The U.S. finally got a game -- and found its game -- this morning/evening over in Japan. Up by just one at the half against a Germany side that had main cog Dirk Nowitzki handcuffed by foul trouble, they turned it on in the second half and won easily, 85-65.
|Chris Bosh: Making some noise.|
The story from a Toronto perspective was the same, in essence, as the one from the winners: Chris Bosh. A week ago he was the Incredible Shrinking Man, getting a DNP-CD that seemed as inexplicable then as it does now. Bosh was key in this one, and after not being particularly happy about the bench minutes, he has responded by making it impossible to ignore him again. Opportunity is a powerful motivator, isn't it?
Bosh, into the game for LeBron James with 4 1/2 minutes to go in the first quarter, was the U.S.'s first forward off the bench. He immediately missed a putback, then after an offensive rebound, went inside to finish off a Kirk Hinrich pass. He lurked behind the Germany zone and swooped quickly for a finish of a Dwayne Wade lob, took a turn as one of three primary defenders on Nowitzki, and was active as all get out. There were wobbly moments -- a needless over-the-back loose ball foul, a failure to box out that led to a basket, and he had trouble checking Dirk (who doesn't? James, with his strength, did the best in that difficult assignment) -- but this was a pretty hungry-looking player at work.
When the revolving door of reserves disgorged him in the second half -- Krzyzewski started Howard, subbed him with Brand, then brought Bosh in for Elton, all of it within the first eight minutes -- he had one highlight-reel sequence: a block leading to a fast break, an offensive rebound off the ensuing miss, then a gorgeous twisting finish of another lob, this one from Chris Paul, with a free throw to make it a three-point play. Later on, he stepped out and made an open 3-pointer, something his teammates had some trouble with in what was overall a poor shooting night.
Bottom line for Raptors fans: Relax. Doug Smith made some interesting points in his internet column yesterday -- not to mention a shot of a nifty Sam Mitchell outfit -- on how Bosh may well have to adjust his game a touch if the Raps are trying to become the northern Suns of the NBA. This game, with Suns coach Mike D'Antoni a part of the U.S. team as Krzyzewski's lead assistant, was a textbook illustration. Bosh didn't get a single play called for him, but there were plenty of times where he got involved through recognition and aggressiveness. And of course, back on these shores, he's going to be a focal point and get his touches in the usual NBA way, through pick-and-roll and postups.
Related: Greece beats France, will play U.S. in the semifinals. In the other semi, and easily the best matchup of what's been a depressingly one-sided series of games so far, Argentina faces Spain (Raptor watch: Calderon, Garbajosa). A 3:30 a.m. start Friday morning in that one.
Update: Henry Abbott at True Hoop weighs in: Honorable mention to Chris Bosh, who played 14 killer minutes: Ten points, seven rebounds, only one missed shot, a block, and he made his one three-pointer.