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Team USA Preview: It Ain't Easy Beating Greece

First things first: Here's our take on breaking news that the Bucks have traded Mo Williams and Desmond Mason in a three-team deal with the Cavs and Oklahoma City that will net them Luke Ridnour, Damon Jones, and Adrian Griffin.

And now, a programming reminder: Team USA face Greece on Thursday morning at 7:00 a.m. central time on USA. The showdown is two days following Team USA's 97-76 win over Angola, and almost two years following its 101-95 loss to Greece, the team's only blemish in the World Championships.

So, what's happened since then? For one, Greece actually improved, at least according to Draft Express.

This is the same old Greece, but completely different. It's the same hard-nosed, defensive-minded, smart, extremely competitive and very experienced squad that we have seen for the last three years, but they don't fool around with games any more. This team goes onto the court with the sole intention of demolishing its rival, relying on an outstanding defensive level and an aggressive offensive approach.

No demolishing tomorrow, but Greece is a formidable foe. Team USA played well but certainly not flawlessly in wins over China and Angola, and two games don't provide the healthiest indicator of what's to come. The 2006 squad opened with a 111-100 win over Puerto Rico and then delivered a familiar 31-point drubbing of China. On Sunday, the Americans topped China by the same 31-point differential.

That's not to say Team USA versions 2006 and 2008 are equal, because they aren't. On a player-to-player basis, the current team wins quite literally every single matchup, one through twelve. The returning players (James, Paul, Bosh, Howard, Wade, Anthony) have all improved, with the first four making tremendous strides. And the new guys (Bryant, Williams, Redd, Kidd, Boozer, Prince) individually beat the rest of the 2006'ers (Johnson, Hinrich, Miller, Brand, Jamison, Battier) with little room for argument.

Then again, it's a team game, and we have yet to see how this Team USA react to a single-digit game in the second half. Far more importantly, any team can win a single game. In the past NBA regular season, the Bobcats easily handled the Celtics, the Knicks destroyed Detroit, and we all remember the Bucks beating the Lakers. That (among other reasons) is why playoff series are the first to win four, not one.

Greece is to Team USA what the Bucks were to the Lakers, so to speak, but this time around Kobe and Redd are on the same team.

Other related notes from around the interwebs prior to the game:

  • While Kobe Bryant is still looking in luggage for his jump-shot, Dime wants Michael Redd to step up against Greece.
  • He sunk a couple of meaningless three’s towards the end of the game against China, and then missed both of his attempts from three against Angola, finishing with 2 points. Redd has had plenty of time to get used to being wide open when he pulls. Plus, he’s a few feet closer than usual - two reasons why his J should be falling more consistently.

  • ESPN.com's Chris Sheridan previews Team USA/Greece.
  • Interestingly, Krzyzewski said the Americans' game plan going in will not include much use of a traditional 2-3 zone unless the man-to-man defense proves ineffective. That's particularly intriguing given Greece's difficulty scoring against a traditional zone, something the American coaching staff noticed as it was on hand to scout Tuesday's Greece-Germany game.

  • Green Bandwagon scouts Greece.
  • Video breakdown of Greece beating Team USA in 2006.
  • Greece's first two Olympic games: 81-66 loss to Spain and 87-64 win over Germany.
  • USA Basketball's preview includes quotes from Tony Ronzone.
  • TrueHoop's Henry Abbott writes the Dream Team is not the model.
  • Also: Don't forget that Andrew Bogut and Australia take on Iran at 10:15 on Wednesday night. The game can be viewed online.