Additional Quotes: U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team 98, Australia 88 (8/10/16)
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Thoughts on the game?
We beat a heck-of-a team. Australia has probably played the best of anybody in the Olympics. They played three really tough opponents, us being the third one. They just play lights-out basketball. They play so well together as one, and they’ve been together. For a lot of times on the court tonight, they had four guys who started against us in London … their perimeter and Anderson. They’ve been together. Bogut was great. But they play as one, and for us, I thought it was a heck-of-a win, first of all because we beat a really good team, an outstanding team that was playing really well. For us, for this group, that’s the first real, real international game we’ve had. The experience of playing in that. The exhibitions were played in America. The first two games we were significantly better than those teams. This is the real world now. That was good for us. I thought the defense we had the second half was so much better than the first half. And guys stepped up. Carmelo was magnificent. We earned the win, and we’re going to have to earn our wins throughout. So, this was a really good night for us.
What does tonight’s game due for your strategy and what other teams are you concerned with and why?
You learn by experience. I’m sure when you started out as a (radio reporter), you probably weren’t in a big market then all of a sudden you got to be in a big market and you have to adjust. It’s the same thing in anything you’re doing as a human and especially if you’re dealing with a lot of humans together. You learn by the experience. So, we’ll learn from this. We’re concerned about everybody. We respect everybody in the tournament because they play together and they’re playing international ball. We’re still learning about that. This was a very, very good night for us. In previous – World Cup and Olympics – we usually played an exhibition series away from the United States where we could learn a little bit more. That didn’t work out. Again, I think we’ve learned. Our strategy is to keep getting better and keep learning. The fact is our guys fought and they made winning plays. It’s not like something was given to us tonight. I’m proud of what they’ve done. Can we play better? We will need to. Don’t take away … Australia played a great game. We beat a really good team tonight.
Did you intend Carmelo and Kyrie to take over in the 4th or did it just work out that way?
I was hoping would all five guys would take over. I’m ok with that. We did go to a few things with the ball screen with those two guys. It opened up the court. They’re really good players and they made plays. It was set up for them. We didn’t hit like we could hit. We have confidence that Kevin or Klay will go better than 6 for 25. Some of that is Australia and some of that is human nature, but thank goodness at least two of the guys did that. Defensively, they all took over. They all made really good plays. Paul George getting the loose ball right at the end. Getting a defensive stop. The offense was those two guys but some of the defense, we made some really good efforts there to get from one to two to three possession lead. When we got the three possession lead, that felt pretty good.
Why is a game like this good for you?
I think it’s pretty obvious why it’s good for us. Like you beat one of the best teams in the tournament. You beat a team that could … they are going to vie for a gold medal. You beat a team that was undefeated that’s played together for a number of years … a really good basketball team. I don’t how that could not be good for us. Then the experience of playing in a game of that level with that physicality and intensity was not there in our exhibition games or in our first two games. Again, you start adding it up, all those things are good. The bottom line is the best thing is we won. And we made big plays in the fourth quarter, played better defense in the second half.
How is USA Basketball made you a better game coach? Preparation coach? Practice coach?
I know some of the writers from the United States but I’m more patient. I try to make sure I talk to the officials even differently. I’m trying to learn from them, like why instead of you don’t attack them. There are nuances about the game that I’ve learned a lot from that but my players have not experienced it that. So at a timeout you have to explain this is what just happened. It wouldn’t have happened in an NBA game but it happened now and it’s right. It’s not wrong; it’s right. Things like that. We don’t’ have much time to prepare our team so to try to do things in a simple way where we can let them be instinctive. I thought today in the first half, they execute so well that there offense is just ahead of our defense. You have to talk quicker, more decisive and all that. It’s like being on a highway and you’re driving 55 and you’re in the right lane … today’s game was in the left lane with no speed limit. So your reaction there and how you learn to drive in that. We try to help them; we’ll try to help them tomorrow understand that. We’ve had close games. We almost lost to Lithuania in London, it was 99-94. We’ve had tough obviously gold medal games so this is not unusual because there are a lot of good teams and we recognize that.
