turnovers (just eight all game) carried Greece. The Greeks averaged 11.0 turnovers in their four non-USA games, but coughed it up 25 times against the Americans.

Australia 106, Lithuania 75

Possessions: 77
Offensive Ratings: Australia 137.8, Lithuania 97.9

Monday's stunner saw the streaking Boomers hand Lithuania its first defeat in Beijing by a lopsided margin. While nothing was on the line for Lithuania, which had already clinched the top spot in Group A, this was not a case of a team resting its stars for the medal rounds. Linas Kleiza came off the bench; otherwise, Lithuania played its regulars until the game was out of reach. Australia simply dominated, outscoring Lithuania 28-14 in the first quarter and 27-15 in the second.

It certainly helped that the Boomers were unconscious from downtown. They made 16 three-pointers in 25 attempts, a 64 percent clip and the most threes any team has made in the Olympics thus far. Chris Anstey, Andrew Bogut and Brad Newley were all a perfect 3-of-3 from downtown. It's hard to beat a team shooting like that, and it becomes impossible when you also turn the ball over 25 times. Sarunas Jasikevicius had a really rough game for Lithuania, turning the ball over five times and scoring two points on 1-of-5 shooting.

Lithuania was due for an off game, especially with little motivation. Add in the three-point barrage and you've got the recipe for a rout.

Argentina 91, Russia 79

Possessions: 70.5
Offensive Ratings: Argentina 130.1, Russia 112.0

The European Champions go home 1-4 because they could not stop anyone in Beijing. Even with Andrei Kirilenko, Russia allowed 115.6 points per 100 possessions in the Olympics, worst of any team expected to be competitive (that is, not Angola and Iran). Russia wasn't any great shakes on offense, but the scoring offered by Kirilenko, J.R. Holden and Viktor Khryapa (who sat out this game) would have been enough for a berth for the quarterfinals had Russia been able to defend.

Argentina came into this game locked into the second spot in Group A, which made Coach Sergio Hernandez's rotation somewhat odd. Hernandez gave Olympics leading scorer Manu Ginobili some rest, playing him 22 minutes, sat out Fabricio Oberto and held Carlos Delfino to 14 minutes. Yet the other three Argentinean regulars played big minutes: 35 for Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni 37 and Luis Scola the full 40.

It's easy to see why Hernandez had a tough time taking Scola out when he was playing so well. His 37-point effort was the biggest scoring outburst of the Olympics. Scola needed just 25 possessions to get those points, shooting 12-of-16 from the field, 13-of-17 from the line and committing two turnovers. And San Antonio could find no place for this guy? Prigoni contributed the only point/assist double-double in Beijing with 11 points and 10 dimes.

Spain 98, Angola 50

Possessions: 71.5
Offensive Ratings: Spain 138.3, Angola 69.3

If there was any lingering effect of losing handily to the U.S. on Saturday for Spain, it was mitigated by playing Angola to close out group play. The result was a 48-point victory that sent Angola home having lost five straight games by an average of 31.2 points per game. Pau Gasol took full advantage of Angola's lack of size, making 13 of his 14 shot attempts (a cool 92.9 percent shooting) in scoring 31 points in 24 minutes. Yeah, he's pretty good.

One concern for Spain entering the medal rounds: They shot 30.4 percent from three-point range in group play, worst of any team in Beijing. There's plenty of talented shooters on the Spanish roster, most notably Juan Carlos Navarro, but they haven't been able to get it going. Navarro is shooting 22.2 percent from the shorter line, Jose Calderon 22.7 percent and Jorge Garbajosa (who has taken way too many threes) 22.2 percent. Funny how you never hear about poor shooting by non-American teams.

Croatia 91, Iran 57

Possessions: 71
Offensive Ratings: Croatia 129.3, Iran 80.1

Nothing like a game against Iran to get a woeful Croatia defense to move up in the rankings. Even after allowing 80 points per 100 possessions, Croatia still has the worst defense of any team advancing to the quarterfinals, though at least now it's close.

Eight Iranian players saw at least 10 minutes of action, and three of them went scoreless. Two more combined for six points. That left 51 of the team's 57 points coming from three players, and 42 of 57 from leading scorers Mohammadsamad Nikkhah (say that five times fast) and Hamed Hadadi. Hadadi's Olympics are over, having averaged 16.6 points, 11.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks and 3.6 turnovers and shot 47.6 percent from the field.

The final group advanced statistics show the U.S. leading in both Offensive Rating and Defensive Rating but particularly dominant on defense, while several teams have scored at a very efficient clip. Despite the opening loss, Argentina ended up as the second-best squad in terms of group efficiency differential. However, that might have been different had they had to face the USA, which destroyed Spain's and Greece's differentials and knocked them below Australia.

Team            Gr    Diff   ORating Rank   DRating Rank    Pace

United States    B    39.6    126.0    1      87.5    1     81.3
Argentina        A    18.4    121.1    3     104.3    3     69.7
Australia        A    14.2    125.1    2     110.6    6     73.1
Spain            B    13.4    110.3    7      99.0    2     73.3
Greece           B    11.5    119.8    4     107.2    5     69.6
Lithuania        A     6.7    114.4    6     106.6    4     74.7
Croatia          A     5.7    118.7    5     113.4    8     67.1
Russia           A    -5.4    109.3    8     115.6   10     70.5
China            B    -9.9    105.3    9     111.6    7     68.9
Germany          B   -17.5     96.7   10     113.4    8     68.5
Iran             A   -39.5     91.1   11     129.2   11     71.4
Angola           B   -44.1     89.9   12     136.1   12     70.8

And here are the Four Factors on offense and defense for each team.

                                OFFENSE                           DEFENSE
Team            Gr     eFG%    OR%   FTM/FGA   TO%       eFG%    DR%   FTM/FGA   TO%

Angola           B   0.451   0.213   0.174   0.204     0.631   0.627   0.277   0.139
Argentina        A   0.583   0.278   0.270   0.157     0.490   0.709   0.203   0.168
Australia        A   0.584   0.311   0.259   0.151     0.604   0.733   0.244   0.240
China            B   0.488   0.294   0.243   0.179     0.511   0.672   0.180   0.150
Croatia          A   0.559   0.370   0.234   0.176     0.543   0.718   0.216   0.159
Germany          B   0.463   0.274   0.193   0.192     0.500   0.697   0.234   0.128
Greece           B   0.573   0.329   0.237   0.166     0.520   0.733   0.206   0.173
Iran             A   0.464   0.307   0.194   0.229     0.609   0.654   0.144   0.128
Lithuania        A   0.571   0.281   0.298   0.195     0.495   0.695   0.339   0.189
Russia           A   0.526   0.276   0.220   0.168     0.548   0.677   0.354   0.192
Spain            B   0.496   0.393   0.238   0.172     0.531   0.781   0.202   0.221
United States    B   0.612   0.302   0.215   0.144     0.419   0.680   0.206   0.232

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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Olympic Recap (08/20)

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