Additional Quotes: U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team 94, Serbia 91 (8/12/16)
USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski
Thoughts on the game?
The very first thing is to credit a team that played a great game, Sasha’s team. He coached a magnificent game and his team played great basketball. I told the guys when we had our meeting today in preparation, I said Teodosic in the last decade really in my opinion is as good of a player and as good of a guard as there is in Europe. I love him. We’re friends. He was magnificent. And their two bigs, Jokic was spectacular. A lot of what happened tonight … can we play better? I hope. I think we can. I think we played hard. They played really well. They continue to look for options through 20 seconds. And, that’s something we have to get acclimated to because our defense was good and then right at the end because they continued to work hard together, Serbia, they got open shots. That’s something we have to do a better job of it. Again, they were really good. Their two bigs, I think, had 43 points and again congratulations to them on a truly outstanding performance. We won a game against a team playing great. We have to move on and keep learning.
What did you think of the talking defensively?
I think our talk was pretty good. I just think you have to talk for a longer period of time. After a lot of movement and you’re fighting through screens … they run really good offense and so to continue to talk like that is not something … what Paul said … we’re adjusting to it. We never saw that in the exhibition games. We’re seeing it right now for the first time. We just have to learn from it and get better. It’s not like our guys don’t want to … they want to get better.
What impresses you the most about Jokic, of the Denver Nuggets, game?
His poise. He played both the five and the four tonight. He really had a spectacular game tonight. His two 3s came at times where we had, not a double-digit breaking point, which changes the game. And, boom, boom, when he came up. Or when he went inside, he converted something inside. He played with the poise of, I think he’s 22, and he played with the poise of a player much older. He had a great game. We need to expect that from players. When we’re playing, we think it’s a huge game, but when our opponents play, it’s a huge game. We’re going to get their best shot and it’s kind of free money, because you play a game like this and you’re going to be celebrated, win or lose. For us, that’s not the case. Ever. You just have to understand that. They’re already good and that type of environment, mentally, that you’re here in … he was really good. He’s an outstanding player. Games like this will only make him better. The confidence that he gets from a game like this.
Have you had a team in the Olympics that has had such a big learning curve, because it hasn’t played together very often?
This one a little bit more, because in 2008 we had a lot of guys who had to qualify. We had to qualify in 2007 in Las Vegas. So, that group played international competition for a summer. So when they came, that was their second year, third year for the guys who were on in 2006. In London we had 10 guys who had either won the (FIBA) World Championship or the Olympics. So, it’s new. I think Paul’s comments are right on. We just need to use it, it’s not brushing these two games off, these two teams played us great. We did some really good things in order to win, but hopefully we can get that learning down for France and for the medal round.
Are you concerned that after jumping out to a large lead, you seemed to have lost focus and had mental lapses?
I don’t know what you mean by mental lapses. Is that when they play well and we don’t play as well? I thought the game got disjointed. We could have been up more. We missed some open 3s. The all of a sudden there were technical fouls, intentional fouls, and then they scored a lot of points in stop action. And so there was no flow to the game. And then we never, it seemed, got back into the flow. It did seem like we had a unit out there in the second half that was able to give a lot of energy and it looked like we got some momentum going. (Nikola) Jokic and (Milos) Teodosic had some big 3s, where we couldn’t get it to double digits. So, the game can get disjointed and teams are going to do whatever they can to make it that way for us. But, the start was spectacular. We couldn’t have had a much better start.
Is it too simple to characterize these last two games as superior talent versus superior teamwork?
I think we play as a team, too. I think we don’t give enough credit to the talent level on the other teams. Australia, these guys are talented. Serbia is talented, they’re one of the top teams in the world. But they’ve played together for a long time. We played against them four years ago, we played against them and everything went well for us, but all those guys are back. I’m sure they wanted to make up for that too. We do have more talent and we have to get our talent playing even much better as a team. Our guys are playing as a team, they just haven’t had the experience of playing that long together. Hopefully these games will help us and hopefully the game against France will help us also.
You’re undefeated, how have you been able to do that?
We’re deep. Different guys can do different things and step up at different moments. Every game will be different. That’s the reason why we put this team together, this type of team together, so we can gel together. Guys know their roles and guys at any given moment, anybody can step up.
They’re tough. They’re playing great though, not just tonight, but this whole tournament. Tonight you got to take your hat off to them. They played extremely well. They play hard, they play tough, they made shots, they ran their offense fluently. But you know what? We’ll take the win. That’s all that matters.
What do you need to work on?
We’ll get better. Just communication, just some small things we have to fix, nothing major, but we’re playing fine. We’re playing great. Right now we’re 4-0 and we’re looking forward to playing France on Sunday. I’m not concerned, we’re not concerned with things we could do a little bit better, but we’re okay. We’re fine.
You knew there would be some tough games?
Luckily it’s two games. Now we got to look at ourselves soon and get in the locker room. We’re professionals. We’ve all been in situations like this. We are the players we are today because of adversity. This time we’ll go and learn from these two games and bounce back and be great the next game.
What is it that Australia and Serbia have been able to do to disrupt you guys?
