Five keys to Team USA's FIBA quarterfinal game against Russia
Thursday marks the 38-year anniversary of the most famous international basketball game in history, the Soviet Union's controversial victory against the United States in the gold-medal game at the 1972 Olympics.
As the U.S. team looks to avoid a similar result Thursday, here are five things to watch for in its FIBA World Championship quarterfinal matchup against Russia.
The Russians boast the biggest front line the United States has faced in the tournament. The 7-foot-1
"Their average height is 6-8," USA coach
The three-point shot has been a huge weapon for the U.S., with
"We just need to move the ball around,"
The Russians are expected to utilize a 2-3 zone and try to muscle the U.S. team with their big guards on the perimeter and their size in the paint. As effective as the U.S. was from beyond the arc against Angola (47.4 percent), it's important for the team not to settle for too many threes and attack Russia.
Russia is hardly a prolific scoring team. Without
Free-throw shooting has been a bit of an Achilles' heel for the U.S. The Americans have connected on 72.8 percent of their freebies (eighth in the tournament). The Russians will gladly take a foul and send the U.S. to the line if it means stopping a fast break, and Team USA will have to convert there when they do.
A relative unknown in the U.S., Blatt, a Louisville, Ky., native who has coached the Russian national team since 2007, has established himself as one of the premier coaches in the Eastern Hemisphere. He has coached Maccabi Tel Aviv (Israel), Efes Pilsen (Turkey), Benetton Treviso (Italy), Dynamo Moscow (Russia) and Aris Thessaloniki (Greece).
Blatt, 51, is eager for an opportunity to coach in the NBA and says this will be his final tournament as Russia's coach. A win over the U.S. would be a significant boost to a résumé that already has at least one major shocker. In the gold-medal game at the 2007 EuroBasket in Madrid, Blatt's Russian team stunned Spain.