The United States came into the World Basketball Championship with some doubts because of the lack of many all-star professional players. That may have been a factor in the U.S. loss to Argentina on Wednesday (87-80) as the team's international winning streak ended at 58, since the inclusion of NBA players a decade ago.
U.S. head coach George Karl and his team of National Basketball Association players came to Indiana to silence their critics by focusing on the basics of the game and playing consistently. For the most part, that has happened.
Mr. Karl had to work around an early setback when his most well-known player, Reggie Miller, had to sit out the first few games because of a twisted ankle. "Reggie had a great camp for us, he was one of the best players in camp. And when he got hurt, I think it hurt us a little bit," he says. "We have done a great job of figuring out a rotation without him. But I hope that we can get him back into being a part of the personality of the team."
The United States has averaged nearly 104 points during its first five games. Mr. Karl says the team has performed well, even without Miller. "What I have enjoyed about them is they are together," he says. "They recognize the pressures of the game situations and have adjusted and made good adjustments both offensively and defensively. Every day it is a little bit of tinkering here and tinkering there."
One surprise has been Boston Celtics forward Paul Pierce, who was the leading U.S. scorer in each of the first five games. "He is big. He is long. He is a great shooter. He can score inside. He draws fouls. He finishes close to the basket," Mr. Karl says. "And when he puts his mind to it, he is actually a pretty good offensive rebounder too."
Mr. Karl is hoping that kind of play can lead his team to the gold medal on Sunday.