Could the Celtics have played better than USA basketball in Rio?
The United States men's basketball team took home the hardware in Rio Sunday afternoon after dismantling Serbia in the gold medal match. But the road there was a lot less convincing than the thrashing in the final game.
After jumping out to two straight dominant wins over China and Venezuela, suddenly the US offense sputtered and the defense fell apart. Australia led the US at the half and gave Coach K and crew a scare, before Serbia nearly pulled off the upset two days later. Even a Tony Parker-less France team stuck with the heavy-favorited US squad. Then, in the elimination rounds, Spain gave the US a run for their money.
The reason? Not really that great basketball:
This USA team just plays disgusting basketball. No passing. No cohesion. They'll probably win but it's been gross all tournament.
So my question is: would the Boston Celtics have done better?
The second best national team in the Rio Olympics is arguably Spain, and they roll out a lineup studded with Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Nicola Mirotic, and some international stars. I mentally compare them to the Charlotte Hornets in terms of talent. Good, but not great. France has an impressive starting squad consisting of Tony Parker, Nic Batum, Rudy Gobert, and Boris Diaw; but again that's not an incredibly menacing NBA lineup, and the bench seems less talented than your solid NBA bench. I'm thinking Indiana Pacers maybe.
While the Celtics obviously don't have a team comparable to the US team's roster, don't you think a squad of NBA stars could decimate the competition, no matter who they are? They struggled. Which is tough to comprehend. But team chemistry can play a huge role on winning teams. It's part of why the Golden State Warriors are so good, and why the Celtics were able to compete with the best teams last year who had easily more raw talent.
I think the C's could crush teams like Brazil and Venezuela, and would have convincing wins over Spain, France, and Australia when they're on their game. It's not hard to imagine Jae Crowder locking down anyone on Serbia's roster, or Isaiah Thomas cutting through Australia's vaunted defense.
Unfortunately, we won't ever get a chance to test this theory, but it's always fun to imagine, right?
Follow Topher Lane on Twitter, @Topher_L. Photo credit: Darren McCollester/Getty Images via BleacherReport.