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USA-Lithuania: Deron and Kidd Strike Back

The U.S. finally had an opportunity to match up with a Beijing bound team today, as they took on Lithuania. As expected, it was a blowout. Yesterday, we saw the back-up point guard pendulum sway Chris Paul's way, as he was the first PG off the bench and the recipient of more minutes than either Deron Williams or Jason Kidd. Let's get started, shall we?

  • Play #1 - Kobe Bryant pokes the ball away from a Lithuanian guard, and Jason Kidd is credited with a steal. JK 1, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #2 - Kidd with another heads-up defensive play, poking the basketball out of bounds. JK 2, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #3 - Another great play from JKidd, this time on the offensive end. He penetrates past 4 Lithuanian defenders before dumping to Dwight Howard who has 6 early points. JK 3, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #4 - Yet another steal for Kidd, as he reads the pick and roll perfectly. JK 4, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #5 - In one motion, Kidd completes the steal and alley-oop passes it upcourt to set up a LBJ jam. Fast start for Kidd. JK 5, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #6 - Kidd breaks up a fastbreak layup by stripping the ball and sending it out of bounds. JK 6, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #7 - JKidd converts a fast break layup on the very next play. Lithuania's playing probably the worst transition defense I've ever seen from any team. JK 7, CP 0, DW 0.
  • Play #8 - Kidd to Howard again. D-Ho gets fouled and somehow puts it in off glass. JK 8, CP 0, DW 0.
  • CP comes in at the 4:25 mark for Jason Kidd who's had a terrific first 5 and a half minutes. DWill on the bench for now.
  • Williams checks in at 2:48. Paul hasn't done anything notable in the last 1 and a half minutes.
  • Play #9 - Chris Paul races up court only to have a Lithuanian player race even faster and force a turnover from behind. JK 8, CP -1, DW 0.
  • Play #10 - Deron Williams' turn to throw it away. Luckily though, a good bounce gives him the ball back. JK 8, CP -1, DW -1.
  • Play #11 - Crazy shot from Chris Paul. Shot clock winding down, three Lithuanians converge on Paul on the wing. Unfazed, he rises up and fades away, somehow drilling the 15 footer. JK 8, CP 0, DW -1.
  • Play #12 - CP3 sets up a wide open three for Deron, but DWill leaves it way short. JK 8, CP 1, DW -1.
  • Play #13 - Nice defensive play from Chris as he bats away a long outlet pass and breaks up a fastbreak opportunity. JK 8, CP 2, DW -1.
  • Play #14 - Deron deftly escapes a trap in the corner by making a tough bounce pass to 'Melo. Anthony misses the wide open three, but score for Williams. JK 8, CP 2, DW 0.
  • Play #15 - CP drives baseline, draws the double, and finds Chris Bosh for the slam dunk. Elementary. JK 8, CP 3, DW 0.
  • End 1. The U.S. gave up a mere 15 points in the first period, en route to a 16 point advantage.
  • Play #16 - D-Will drives baseline but throws it away. JK 8, CP 3, DW -1.
  • Play #17 - Williams swings over a nice pass to Chris Paul wide open in the corner, but CP can't convert the trifecta. JK 8, CP 3, DW 0.
  • Play #18 - DWill with a nice strip of the ball defensively. He's not credited for the steal officially (I believe Wade gets it), but he made it happen. JK 8, CP 3, DW 1.
  • Play #19 - Williams gets it right back from Wade and takes it to the hoop. He's fouled really hard in the air and remains down for a brief second. JK 8, CP 3, DW 2.
  • Play #20 - CP with a sneaky defensive play. He pokes the ball out of bounds in the backcourt, then immediately grabs it as though it belongs to Team USA. Not sure exactly what happened or who it belongs to, but good work from Paul. JK 8, CP 4, DW 2.
  • Williams leaves for Redd on that stoppage of play (8:32 left in the second). Paul remains on the floor.
  • And then Williams comes back in for Paul at 6:30.
  • Play #21 - Deron gets the ball underneath the hoop and makes a nice kickout to a wide open Michael Redd. Redd misses but score a non-assist assist. JK 8, CP 4, DW  3.
  • Play #22 - Another great play for Williams. He takes the lead on the fastbreak, finishing it with a wrap-around pass around his defender to LBJ. JK 8, CP 4, DW 4.
  • Play #23 - DWill gets in front of a posting-up Lithuanian player and comes up with the steal. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Play #24 - He immediately sprints up court with the ball, drawing a clear path foul. JK 8, CP 4, DW 6.
  • Play #25 - Williams a little bit overaggressive defensively. He goes for the steal but commits a bad foul by slapping his opponent on the wrist. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Play #26 - Kobe drives baseline and attracts a crowd before kicking out to Williams. DWill swings it over to Carmelo who drills a three, but I'm not giving any points to Williams on this one. Kobe set up the play. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Chris Paul comes back in for Williams at the 3:10 mark. So we got a solid 3:20 of a pure Williams at the point look.
  • Play #27 - CP threads the needle to Bosh on the U.S.' last offensive possession of the half. Bosh somehow throws it in and the foul. JK 8, CP 5, DW 5.
  • Play #28 - Paul with a stupid foul chasing a Lithuanian trying to get off a shot before the buzzer. It results in two free throws. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Halftime.
