Game 1 in the World Cup began Saturday night. The United States, in their quest to repeat as gold medalists, trotted out their youngest team since 1992. Without Kevin Durant or Paul George to depend on, in their game against Finland, the United States smothered the Finns with athleticism, defense, an open court style of play and of course their overwhelming talent. They sent a subtle message too. To play us is to be oppressed by us.
Kenneth Faried started the game off with two dunks. James Harden drove the ball, was fouled and finished off one of his typical three point plays. Anthony Davis narrowly missed a dunk but you get the point. Finland had no answer for the U.S athletes.To paraphrase Charles Barkley: Finland was in trouble, unable to handle the athleticism, size and physicality of the United States. Gerald Lee of Finland, who attended Old Dominion, had three fouls in the first four minutes.
Finland, a perimeter shooting team had trouble getting shots off as the United States swarming defense, as coached by Tom Thibodeau, was relentless and viral in its intensity and infectiousness.
Derrick Rose was on the floor a minute before he got his first foul in a typical cheap international type of way. All he did was shrug it off. Near the end of the quarter, with the U.S. up by eight, Rudy Gay slammed a one handed dunk. Then Klay Thompson had a three. Then a steal and Rose was fouled. That started a 20-8 run and by the time the quarter was over the United States had 31 points and were up 15.
The game was over in the second quarter; the United States built a 40+ lead as the Finnish couldn’t get off a shot, missed every three pointer they attempted, and the United States defense lead to fast breaks and easy shots at the rim like they were on the playground and Finland was wearing cement shoes. Finland didn’t have a basket in the quarter. Not. One. Basket. It became a practice drill for the U.S. and it served a purpose. Whatever pressure this young United States team felt coming into a hostile arena where 9,000 Finns bought up the tickets, it had long since abated.
Anthony Davis in the second quarter went to work showcasing his impressive gifts on offense and scored seven straight points and no one on Finland could do anything but watch. Later in the quarter Derrick Rose looked like Derrick Rose as he finished off a dunk after a crossover and Finland was barely awake afterwards. But that didn’t stop the Finnish fans from having a party all night long.
It was a continuing theme the next three quarters, although the Finns did make baskets in the third quarter but so what? The fans were having a blast even as Finland was trailing by 40. The U.S. dribbled, shaked, baked, dunked, hit threes and generally dismantled the Finnish team in a quiet but respectful way- no showboating here.
But when matched up against below average competition the United States takes no prisoners. 114-55