Can a Molten be split in thirds?
Because the game ball for Wednesday’s 119-86 quarterfinal win over Australia should be divided up between Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Kevin Love.
You knew there was eventually going to be an eruption from Kobe, even when he was scoreless at halftime. And erupt he did, going for six 3-pointers and 20 points in the second half, a bunch of those points coming in rapid succession as the U.S. team pulled away with a furious burst against a tough opponent that cut a 14-point halftime deficit to six midway through the third quarter.
You knew what you were going to get from LeBron James, because he does it in every single game (that matters). We saw it in the NBA playoffs, we saw it when he single-handedly took over the pool play game against Lithuania with 5 minutes left, and you saw it when he scored the first points of the second half as part of a pullaway burst in the final game of Group A play against Argentina (who will be the Americans’ opponent in the semifinals). He finished against Australia with a triple-double of 11 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists.
This is a guy who was buried behind Andre Iguodala on the depth chart less than a week ago, a guy who has never gotten the level of love from coach Mike Krzyzewski that he deserved. Even in Turkey in 2010 when he was averaging more than a rebound per minute for Team USA in the World Championship, he had a hard time getting sufficient burn.
I called out Love in this column I wrote from Barcelona prior to the Olympics, before the Americans’ friendly victory over Spain. The coaches were down on him, they were high on Iguodala, and they were probably a little bit blind to the fact that muscle, effort and energy under the boards were going to be factors they’d have to reckon with at some point in the near future.
With Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler turning into a human foul machine, Love has stepped up.
He grabbed eight of his 11 rebounds on the offensive end, and he scored 10 points while playing 21 minutes.
As I wrote in Washington, D.C. before the team traveled overseas, Love is going to end up being one of the three most important players on Team USA if they are going to be successful in defending the gold medal.
I stick by that prediction as we head into the semifinals and the finals.
(RELATED CONTENT: Argentina defeats Brazil 82-77 as Varejao sits entire 4th quarter)
(RELATED CONTENT: Spain defeats flagrant fouling France 66-59.)
(RELATED CONTENT: Russia defeats Lithuania 83-74 in Olympic quarterfinals)
Chris Sheridan is publisher and editor-in-chief of SheridanHoops.com. He has covered every version of Team USA since 1996, covering them at the Olympics in Atlanta, Sydney, Athens and Beijing, as well as the World Championships in Indianapolis, Japan and Turkey. Follow him on Twitter.