  • Play #29 - JKidd picks up where he left off, turning a Kobe Bryant missed three pointer into an extra possession for the U.S. JK 9, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Play #30 - Poor pick and roll D from Kidd, and it leads to two Lithuanian free throws. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Play #31 - Stupid foul from Kidd. He gets caught underneath the hoop with a Lithuanian big due to poor defense from Kobe, but committing the foul was pointless. JK 7, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Play #32 - Kidd lays out on the floor to pick up a steal. Great hustle, and he ignites a fast break. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • At 4:50, Chris Paul off the bench for J-Kidd, who turned in another impressive quarter.
  • Deron Williams in for Kobe a few seconds later.
  • Play #33 - Beautiful drive by Williams who threads the needle to LBJ underneath the bucket. And one. JK 8, CP 4, DW 6.
  • Play #34 - CP brings it up the court and passes it to DWill; Deron can't handle it and it's a turnover. I'm taking away a point from both- it could've been a better pass, and it could've been a better gather. JK 8, CP 3, DW 5.
  • Play #35 - Paul somehow breaks up the ensuing 3 on 1 fast break before Carmelo comes in and is called for a questionable foul. JK 8, CP 4, DW 5.
  • Play #36 - Next play, CP3 finds Dwyane Wade for the wing trifecta. I didn't know Wade could hit the three ball... JK 8, CP 5, DW 5.
  • Play #37 - Terrific play from Williams. He attacks the zone by driving hard right down the middle. He finishes by taking a hard bump and dropping it off glass with one hand. JK 8, CP 5, DW 6. In case you're wondering, DW's trumped both Paul and Kidd with 8 positive offensive plays thus far to their 5 apiece.
  • Play #38 - DWill comes right back with another good play. He makes a tough pass to Bosh underneath even though CB can't finish. JK 8, CP 5, DW 7.
  • Play #39 - Chris Paul up high to Dwyane Wade. Alley oop! Funny thing about the set up of that play- Chris Bosh rebounded and Deron Williams came and asked him for the ball. Bosh instead passed it to Paul who wasn't in a great position to get it. Hmmm. JK 8, CP 6, DW 7.
  • Play #40 - Paul to Wade, straightway three. JK 8, CP 7, DW 7.
  • End 3.
  • Play #41 - Deron Williams strong again to the hoop, drawing the foul. JK 8, CP 7, DW 8.
  • Play #42 - Williams right up the gut one more time. This time he finishes it, plus the foul. His second opportunity at a three point play today. JK 8, CP 7, DW 9.
  • Play #43 - Good D from Paul, as he knocks the ball high in the air and out of bounds. JK 8, CP 8, DW 9.
  • Play #44 - Deron Williams' turn to knock it out of bounds. JK 8, CP 8, DW 10.
  • Play #45 - Whoaaaaaa!!! A windmill alley oop by Dwyane Wade off the feed from Chris Paul. Seriously, a windmill alley oop. Wade looks absolutely brilliant. JK 8, CP 9, DW 10.
  • Play #46 - Paul makes a dazzling move on the break to lose a defender before finding Redd for yet another corner trifecta. JK 8, CP 10, DW 10.
  • Play #47 - Williams again. He is just shredding the zone, as he gets his third opportunity at a three point play (he's missed the free throw twice). JK 8, CP 10, DW 11.
  • Ummm. For some ridiculous reason, DWill isn't credited with the bucket. God, FIBA officiating is more suspect than NBA officiating, if that's even possible. I'm not taking away the point though.
  • Play #48 - DWill make a crisp feed off the drive to Redd who drills the straightaway three. JK 8, CP 10, DW 12.
  • Play #49 - There goes Williams. Crossover, and a layup over Lithuania's center. DWill is just unguardable right now. JK 8, CP 10, DW 13.
  • Play #50 - Chris Paul with a crazy find of Michael Redd in the corner, an eyes in the back of the head pass. JK 8, CP 11, DW 13.
  • Play #51 - Paul with a rebound of an airball and then a long pass up ahead for Michael Redd who throws down. JK 8, CP 12, DW 13.
  • Play #52 - A drive and kick from Williams, and Tayshaun splashes in a long deuce. JK 8, CP 12, DW 14.
  • Play #53 - DWill gets beat on the defensive end by a spinning move from Lithuania's point guard. He commits a shooting foul at the end of the play. JK 8, CP 12, DW 13.
  • Play #54 - CP's turn to find Tayshaun. This time, Prince steps behind the three point line before drilling it. JK 8, CP 13, DW 13.
  • Play #55 - Chris Paul makes a hard drive to the hoop and gets fouled in the process. U.S. by 35 as the game starts to wrap itself up. JK 8, CP 14, DW 13.
  • Play #56 - Williams drives baseline and makes a no-look back tap feed to Redd in the corner. Michael can't connect from deep. JK 8, CP 14, DW 14.
  • Play #57 - CP3 threads the needle to Deron Williams who makes a touch pass to Carlos Boozer coming down the lane. Score one for both. JK 8, CP 15, DW 15.
  • Play #58 - Good D by Paul on the P&R, as he swats the ball out of bounds. JK 8, CP 16, DW 15.
  • Play #59 - Deron gets beat on the drive again by Lithuania's PG. JK 8, CP 16, DW 14.
  • Play #60 - Poor execution by Chris Paul on his own P&R as he tries to hit Carlos Boozer with the feed. It's picked cleanly. JK 8, CP 15, DW 14.
  • Play #61 - DWill penetrates the zone at well, finding Tayshaun for three. A brick is laid. JK 8, CP 15, DW 15.
  • Play #62 - Chris Paul steps out to cover the ball in the front of the U.S.'s 2-3 zone. He comes up with a steal. JK 8, CP 16, DW 15.
  • Play #63 - And then he takes it coast to coast for the dunk. Not a Slam Dunk, but a dunk nevertheless. JK 8, CP 17, DW 15.
  • Zeroes on the clock, Paul dribbles it out.

