Team USA vs. The World
The Men's Olympic Basketball Team Goes for Global Domination By Sammy Geroulis, WhatIfSports.com August 1st, 2008
Having already displayed Team USA's supremacy over the 2007-08 Boston Celtics championship team last month, we here at WhatIfSports were still not convinced that the Olympians were prepared for the unique playing style and unity which international adversaries can present.
For this reason, using our world-renown supercomputer, we ran 1,000 simulations pitting our national superstars against the very best international talent from the 2007-08 NBA season.
Our international squad was composed of:
| Guards | Forwards | Centers |
Once again, both squads were thrown into an NBA Championship-esque best-of-seven series using NBA rules. When the dust settled, the Olympic men had triumphed again with the most common result revealed to be a Team USA victory in 6 games. The Americans won the series 70% of the time, with an average 9 point margin of victory. Manu Ginobili broke out as the best World performer, earning Player of the Game honors in the majority of the international team's simulated victories (19% of total games). Yao Ming and Dirk Nowitzki also received POTG honors in many World victories. Similar to the Series with the Celtics, however, LeBron James (36%) and Kobe Bryant (34%) were most often awarded the Player of the Game honors; with Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard also receiving some significant attention.
While the end result was relatively closer than the Celtics-USA matchup, the Olympians still proved too much to handle for their opponents. Ostensibly, it would appear that Team USA should have nothing to fear from foreign foes in the Beijing games. One must consider, however, the "teamwork" factor that is not present in this ragtag collection of international superstars, but which so many international teams in the Olympic Games will possess. Almost every overseas team practices together throughout the season, while the NBA keeps American stars on separate lineups until the last month or so before the games. The approach taken by USA Basketball to build this chemistry by establishing a set pool of players and practicing together every off-season sounds like a step in the right direction. We will see how it pans out over the next few major international events.
The following are projected boxscores, play-by-play descriptions, and stats for each game in the series. Click on the links after each summary to see the entire breakdown of the game.
Game 1 The World 88 @ Team USA 98 - The series opens up at Madison Square Garden, where both Team USA and the World Team feverishly exchange baskets throughout the first half. LeBron James starts off the strongest, dropping 13 of the US's first 24 points- he finishes ahead of all scorers with 30. Scoring is distributed more evenly on the international side, as Dirk Nowitzki leads his team with 18 and Tony Parker, Yao Ming, and Hedo Turkoglu all hit double figures. Surprisingly, Kobe Bryant plays poorly, with only 6 points off of 25% shooting from the field. Fortunately, his teammates elevate the overall USA shooting percentage to 48% as they pull off a hard fought, yet fairly substantial victory at home. Player of the Game : LeBron James Boxscore with play-by-play >
Game 2 The World 89 @ Team USA 122 - Team USA comes out swinging in Game Two, causing the biggest blowout of the entire series. Kobe Bryant appears refreshed after his previous lackluster performance, pulling out an uncharacteristic double-double with 18 points and 10 assists. The World fights back and pulls within 10 points by halftime, fueled by intense play from Leandro Barbosa who has 9 points and 2 assists in the first half. The international group runs out of gas during the third quarter, allowing Team USA to unleash an 8-0 run in the first two minutes of play. The Olympic team is unstoppable from then on, with every player scoring at least 4 points by the final buzzer. Carmelo Anthony deserves special recognition for both leading team USA with 25 points and helping LeBron to effectively shut down Dirk Nowitzki on offense. The global superstars regroup and anxiously await Game Three in hopes of achieving redemption. Player of the Game : Kobe Bryant Boxscore with play-by-play >
Game 3 Team USA 124 @ The World 135 (OT) - The Air Canada Center is packed for Game Three of the series and the first home matchup for the World team. Clearly, home is where the heart is, as the international superstars shoot 52.5% from the field- their highest percentage in the series. Team USA is no pushover, however, as Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James drop 20 and 25 points respectively. Luckily for the World team, Yao Ming is more than willing to even the score by leading everyone with a double-double of 32 points and 11 rebounds- with 9 of those points coming in overtime. He's not the only one to double things up though, as both Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh achieve similar feats. The game's conclusion comes as the World Team fights back from a 106-95 deficit with five minutes left in regulation. Tony Parker helps out with his own personal 8 point run, capped off by a 5 point burst by Steve Nash. This leaves the World in front 110-109 with a minute left to play. Soon after, Howard has an easy layup to take the lead, and Carmelo Anthony is fouled with 16 seconds left after a charge by Manu Ginobili on the other end of the floor. He misses the potential game-winning free throw but makes the second, and a jumper by Dirk with seconds left sends the game into overtime. Once there, both teams battle for the lead until Team USA hits an unexpected cold streak. The international players stay hot and coast into a victory after going 11 for 11 from the free throw line in the last two minutes. Player of the Game : Yao Ming Boxscore with play-by-play >
Game 4 Team USA 102 @ The World 93 - Kobe and LeBron. Kobe and LeBron. Kobe and LeBron. The same two names lead every simulation, and Game Four proves no different. Both end with respectable performances, leading all scorers in points while hitting 7 of 15 from the field. Other than that, play moves fairly slowly as Team USA maintains a small lead for most of the game until a late third quarter surge by the international squad where nine different players score. The swing in momentum is emphasized by demoralizing dunks from Yao, Manu, and Pau Gasol. Team USA continues to struggle until five minutes left in the fourth, ahead only 89-87. They step up their game as the clock ticks down, as Jason Kidd comes through in the clutch with a big three pointer and steal to ensure victory. The Series stands at 3-1. Player of the Game : Kobe Bryant Boxscore with play-by-play >
Game 5 Team USA 104 @ The World 107 - The international squad needs a win in order to avoid the same fate as the Boston Celtics a month prior; and they get it due to the inspiring play of Dirk Nowitzki and Manu Ginobili who score 20 points apiece. At first, Team USA gains a solid lead from an early run, but the World team claws its way back, down only 51-48 at halftime. The foreigners once again present a very balanced attack in the third quarter, with ten different players scoring consecutively. They lead 77-73 going into the home stretch. Although the game stays close throughout with the World leading by a basket at the five minute mark, Manu takes the game over by scoring the final 10 points for his team and single-handedly brings about a victory. Dwight Howard's potential game-tying desperation heave clangs off the rim, and the series heads back to MSG for Game Six. Player of the Game : Manu Ginobili Boxscore with play-by-play >
Game 6 The World 108 @ Team USA 113 - The third Team USA home game represents the last stop for the international team, as they suffer a heartbreaking loss after staying neck-and-neck throughout. Team USA has especially good ball movement, with LeBron, Kobe, Carmelo, Dwight, and Carlos Boozer all hitting double figures early on. Although Manu Ginobili once again plays like a madman in the final minutes, it is not enough to secure victory this time. Kobe Bryant's final two free throws seal away the game and the series. Coach Krzyzewski's team once again emerges victorious as it eagerly awaits an opportunity to reassert its superiority at the Olympic Games. Player of the Game : LeBron James Boxscore with play-by-play >
They can beat an all-star team from the rest of the World and they may be the most talented group of basketball players assembled since the original Dream Team, but will that game translate under different rules and officiating styles? Is team chemistry that important? If so, has Team USA established this chemistry under its new leadership? And finally, while the talent is not in question, are they that much better than every other nation so as to avoid upset? I guess we'll have to wait until August 8th to find out…
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