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U.S. Men’s Basketball Rallies to Reach Finals

August 6, 2021
Olympics USA teams struggle

When you are the best team in the world you don’t have to be at your best all of the time. It’s a luxury in men’s basketball that only the United States has, and at times it can be to its detriment. Sleep-walking through large portions of games is becoming commonplace. Of course, so is being absolutely dominant through long stretches too.

The U.S. trailed by as many as 15 points to Australia in the first half, and looked rather embarrassing in doing it. But there was an eight-minute stretch where the Americans looked every bit like the dream team that they are, going on a 28-4 run, and finishing with a comfortable 97-78 victory.

Late Friday night, U.S. time, the United States will play France for the gold medal. Currently, they are 12½-point favorites according to the sportsbook’s Olympic odds in the gold-medal game.

Late Wednesday night it was Kevin Durant once again leading the U.S. with 23 points. Devin Booker was second on the team in scoring with 20. But what really led to the comeback and the stretches of the game where the Americans looked their most dominant was defense. Inside the 28-4 run was a 20-0 stretch in which Australia missed eight shots and were forced into four turnovers.

The U.S. lost to the Australians in an exhibition tune-up before the Games began, but the win Wednesday kept the Americans a perfect 9-0 against them in the Olympics.

“We came here with one goal and that’s to win a gold medal, and now we’re in a position to do it,” said Damian Lillard.

U.S. Women’s Soccer Secures Bronze Medal

Another of the best teams in the world that at times this Olympics slept its way through large portions of the tournament is the U.S. Women’s soccer team, a team that unfortunately did not rally in its own semifinal match.

Relegated to the bronze medal game, a place they never wanted to be, could have resulted in another poor performance. Instead the American women put it together against Australia, 4-3, to secure the bronze.

Megan Rapinoe scored a pair of goals and Carli Lloyd added two goals, making her the USWNT’s all-time leading Olympic goalscorer. She now has 10 Olympic goals.

Rapinoe, who said very simply about Monday’s loss to Canada in the semifinals, “it sucks,” had this to say about the performance against Australia:

“Obviously scoring early, personally scoring, is always so much fun. But I felt like we just had a good vibe going into the game. We’ve done, as you can imagine, lots of talking in meetings, and hashing it all out, and doing the autopsy. But I felt like we just got to a good place.”

That good place features a slightly less bitter taste from their time in Tokyo, which saw the Americans leave with their sixth Olympic medal (four golds, one silver, one bronze) in seven women’s Olympic soccer tournaments.

U.S. Fail Again in Men’s 4×100 Relay

And yet another of the best teams in the world is the United States men’s team of sprinters and the four members of the team that run the 4×100 relay. It featured two individual finalists in the 100 meters, plus this was the team that won the World Championships  in 2019.

But speed is not enough in this event. The handoffs of the baton are equally important, and the American team gave that skill short-shrift in practice, and it showed on Wednesday. With a series of sloppy handovers the Americans finished sixth in their semifinal heat, and did not qualify for the finals.

For perspective, Germany finished ahead of the United States, and not a single member of the German team has broken the 10.19-second mark when running the 100 meters. You don’t get to participate in the U.S. Trials unless you’ve run 10.05 or faster.

When asked after the failure about the amount of practice the team put on making clean exchanges, the answers ranged from “don’t know” to “not much.”

Carl Lewis, who won gold in this event in 1984 and 1992, reacted on Twitter this way:

“The USA team did everything wrong in the men’s relay. The passing system is wrong, athletes running the wrong legs, and it was clear there was no leadership. It was a total embarrassment.”

Hard to argue with a nine-time Olympic gold medalist.