So it was the return of Jason Kidd and Deron Williams. Let's start with JKidd. He only got 11 minutes of burn; I think if he had played the 20+ minutes that Paul and Williams did, he easily would've contributed as much. Simply put, Kidd was on top of his game today. He was aggressive on both sides of the court, didn't try to make too many fancy passes (as he did in games 1 and 2), and eschewed that in favor of solid, fundamental basketball. If Coach K. had the slightest doubts about Kidd as a starter, today must have quelled those.

Deron Williams emerged as the primary "zone-buster" among the three point guards. He had an array of acrobatic moves to the hoop, but more important than that was the fearlessness he showed in driving to the bucket. Lithuania was the first of the 3 pre-Olympics opponents to consistently show the zone, and Williams shined against it. Most analysts predict that the Olympic opponents of the U.S. will play zone D in Beijing because the Americans have struggled heavily against the zone in the past. If that proves to be the case, expect DWill to get his share of minutes even if he is outplayed by Paul in the remaining two games.

Finally, it was somewhat of a lackluster game for Chris Paul. I had him scored at a '22' in each of the first two games, and he finished with just 17 today. He certainly seemed a little bit slow on the court, but it's important to note that Coach K did go to DWill a little more than normal (because of the zone). Even though his 2-5 shooting might indicate otherwise, Paul didn't "struggle" against the zone or anything like that.

A more in-depth breakdown of the scoring:

# of... Chris Paul Deron Williams Jason Kidd
Positive Offensive Plays 15 18
Negative Offensive Plays 3 3
Positive Defensive Plays 6
Negative Defensive Plays 1 3

Deron Williams was clearly the superior player in terms of offensive production. Jason Kidd's value in this game came from how few mistakes he made. Without a single turnover, he made literally zero errors on the offensive side of the ball. And neither of his defensive errors (both silly fouls if I remember correctly) led immediately to a Lithuanian bucket. Finally, CP3 continued his trend of being the best defender among the three point guards. He not only made the most positive defensive contributions of the 3 (6) but also the fewest negative ones (1). I have to repeat again that the low number of negative defensive plays by all three players is quite stunning. All three American opponents thus far (Canada, Turkey, and Lithuania) have featured big guards against CP, DW, and JK but haven't had much success.

Odds and ends: Coach K looked like he hasn't slept in weeks... Fran Fraschilla is getting on my nerves, complaining about the U.S.' (pretty solid) defense every time LBJ or somebody throws down a dunk. Seriously dude, stop being so negative. I understand we need better P&R defense. Just don't tell us that while Wade is throwing down an alley-oop windmill... And Rick Kamla? We understand that there will be "3 or 4 calls every game in FIBA play that nobody will agree with." I'm not going to forget that every 5 seconds. One time is enough... Finally, Dwyane Wade is in full-on Beast Mode. Some writer on the intertubes mentioned that Wade reminds him of Vince Carter circa the 2000 Olympics (ie, when he was coming off a bad year, lost his favorite teammate to another team (TMac), went totally crazy, destroyed entire teams in his wake, and jumped over 7 foot Frenchmen). That writer was deadly accurate- Dwyane Wade is the last guy you want to mess with right now.