by Devon Jeffreys, August 08, 2012
While they waged a back and forth battle with Australia early in Wednesday's Olympic Semi-final game, Team USA was searching for someone to be aggressive.
Deron Williams answered the call.
D-Will got to the line at will and was money from deep as he scored 13 of his 18 points in the final 13 minutes of the first half to push Team USA out to a commanding lead. No. 8 added a few more points in the second half after Australia had closed the gap and helped the Americans to finish out a 119-86 win over the Aussies at North Greenwich Arena.
"Everybody is playing with a little more sense of urgency," Chris Paul said of the atmosphere. "It's win or go home. They moved to a different venue; it's more like an arena now, and it's exciting."
Team USA now moves on to the semi-finals, where they will play Argentina on Friday in a rematch of the final game of pool play. But they might not have made it that far without Deron pushing the right buttons in the first half. Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN's True Hoop called D-Will one of the key players in Team USA's win:
Williams has the speed to attack and the strength to absorb almost any kind of contact. The Nets guard propelled the Americans in the first half, during which they never found a flow but were still able to manufacture a considerable lead. In a larger sense, Williams functioned as a security blanket for Team USA, a player they could rely on to maximize possessions. He scored 18 points, seven of which came at the stripe, and another six materialized after he found real estate to spot up behind the arc.
D-Will entered the game with 4:08 to go in the first and Team USA leading 18-12, but that lead was quickly trimmed down by the Aussies, who trailed by just three with 3:40 left in the quarter.
Deron pushed the pace in the last several minutes of the half and Team USA piled up several fouls on Australia. They capitalized from the foul line, where they scored seven of their last nine points in the first. D-Will sank two of those seven as the Americans built a 28-21 lead after one.
Team USA continued to apply pressure in the second, but did so with the three ball instead of the free throw. Kevin Durant started it with a trey just eight seconds in that made it a 10-point game.
D-Will launched one of his own about a minute later and although he missed, was fouled and sank all three at the line to put Team USA up 12. A few plays later, Deron buried a shot from deep that pushed the lead back to 12. He left the game shortly thereafter, but his rest was short-lived.
In the two minutes and five seconds that Deron was off the floor, the Team USA offense stagnated, so coach Mike Krzyzewski brought him right back in with 5:13 remaining and the lead down to just eight. Within moments, the advantage was back to double-digits on a LeBron James drive. After Australia matched that score, Krzyzewski called a timeout and out of that break D-Will drove the lane and dished out to Carmelo Anthony for a corner three to put Team USA up 11.
"We've done that before and teams tend to stick around with us when we just coast. You see, every time we turn it on we go up 20 or 30 points," Anthony said. "We can't get complacent; we've got to be full throttle."
The Aussies knocked the lead back down to nine with a tip-in on the other end and threatened to close back in, but Deron kept the next USA possession alive with an offensive board, then took a dish from LeBron at the top of the key and swished it to once again make it a 12-point game. Anthony followed with a layup to put the U.S. up 14 and Deron knocked down a jumper to make it 54-38, forcing an Australian timeout with just over two minutes left in the half. No. 8 remained in for the rest of the half and Team USA took a 14-point lead into the break.
That advantage was whittled down to three when Australia opened the second half on an 11-0 run to make it 56-53. But Team USA got rolling again after a Kevin Durant trey, scoring 14 of the next 19 points to push their lead back up to 12, 70-58, at the midway point of the third.
The lead was still 12 when Deron came back in with 3:38 left in the third and hovered around there for the rest of the frame. D-Will drew another foul with about a minute to go in the quarter and hit both of his shots from the stripe, making him 7-for-7 on the evening.
Team USA took a 14-point lead into the fourth and put the throttle down to put the game away. Chris Paul opened the quarter with a trey and D-Will followed with one of his own off a James feed to make it 90-75. Then it was Kobe Bryant's turn as the veteran scorer buried four consecutive triples as part of a 12-2 run that pushed a 15-point lead to 25.
"We are lucky enough to have a team that is deep enough to where we have a lot of different guys who can go off like that," Paul said. "Kobe defends usually the best player every night we play, so it's great to see him get going but he could do that every night. But our team is so deep that it doesn't call for him to do that every night."
Kobe's final burst was enough for Krzyzewski to empty his bench with more than three minutes to go as Team USA cruised into the semi-finals with a 33-point win.
The semis feature a third game this summer between Team USA and Team Argentina.
The U.S. has won the first two — an 86-80 win during a friendly in Spain last month and a 126-97 victory in the final game of Olympic pool play on Monday. Argentina also happens to be the last team to have defeated Team USA in Olympic play, an 89-81 victory in the semi-finals of the 2004 Olympics that pushed the Americans into the bronze medal game for the first and only time since NBA players were included in the tournament.
"It's somewhat of a rivalry," Paul said. "I definitely think so. This will be our third time playing them in the last two or three weeks. We've got to get out to a good start. They are going to have their crowd behind them and we've got to come out and impose our will."
The winner of Friday's game will move on to face the Russia/Spain winner in the gold medal game on Sunday evening in London.
"This is what basketball is about," Anthony said. "To be playing against a team like Argentina, the game before the gold medal game. We've got to go through them to win the gold."
Team USA and Team Argentina face off in the second semi-final on Friday at 4 p.m. EDT, a game that can be seen live on NBC Sports Network.
- Stats >> USA 119, Australia 86 (USA Basketball, August 8, 2012)
- LeBron James Tallies First Triple-Double In U.S. Olympic History (USA Basketball, August 8, 2012)
- Additional Quotes >> USA 119, Australia 86 (USA Basketball, August 8, 2012)
- Olympic quarterfinals big-game performers (TrueHoop, August 8, 2012)
- Once again, LeBron answers the call (ESPN.com, August 8, 2012)
- Instant Analysis: USA 119, Australia 86 (ESPN.com, August 8, 2012)
- Kobe Bryant, LeBron James lead U.S. into basketball semifinals (Associated Press, August 8, 2012)