Are these closer games more enjoyable because you have to make critical decisions and watch guys execute?
No. Not for me. I’m old. I’d rather win by a lot. Satisfying? Obviously the win tonight is more satisfying than the exhibitions and the first two because I know how good this team that we played is. And I know how difficult the game was to adapt to and our guys did that. Satisfying? Yes. Enjoyable? I’ll take 30-point wins. There is no question about that.
What do you expect of your next two games?
We expect a game like tonight because you’re talking about two of the top international programs, two of the top level teams in the world. We played against Serbia in the World Cup championship – unbelievably well coached. In Teodosic, they have, in the last decade I’m not sure there has been a better guard than him. And in France, you have a team that’s played so well and has many NBA players and play well together in Parker, Batum, Diaw. They’ve played 150 to 200 games for their country so they’re not only good but savvy and experience in international play. We hope to win and learn even more so when we get to the medal round, we have wins but also have the experience of won against really good team.
On Carmelo Anthony’s scoring record:
I want to congratulate (Carmelo). We’ve had great, great players and great teams play for the United States. Tonight, Carmelo set the record for most points scored by a US player career-wise. His commitment to USA Basketball and to international basketball. Really, he’s one of the best players in the world but over this last decade has proved to be one of the best international players in the world.
Thoughts on the game?
We kind of expected kind of a game like this, physical game, grind-out game from playing against Australia over the past couple of years. Coming into tonight, knowing what type of team they are, knowing the type of players they have on the team, we knew it was going to come down to the end of the game where we really had to buckle down and focus in and make plays down the stretch.
Were you conscious of the record?
Of course, I was conscious of it. My teammates were making sure that I was aware of the situation. Tonight was just one of those nights, I just wanted to let the game come to me, take the shots that was given to me, take the open shots kind of just play basketball and at the end of the day, I was in my zone. I was playing basketball. My teammates found me when I was open. I didn’t try to go get it. Everything happened within the flow of the basketball game. That’s the best time to go get it.
Do you enjoying playing the four and matching up with traditional bigs?
Offensively, the way we play, we space the court. You might find yourself in any position out there, any spot on the court. But defensively it’s definitely a challenge going up against those traditional 4s and 5s, having to bang out there. Baynes is a big fella. He’s a big guy, a real physical guy down there in the paint. Bogut is a physical guy down there in the paint. I enjoy all the matchups regardless if I’m guarding somebody on the wing or I’m guarding a traditional bigs like you said. I enjoy the challenges. I take those challenges. I accept them.
Is it your teammates or FIBA-style that puts you in that zone where you’ve been in during the Olympics?
I like to adjust to my situations. This situation, it doesn’t cause for me to put the team on my back and have to create something on every play and the ball is in my hands every single play. I can just kind of space out, take my time, pick my spots, play off the guys I have on my team. That’s all it’s been. It’s no different game. It’s just a matter of picking your spots and playing off your teammates. The NBA is a much different game as far as a lot is required from myself and others on the team. You have the ball in your hands more. They rely on you to do a lot more … much more scoring, much more playmaking. On this team, we have the best players in the world so that’s what makes it fun for myself.
Have you always enjoyed the Olympics this much or was there a year or an experience that won you over?
I ‘ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed different situations, different experiences. Each Olympics I have played in has been a difference experience. I enjoy it.
What is your memory of that 2004 loss? Did it help you to make the shots in the 4th quarter by having that experience in 2004?
I can tell you I wasn’t thinking about 2004 when I was out there playing tonight. That experience it is what it is. We accepted that as Americans, as ball players. We know that feeling and we don’t want to experience that feeling anymore. No I wasn’t thinking about 2004 tonight.
What did you learn from 2004?
Just being a part of that experience, being in those type of games, taking advantage of different possessions. Understanding the differences of the game and time and score and making plays and everybody making different plays on the team. It’s a lot different.
You have to give them credit. They are a great team. They executed, definitely moved the ball on offense, and I thought it took us a little while to get going. But once we did, I feel like we settled in well.
