The USA women's basketball team was up first in today's doubleheader with Brazil with a bit of a surprise announcement: point guard Sue Bird was unable to make the game due to a family emergency.
That gave Lindsay Whalen an opportunity to run the starting unit and she did a pretty nice job orchestrating the offense in transition and the early offense.
A few other notes I took during the game after the jump.
USA Starters: Whalen, Taurasi, Catchings, Parker, Fowles
- Whalen is a perfect point guard for this collection of talent for the same reason she's a great fit with the Minnesota Lynx. She did an excellent job of spreading the ball around early as well as moving well without the ball to get a couple of early scoring opportunities at the rim off curls.
- Brazil started out 1-for-9 and a lot of that was an inability to establish much inside, which is a credit not only to Team USA posts but moreso the pressure on the perimeter that denied passes and penetration.
- Perhaps to Brazil's credit, USA did take a lot of perimeter shots early and struggled to establish Fowles or Charles on the post via the entry pass offensively. Part of that was simply dropped passes or overthrown passes, but part of that was certainly solid defense by de Souza.
- Both de Souza and Castro Marques were in foul trouble by the end of the first. Castro Marques made it worse while getting tangled up with Tina Charles to pick up her third personal and then a double technical with under 2 minutes left. The technical is counted as a personal foul by FIBA rules, meaning Castro Marques found herself on the bench with four fouls late in the first.
- USA came out in the second quarter playing zone and the results were as follows for Brazil: missed long jumper, missed corner three, steal, steal. Dantas finally broke the drought by running the floor well and getting fouled in transition.
- On the other end, with Brazil playing zone. USA did a great job of getting the ball into the high post and then finding dumping it into the paint for an easy basket to Charles on the first play.
- But Brazil's full court trapping press caused some problems for USA after that initial play. A couple of turnovers led to more transition opportunities, which is the easiest way to avoid a zone.
- Karla Costa has started the second quarter extremely well, picking the pockets of both Parker and Taurasi as they got a little too comfortable dribbling the ball.
- Brazil is finding out that it can be difficult to zone up a team with Taurasi on it - she rained another three on them with just over 6 minutes left.
- Karla Costa was carrying the Brazilian team with 14 points by the middle of the second quarter. The answer? Put Catchings on her. Her next three point attempt was blocked by Catchings.
- Brazil does not have an answer for Whalen, however, who is using her strength extremely well to get to the basket. Her ability to take contact and score is second to none in the WNBA.
- On USA's first possession, they turned it over trying to get it inside. On the next, de Souza knocked an entry pass away from Fowles.
- But on the very next possession, we saw what Chicago Sky fans were probably hoping to see some more of: Fowles got position, got the ball, and scored against de Souza.
- Taurasi is just killing it from downtown, which is making things extremely tough for Brazil's defense.
- USA is starting to get a little careless with the ball, mainly trying to force the ball to make difficult plays instead of making the simple play.
- Again, USA's difficulty making the post entry pass is probably as much a function of active defense by Brazil. Nevertheless, mildly surprised that they've struggled so much to get the ball inside (10 turnovers in the third quarter, according to the announcer).
- The outcome of this game is pretty certain at this point with the U.S. up by 24 to enter the quarter and it started out sort of frantic and sloppy on both ends.
- McCoughtry had a nice crossover from the right wing and dish to Fowles with under 8 minutes to play.
- Sylvia Fowles almost got a breakaway dunk off one foot with with 6:34 left in the fourth, taking off from about midway through the key.
- Six-foot-one McCoughtry (!!!) missed a dunk in the final minute of the game.
- A few final numbers: Whalen finished with 21 points, five rebounds, five assists and player of the game honors. Taurasi added 16 points and seven assists, and Tina Charles nabbed a double-double will 11 points and 10 rebounds.