By Johnny Askounis/ email@example.com
Defense wins championships. The saying maybe works even better under FIBA rules. Team USA limiting Australia to ten points in the third quarter was key to blowing out its opponents in the first semifinal of the Olympic Games.
“He sets the tone on defense, we just follow him,” mentioned Zach LaVine commenting on Jrue Holiday’s defense on Australia star player Patty Mills, “He’s the best on-ball defender in the league. We have probably five of the best offensive players of the league, but his defense today was off the charts.”
Holiday, 31, has been on a mission in Tokyo. In a quick turnaround after the 2021 NBA Finals, he made the trip and a massive contribution to the effort of Gregg Popovich’s team aiming to claim Olympic gold once again. His latest defensive display held Mills to a tournament-low 15 points. The brand new Brooklyn Net was averaging 20.8 points.
“He is a great defender. He climbs in and used his body really well. His long arms make it difficult to bring the ball up the court,” noted Nick Kay on Holiday, “When he is on point, the rest of the guys use that energy as well. They were a lot better today on their switches. They are a great defensive team and contest really well.”
Holiday, due to helping the Milwaukee Bucks capture the championship for the first time in fifty years, missed the prep game against the Boomers, which the United States lost. Besides limiting Mills, he logged 11 points, eight rebounds, and eight assists himself in Thursday’s win.
“The journey has been fun so far. We are looking forward to this opportunity, we need to see who we are going to play against in the Final, but I’m looking forward to executing our game plan on defense,” added Kevin Durant following his game-high 23 points.
The USA, steadily battling off recent doubts regarding overall team effort in Japan, will go against the winner of the second semifinal between Slovenia and France. The gold medal game is scheduled to be held on Saturday at Saitama Super Arena.
“I’ve been to three Olympics now, and they’re as good as any Team USA team I’ve played against. They’re right there,” noted Australia head coach Brian Goorjian after the semifinal loss.
Photo Credit: FIBA.BASKETBALL