After blazing through most of the competition thus far, Team USA will face Serbia to decide the 2014 FIBA World Championship. Team USA has looked very impressive since beginning group play and is poised to capture their 62nd consecutive win in international play. But unlike the previous opponents in this tournament, Serbia presents a huge threat and is a force to be reckoned with.
Serbia is almost the polar opposite of Team USA, since they do not bolster any current NBA players on their roster. Despite that fact, they have won games by relying upon excellent ball and player movement (avg. 16.4 assists/game), outworking opponents, and playing impeccable team ball.
Led by Milos Teodosic, Nenad Krstic and Miroslav Raduljica, Serbia is an excellent outside shooting team who also plays aggressively in the paint. For them to upset Team USA, Teodosic needs to be firing on all cylinders from the tip, Raduljica has to hold his own against Anthony Davis, and shooters like Bogdan Bogdanovic and Nemanja Bjelica must knock down shots.
Team USA’s journey to the top has been much, much different. All the way back in training camp, U.S. Coach Mike Krzyzewski has maintained the adage of Team USA being their “own worst enemy.” When locked in, the group of NBA All-Stars is nearly unbeatable when they apply intense defensive pressure and execute beautifully on offense. But more often than not, it has taken a couple of quarters for their switch to turn on.
To avoid a massive upset, an aggresive tone needs to be set from the opening tip. Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, USA’s two catalysts, have to provide their trademark energy and rebounding while protecting the paint. If that happens, Serbia will have a difficult time dealing with the length and athleticism of the pair down low.
Also, look for Kyrie Irving and James Harden to come out strong, since both of them struggled in the first half against Lithuania on Thursday. Anticipate a hard fought, championship matchup with great intensity on both sides.
Anthony Davis: Projected Top D.O.G. (Awarded to the game’s Top Performer)
G Bogdan Bogdanovic (Serbia): When Bogdanovic plays well, the Serbs usually tend to follow suit. Selected 27th overall in this year’s NBA Draft (Phoenix Suns), Bogdanovic brings tremendous size and shooting to the two guard position.
If he breaks out for a monster game (22-25 points), Serbia could find themselves right in the thick of things toward the end.
G Derrick Rose (USA): A couple of games ago, Rose broke out of his slump and played well, producing 12 points and 5 assists against Slovenia. The Chicago Bulls’ superstar guard has remained confident through his struggles and will be an important piece in this contest.
Rose’s defense has been top notch during this tournament, particularly with ball pressure and guarding the pick and roll. If he can continue his staunch defense and push the break (Team USA averages 27.4 fast break points), Team USA might roll out to an easy W.