The race for gold in men's basketball has become unpredictable as Dream Team's dominance might be toppled down.
By sportswriters Shan Lei, Li Bowen, Ma Kai
TOKYO, Aug. 1 (Xinhua) -- There is no dominant Team USA, no "Dream Team", and Olympic gold is a possibility for all remaining sides in the Olympic men's basketball competition.
Losing 83-76 to France in their opener, the U.S. finished second with a 2-1 record after thrashing Iran 120-66 and the Czech Republic 119-84.
Two big-margin wins and the best result among second-placed teams proved the U.S. remains one of the favorites to win the title, but is not dominating the Olympics as in years gone by.
With the bench shrinking with fewer talented players, the Americans rely too much upon Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard. When these two pivot players cannot find their form, as happened in the loss to France, the U.S. have found little help from the bench.
The Dream Teams used to have many superstars on the bench, as fans thought their second teams were also capable of winning a medal. Fast breaks, a suffocating defense and scoring from everywhere from every player gave their opponents no rest, as the Americans kept their feet fresh.
The lack of talented players calls for more help from the big guys, but their tallest center Javale McGee (213cm) played only 1:55 against France, and starting center Bam Adebayo (206cm) had to face up to Moustapha Fall (218cm), Rudy Gobert (216cm) and Vincent Poirier (213cm) of France.
Coming into the knockout round, the lack of height could cause more trouble to the U.S. as Australia, Slovenia and Spain also each have at least two players over 210cm in their rosters.
Losses to Australia and Nigeria in exhibition games before the Olympics showed the Americans were still searching for chemistry, and France exposed the weakness of this U.S. team -- just working around Durant and Lillard and waiting for the result to come.
On the other hand, Slovenia, playing its first-ever Olympics in Tokyo, grabbed three victories in the group phase to finish first in Group C.
Led by Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic, Slovenia beat 2004 Olympic winners Argentina 118-100, crushed host Japan 116-81 and ousted 2019 world champion Spain 95-87.
Doncic scored 48 points, the second-highest single-game scoring in Olympic history, in the win over Argentina, averaging 28.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists per game so far.
Australia is also a heavy favorite for the gold medal, with victories over Italy, Germany and Nigeria. Veteran guard Patty Mills averaged 21.7 points per game to lead the team.
The path to the top podium is open to every team in the quarterfinals, which will start on Tuesday.