USA-Russia: The Boxer vs. The Brawler

Will the Russians “balake” Team USA?

Come Thursday we will get an old school classic matchup when the United States takes on Russia.  It will be the versatile skill of the United States Eagle versus the size, strength and cunning of the Russian Bear.  Doesn’t it always seem to be that kind of matchup when these two nations hook up?  It is what it always is, the Forests of  Russia versus the Streets of America.

The Russians look like a serious threat.  They are equipped with their usual tall timber up front, and maybe I’m being stereotypical, but every one of them looks like they would cut your hands off for fun. (And most all of their names end with “ov”, what’s that all about?)

The team’s best player appears to be 6’9” 236 pound forward Andrey Vorontsevich.  He looks like a banger extraordinaire, and he’s posting a Win Score of 13.98 per 40 minutes so far in the tournament. (Why isn’t he playing in the States?? Actually, I just looked up his CSKA Moscow team stats — they aren’t that good.  But he’s certainly tearing it up in Turkey so far.)  That’s their power forward.  At the “small” forward they feature 6’9” 220 pound Sergey Monya, who is posting a Win Score of 10.22 per 40 minutes.  These guys look like a pair of Crimson Dynamos. (Monya plays a little like a taller Carlos Delfino.  He is a good defensive rebounder, but not an offensive rebounder.  And he appears to favor threes over twos)

The Russians also feature the reserve player and future Knickerbocker Timofey Mazgov.  He’s a mountain at 7’1”, 269 pounds.   Of course, he’s no Arvydas Sabonis (but who is??).  I’ve seen mixed reviews on Mazgov.  For a guy his size, his rebounding is weak, but he sure has been able to convert baskets in this tournament, shooting 63.2% from the field, while posting a so-so Win Score 40 (for a center) of 10.65.

The bottom line is this.  As presently constructed Team USA is going to have a bitch of a time in the paint against the Russkies.  The only thing they have that comes close to matching the Russian size is the Oregonian Kevin Love.  I feel for Kevin Love.  Its him against the world.   He should be able to rebound at will, which will be good, but I foresee a Wilson Sandwich or two in his future.

The Russians play pretty stellar defense.  They get their arms up and challenge anything at the cup.   They are blocking a very high percentage of opponent two point attempts (something like 20% against both Greece and New Zealand.  I’d go further back in the Russian schedule, but I’m sick of wrestling with FIBA’s user unfriendly website).  Easy baskets will be in short supply.

(Lets hope this is not the game where the United States’ strange decision to forego size and strength kills them. How nice would Gerald Wallace look right about now?  Oh, but, we decided we needed the “shooter” Danny Granger instead.  Good Lord.  What a waste of space Granger has been.  That guy cost Team USA a uniform and a plane ticket, not to mention room and board.)

To succeed Thursday, Team USA will have to lean heavily on three main advantages:  backcourt dominance, Kevin Love’s rebounding prowess, and the unmatchable skills of Kevin Durant.  Here’s what I specifically mean.

(1) Backcourt Harassment The United States will have to pressure the hell out of the Russian guards and make it difficult for them to enter the ball into the post.  That is Russia’s Achilles heal.  Their guards can pass, but otherwise they are not that effective, and they will turn the ball over.  The United States has a huge advantage in the backcourt and they must exploit that advantage to the hilt.   To do so, they have to keep Curry and Billups out of the game, and instead have Westbrook and Rose constantly dogging the hell out of the Russian guards.  The United States must win decisively in the backcourt.

(2) Mind over Muscle Kevin Love and Lamar Odom will have to own the boards against the Russian goon squad.   They cannot be intimidated or pushed around.  I don’t think Love will be.  Love might be able to make hay on the offensive boards.  Odom, though, worries me.  He has to come up big.  He can’t turn into a drifter.  He has to be willing to mix it up.  If he disappears, I guarantee Coach K goes small, and that’s when Team USA may be in trouble.

(3) Controlled Streetball The United States will have to get out on the break and make the Russian big men get into a track race.  Score easy baskets before the Russians can set up their defensive front and suddenly the Russian height is not a factor.

(4) The Spectacular Spider-Man Kevin Durant must dominate whomever the Russians send up against him, and he should be able to, provided he doesn’t allow them to push him around.

However it shakes out, this is a highly anticipated matchup here at the Courtside Analyst.  I can’t remember the last time I was this interested in an international basketball game.  I wish Thursday was today.  (What the hell time is 18 h00 anyway?  Can someone help me out with this?  Is that Zulu time or something?)

3 Responses to “USA-Russia: The Boxer vs. The Brawler”

  1. Chicago Tim Says:

    Good luck getting Billups off the floor. Let’s just hope he’s found his shooting stroke. I’m worried about whether Love will play against a tall front court. They kept him out against Splitter and Brazil — with near-disastrous results. Maybe they’ve learned better.

  2. szr Says:

    Is it just me, or does Coach K always find himself in this position during March Madness tournaments? I mean looking at a bigger, stronger and more physical team that leads to a Duke scare or early exit?

    • tywill33 Says:

      Get out of my brain… I was thinking that exact thought.

      When I read BR Gulker’s piece on the WoW Journal and it had the quote from Krzy saying “we try never to have two nonshooters on the floor” I almost vomited!

      Im thinking, you unreconstructed piece of garbage! How did you win those titles at Duke? By accident?? Why would you take NBA caliber players and instead of using them to jam NBA ball, the dominant form of basketball, down the World’s throat, instead of doing that, why would you decide it would be a good idea to play “shooter” ball… in other words “international ball”. Why would you do that?

      Why isnt Andrew Bynum and Gerald Wallace and a myriad of other American big men on this team? Why aren’t we turning the other teams into purely jump shooters?

      I’m scared as shit with this Russian game coming up because we’ve seen this movie before. A bigger, stronger, less talented Russian team uses possession creation, shot blocking, and easy put backs to keep the game close and give themselves a shot against a vastly more talented American team.

      Doesn’t anyone at USA Basketball subscribe to ESPN Classic??

      I apologize for my rant.

      I gather you understand that I endorse your opinion, szr

      Ty Will

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