MVP’s Stuart Tanner analyses Great Britain’s first two games at the Olympics.

The fundamental difference between the two superstars (Andrei Kirilenko and Luol Deng) in GB’s London 2012 debut against Russia on Sunday evening was where and when they both received the ball.

Working in tandem with guards who knew how to set him up, Kirilenko went back door time and time again – allowing him to shoot a mind-blowing 82% from the field (14/17).

Luol, meanwhile, had to settle for a lot of ISO / long-range pull-ups. He shot just 30% from the field (8/27) and a dire 18% from beyond the three point line (2/11). This is a product of GB’s main problem – which is a serious lack of fluidity on the offensive end. Without the luxury of a guard with the skillset of Alexey Shved – who was creating countless high percentage shots for his team mates (especially in the third quarter) – Deng is repeatedly called upon to try to single-handedly create shots against a team defence which is geared towards stopping him. Shved – who this summer signed a contract with the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves – filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 13 assists, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

Whilst he is in no way on a level with Shved, I have been puzzled by the lack of playing time for young point guard Andrew Lawrence. In the lead up to the Olympics, the Charleston University play-maker seemed to feature heavily in the team’s rotations. But over the first two games at London 2012, he’s only averaged just over 8 minutes per game. Even though Nate Reinking is a better shooter / scorer than Lawrence, I feel Andrew runs the pick and roll game fairly well and creates open looks for team mates. Defensively, he is head and shoulders better at fighting over screens, as well as on-ball pressure. I’m not saying that Lawrence should be taking Reinking’s minutes – but I feel at times they could both feature on the court at the same time.

In the front court, Pops has been a warrior. The heart and soul of the GB squad, he’s been taking charges, ripping down rebounds, shooting well from the foul line (75% in both games) and at times showing post moves that warrant an NBA contract. However, when he has the ball at the top of the three point line and decides to penetrate off the dribble, I can’t help but feel that there must be a better option for the team somewhere else on the floor.

In both their games so far, the GB players have been great on the glass (out-rebounding Russia 47-32 and Brazil 41-36). Their effort levels have been outstanding – with everyone clearly giving it their all. However, the lack of “international talent” that Chris Finch has to call upon has been evident. And the gulf will no doubt be highlighted further when we match up again Spain on Thursday.

Image: Mansoor Ahmed Photography

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