The semifinals for the 2008 Beijing Olympics Mens Basketball tournament are set, and the U.S. is only one win away from being guarenteed a medal. But in their way, they have Argentina, and even if they beat the gold medal winner from Athens, they may have to face Spain, who won the FIBA 2006 World Championships.
The road to redemption is nearing a happy ending for the U.S. squad. After a very disappointing bronze medal in 2004, and another bronze in the 2006 World Championships, the U.S. began it's path to international basketball glory with a win at the FIBA Americas Championship just one year ago.
They were dominant last year, going 7-0, and than defeating Puerto Rico in the semifinals by a score of 135-91 and than Argentina in the finals by a score of 118-81. They completely, and utterly, creamed both squads, and it looked like the U.S. was headed to the right direction for these Olympics.
Even though they were still doubted coming into these Olympics, I believe that the Redeem Team has demolished those doubts, and any expectations set for them. Their stifling defense and thundering offense has provided blowout after blowout. The only "close" game the Redeem Team has had was versus Australia, when they only won by 11 against an Aussie team without their best player in Andrew Bogut.
The U.S. faced off with the Australia in the their first game in the medal rounds. The Australia National team hung close to the U.S. early in the game, as they were only down by 1 point entering the second quarter. The U.S. than outscored the Aussies by 11 in the 2nd, and took a 12 point lead at the half.
The 3rd quarter was all U.S. as their suffocating D held Australia under the 20 point mark for a second consecutive quarter, and the Redeem Team offense exploded for 34 points. Australia was only outscored by 3 in the 4th, but it was too little to late. The U.S. already had the game won.
Kobe Bryant was sticking to defense thus far in the Olympics, but he had a great offensive game, with 25 points. LeBron had 16, 'Melo had 15, Deron Williams and Chris Bosh both had 10. Tayshaun Prince had 9, Dwayne Wade and Dwight Howard both scored 8, while Michael Redd had 5. Rounding out the scoring: Jason Kidd and Carlos Boozer had 4, and Chris Paul scored 2.
I think the key to this game for the Redeem Team was all their rebounding. They crashed the glass all game long, and out rebounded the Aussie team 57-28 (19 of the 57 were offensive boards). 7 players rebounded 5 or more. LeBron lead the team with 9, Wade had 8, Howard and Paul had 7, Bosh had 6, and 'Melo and Kobe had 5 (4 of Bryant's were offensive.
If I had to choose a Player of the Game for the Redeem Team, it would be LeBron. He scored 16 points, rebounded 9, dished out 3 assists and had 4 steals. One bleak stat for him is his 1-4 showing at the free throw line.
Up next is Argentina, whom the U.S. have been able to handle in recent years. They whupped them last year (118-81, as stated before) and are poised to once again, handle the Argentinian National Team.
It doesn't look like anyone can stop the Redeem Team now, in the quest for gold at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.