USA men's basketball steadies ship with throwback beatdown of Iran

·Columnist
·3-min read

TOKYO — It seems like everyone is always complaining that the United States men’s basketball team just isn’t what it once was. That’s fairly true, especially this group. This isn’t the Michael-Magic-Larry 1992 team or the Kobe-LeBron-DWade 2008 squad.

But put them up against an opponent that looks an awful lot like the kind of rag-tag crews the old 1990s Dream Teams got to face, and maybe they aren’t that far away after all.

The U.S. played Iran on Wednesday and it helped answer the question of how many points a group of NBA players might be able to score in a 40-minute game if the other team essentially played no defense — seriously, no defense.

In this case, 120. Iran managed 66.

The victory was the first of these Olympics for Team USA and a welcome respite after they blew multiple second-half leads to lose Sunday to France. The Americans, who are still trying to blend a late-arriving roster, needed an easy one and Iran provided it.

Other than former NBA center Hamed Haddidi’s admirable old man game, there wasn’t much resistance provided.

“I think at least we are happy we’re here,” Haddidi said, according to USA Today.

Damian Lillard (6) and Team USA bounced back from a loss to France by blowing out Iran. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)
Damian Lillard (6) and Team USA bounced back from a loss to France by blowing out Iran. (Photo by THOMAS COEX/AFP via Getty Images)

The Iranians didn’t pull out any phones to take pictures of teammates posting up NBA superstars, but they also didn’t seem eager to foul anyone either.

The U.S. will play the Czech Republic on Saturday at 8 a.m. ET looking to ensure they get out of group play and into the knockout round.

This was a USA Basketball throwback game. Lots of red, white and blue offense. Almost no opposition defense. All 12 U.S. players scored at least four points, with Damian Lillard leading the way with 21. The Americans shot 55 percent from the floor and 49 percent from behind the arc.

There wasn’t much to take away from this one, since it was basically a controlled scrimmage.

The good? Devin Booker, who looked jet-lagged on Sunday (because he was) found his shooting form and added 16 by hitting six of his nine shots. That would be big for the Americans going forward.

The bad, if you can have a “bad” in a 54-point victory? Kevin Durant scored just 10 points for the second consecutive game. He shot 50 percent from the field though this time, which is a little better, but the Americans will need their best player to get cooking.

Also good: Minutes were spread around, which should keep legs fresh in a tournament that happens quickly.

Other than that, it was an old-school USA Basketball game, the kind everyone claims they wish they could still see. Don’t expect another one here in Tokyo, as the competition and the stakes are only rising.

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