As I imagined he would, Coach K went small against the larger Russian outfit when the two teams met in the World Basketball Championships quarterfinals this morning. Thanks to a huge performance from PF Kevin Durant, and nice “chip-ins” from old man Chauncey Billups and Andre Iguodala, he got away with it. Team USA won a rather sluggish contest, 89-79. I think if Coach K continues with this strategy his luck might run out soon, but we shall see.
Below are the “Win Likelihood Added” numbers for each performer for Team USA in this morning’s game.
WLA is based on each player’s statistical production and that of the player playing the same position at the same time (with said production expressed as Marginal Win Score) along with the player’s minutes played.
WLA assumes that a player who matches his “counterpart opponent” in win stat production in a given contest makes it no more or less likely that his team will prevail in that contest (meaning, likelihood of victory remains a coinflip or 50/50). A player who exceeds his CO’s win stat production increases the likelihood of victory. That increased likelihood is expressed as the player’s WLA.
Team USA vs. Russia (Win Likelihood Added)
1. Kevin Durant, PF…(+16.4%)
2. Chauncey Billups, SG/SF…(+7.6%)
3. Andre Iguodala, SF…(+7.4%)
4. Lamar Odom, C…(+2.5%)
5. Tyson Chandler, C…(+2.4%)
6. Eric Gordon, SF…(+1.1%)
7. Kevin Love, C…(+0.0%)
8. Stephen Curry, PG…(-0.2%)
9. Rudy Gay, SF/PF…(-2.6%)
10. Russell Westbrook, SG…(-4.7%)
11. Derrick Rose, PG…(-5.8%)
As you can see, I was wrong in my previous post when I suggested that Chauncey Billups ought not to play against Russia. In fact, he added quite a bit to the Team USA cause. Meanwhile the two players I thought would be decisive — Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook — detracted from the cause somewhat.
But I was correct in noting the obvious: Russia, along with every other nation on Earth except America, lacks Kevin Durant or any kind of facsimile. As a result, the United States won.
But I see troubled waters ahead. If Team USA continues with this kind of “small vs. big” strategy against their upcoming opponents, most notably Turkey, they might come up on the short end.
The strategy worked against the 17th ranked Russian team because of a superlative shooting performance from Kevin Durant as well as 14 steals produced by the backcourt, which is an extraordinary number. In most every other way, Team USA was outplayed by their Russian opponents. They were outshot, outpassed, and outrebounded.
I don’t know they can count on a repeat of the advantages they had, and against bigger teams like Turkey, the disadvantages will almost certainly remain.