They executing very well. Both teams executed extremely well. They’re running the offense at a high pace and they’re getting easy buckets. It’s something that we definitely need to communicate on the defensive end and once we clean that up defensively, we’ll be fine.
What has changed with the defense the last two games?
We just got to talk. When you’re playing against good teams like the two teams we just played, they execute at a high level and they kind of put confusion in our defense. It’s something we have to communicate with and understand our personnel and understand the attention to detail when we go out there.
Did you think you found your rhythm in the first quarter?
We thought we had it going a little bit. With a team like Serbia, we understood that they weren’t going to lay down. They weren’t going to put their head down. They fought. We got to understand that if we get up big like that early on, we got to pick it up as well like we’re losing. Nobody is going to lay down.
Thoughts on the game?
All the credit goes to them. Once again, we relied on natural talent to get us over this one. This is why these guy are special in our league. These international guys, they really know how to move. They really know how to cut. It’s more so about how they run their offense that’s wearing us down. We just got to do a better job. Every point of this game, we were confident to pull this one through but they were going to make us work for it and tonight that was the case.
How concerned are you that two games in a row that teams have been able to find holes in the defense?
Not too concerned. We’re a freshly new group. We’re playing against an experienced offense but we’re still trying to figure out and adjust and learn. We’re just trying to figure this out. It’s just the case. It’s going we’re having two games like these where we kind of pull it together and at some point, we figure it out. This is where we need to get stops and change this game around. But, not too concerned. We’re still a special defensive group. Right now, we’re just going through an adjustment period.
What’s the difference in the cutting and moving in these games as opposed to the NBA?
I think in our game, there is movement obviously but these guys, its constant movement. We were talking about it in the back. You don’t ever sit still. In our game, there are moments where you’re sitting still, you can have a rest period. It might be an action that a guy runs on one side. You’re constantly moving from side to side. It’s like they don’t get tired. That’s new to us. That’s very new to us. Again, we’ll figure this out. It’s good that we’re finding ways to win these games right now. Hopefully these will be the ones that help prepare us for later on in this tournament.
On tonight’s close game:
I think it’s great that we’re getting challenged. Whatever the case is, we do got to do a better job. These teams are figuring out ways to execute down the stretch. I think the biggest key is that this team has been playing for a while. This is a new group for us, regardless of the talent. This is a new group, so we’re still learning, we’re still trying to figure out each other. As good as we are offensively, defensively is where we got to really man up.
What do you need to improve upon defensively?
I think what’s killing us right now is pick-and-roll play, and guys slipping out of it. It’s a different game. Euro guys are phenomenal with movement and cuts, and playing as a group. That’s one thing they’re well in our league at doing. This is a different game for us. Again, as good as we are, if we continue playing like this, this game’s going to get even tougher.
On tonight’s game:
It’s the law of averages. You’re not going to play extremely well every single night, but we got to hold our hat on the defensive end. We gave up a lot of easy buckets. I feel like we started to play at their pace in the first and second half. But we’ll be better.
On the team’s free throw shooting:
On the flip side of that if you shoot a lot of free throws, it also stops your offense a little bit. We can hold our hat at being aggressive, getting to the rim, but our offense, we just have some continuity going forward. And we will.
What does it mean to have Paul George back on the court and on this team?
It means a lot. He brings a lot of versatility to our game, especially in the backcourt playing with me. It’s a process for us and we understand that it’s going to take some time for us to find our rhythm. Tonight was another test for us, but we can only get better from here.
Why is it hard to get stops defensively?
It’s a lot of made shots, a lot of great plays from a lot of offensive players that are in this tournament. We’re very aware of the talent that they have, all cross the board with the teams in this Olympics.
What is the team not doing well right now?
We just got to find our rhythm. That’s all.
What is it that Australia and Serbia have been able to do to disrupt you guys?
They slow down the game a lot. Whether it be fouls in transition or just different things that kind of limits our fast break, which we thrive at. When we get defensive stops, when we get defensive rebounds, they got about three guys crashing the offensive glass every single time and there stopping our breaks. It’s just going to take some getting used to. But for us, we’re getting to the free throw line which we can hold our hat on. On the flip side of that, it slows down our offense. We’re fouling guys in the paint. We just got to limit their open looks especially when they are playing that continuity offense.
Do you think it’s going to be harder than two years ago to get to the gold medal game?
I don’t know that two years ago was easy. For me, we got to find our rhythm like I said. Once we do that, we’ll be all right.
Quick start for the team today?
I thought we had a really good start. We were moving the basketball around, playing really good defense. We kind of caught a little stretch there where it was tough for us to score and we weren’t getting stops but then we turned it up again in the third quarter and picked it up.
What are you learning as you play the international game?
It’s a different beast. It’s a lot more physical. We’re all good with the physicality. Every game is different. We just got to find a way to adjust to the referees and how each game is gonna get called. It’s a challenge each night but its fun.
What is the biggest area for improvement?
Being able to put together 40 minutes of defense and we’ll be fine. We got some of the best scorers in the world. Offense isn’t the problem. We got to worry about playing defense for a whole game.