On playing against his former Golden State teammate Andrew Bogut:
Bogut’s locker was next to mine in our rookie year, so we just developed a bond, and he’s a great friend.
What was the conversation at halftime?
We missed a lot of shots. They were moving pretty freely on offense, so we just tried to be a little bit more physical without fouling, but just also play hard. I think we did a good job to start the second half.
How far can Australia go in this tournament?
They can go pretty far. Like I said, I’m pretty sure we will probably run into them again, and hopefully we are better prepared.
What it hard to match up again their post players?
They played pretty well. I think our bigs did a great job tonight with being physical. DeAndre was great on the boards. Cous (Cousins) was great on the boards, and Melo, you can’t guard him with a big fellow.
Does having one less foul than in the NBA hurt you guys?
They’re just playing hard. They are going to call it tight now and then in the paint, especially against us. We just played through it, for the most part, and guys played hard.
What can a game like this do for you guys?
It was tough game. Adversity is always good. I think we fought through it early on. We were down in the first half. I think we won maybe by 14 in the second half, maybe. So, that’s good for us just to see where we are. We needed it, and I think every game, every time we come out and play for USA Basketball, we have one of these games, so it was good for us.
Does this new group need a tough game to figure things out?
It’s basketball. We’ve all been through tough times playing basketball, been through tough stretches. We kind of know how to dig ourselves out of it. We just played extremely hard, but you have to give them credit.
On the second half:
We got smarter with our fouling, with how physical the game was. I thought we got smarter about it. It was still a little chippy game. We expect every team, that’s the best way they’re going to get at us. In the first half we kind of bought into it. I thought in the second half we did a better job managing and channeling it to the defensive end and getting stops.
Does it feel like you’re in a tournament now, after those couple of easy wins to start it?
Yeah, it got real. It definitely got real. We’re probably going to see them again. We’re going to have to do a better job matching them.
On Carmelo Anthony against Australia:
He was special tonight. We joke about this being his farewell tour. But, he was definitely special. He’s the reason he won this.
What did you change in the second half?
We definitely adjusted. I thought we got real complacent with switching and not being on the same page if we were switching. I thought that’s what got them relaxed. They saw the ball go in early and I think they saw that we were getting a little frustrated with how physical and what they were being able to do and what they were allowed to do to us. We kind of let that get into our heads to start out. We cleared it, we really just channeled it. We told ourselves, “this is how this game is going to go, let’s prepare for it.”
On the game versus Australia:
I feel like we needed a test like that to prepare for what’s ahead of us. We definitely took some steps in the right direction and building our character and identity as a team. They really challenged us offensively and defensively, but we had a very resilient attitude. When you have a resilient group like this with tons of talent, when you are facing adversity, it makes it easy to come out of it.
What was different defensively in the second half?
We made adjustments. Coach made adjustments offensively and defensively. We limited them to one shot, and then got out in transition. When we had our opportunities for open shots and drive-and-kicks, we took full advantage of them. We just got back to playing our game, our pace, our style. We played through the physicality of the game.
Is a close finish like that how a team starts to build its identity?
Absolutely. We have a lot of guys that relish in that big moment. Myself and Melo (Carmelo), it was our night tonight, but we couldn’t have done it without other guys being in the right spots, without great screens, without the little things being done in order to propel us to the win. Overall, when you look at it, it was just a great team win, and we needed it to grow as one.
They’re a tough team. We’ll probably see them again, so that was a lot of fun.
They’re one of the best teams in the tournament. They’re experienced. They have a lot of great pros on their team. I think we needed a game like that. It’s going to prepare us for what’s to come.
How does it feel knowing coach trusts you like that, enough to keep you in play in the last minute?
It didn’t matter if it was me or another one of the guys on the bench. It’s going to be someone different stepping up every night. Tonight Carmelo was on fire and Kyrie was a finisher. It’s what Team USA is for, we just have to utilize our depth and we’ll get better from it.
Did you like going to watch swimming last night?
Yeah, that was fun. I enjoyed that experience. It was a lot of fun.