After three tight games to close the preliminary rounds, including consecutive three-point victories that have cast some doubt over their chances to win gold, things might get a little bit easier for the United States men’s basketball team as it turns to the elimination rounds at the 2016 Rio Games.
As of publishing, head coach Mike Krzyzewski doesn’t presently know who is squad will face in the next round. But it will likely be a lesser opponent that may not give the U.S. nearly as much trouble as Australia, France, and Serbia.
“This isn't a tournament that we're going to just dominate,” U.S. swingman Paul George said after beating France. “There's talent around this world and they're showcasing it. For us, it's just figuring out how we're going to win. We're having spurts of dominating, but we're just not finding ways to put a full 40 minutes together.”
The U.S., despite their turnover woes, are the only undefeated team left in Rio at 5-0, and they’ve secured the top overall seed in Group A. The Australians are in second at 4-1, followed by France in third-place at 3-2, and Serbia, the last team to make the knockout rounds, at 2-3.
Team USA has already qualified for the next round, as have Australia, France, Serbia, Lithuania and Argentina, leaving two more spots open. Venezuela and Spain have both been eliminated.
Given how the Olympic tournament is structured, Team USA will next face the fourth seed from Group B. Each win in the tournament counts for two points and the team with the most points leads the group. The tie-breaking procedures begin with points, then head-to-head results, point differential, and then points scored.
Group B still has three more games Wednesday with current second-place holder Argentina (7 points) meeting fourth-place Spain (6 points) and first-place Lithuania (7 points) clashing with third-place Croatia (6 points). Lithuania already beat Argentina, which helps it in the tiebreaker, and Croatia beat Spain earlier in the group stage.
Host-nation Brazil will also face Nigeria (both at 5 points), but both will need a victory and losses by Spain and Croatia to remain in contention. It currently seems unlikely as both have 1-3 records with five points.
Whomever the U.S. faces next the game will be played Wednesday at Carioca Arena. The time has yet to be determined.