There was plenty of panic going around after Zach LaVine and Team USA lost their first two exhibition games ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. To be fair, they were brutal losses even without Devin Booker, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday, with horrific defense and a lot of one-on-one offense dragging Team USA down.
LaVine himself was nothing to write home about in the losses to Nigeria and Australia. He suffered an early ankle injury against Nigeria before returning to the game and finishing with 10 points, two rebounds and an assist in 21 minutes. He missed a clutch free throw late after a bungled possession and then missed the second one intentionally, but to no avail in a 90-87 loss.
LaVine saw his minutes dip against Australia in the 91-83 defeat. He had just five points (1-of-4 shooting), one rebound and one assist in 13 minutes as Team USA got roasted in the second half. The second consecutive loss had plenty of people questioning the roster construction (this is still fair!) and LaVine’s place on the team alongside so many other bucket-getters.
Well, Tuesday’s game against Argentina went way better, for both LaVine and Team USA. Zach got the start in place of an injured Jayson Tatum, and the Americans romped their way to a 108-80 win.
LaVine finished with a stellar stat line of 15 points (5-of-8 shooting), five rebounds, three assists and a steal in 24 minutes. He was also a plus-26 as Team USA jumped out to a big lead from the very start.
Zach had the highlight of the night with this poster dunk:
LaVine had a few other nice dunks thanks to timely off-ball cuts:
The only real negative part of LaVine’s performance was when he was getting hunted on switches in the first half, leading to Luis Scola and Gabriel Deck doing some work down low against him. But I can’t get too down on LaVine for getting roasted in the post, and for the most part his defensive energy was there.
Team USA has two more exhibitions (Australia again and then Spain) before heading to Tokyo. Let’s hope we see more of this type of play from LaVine and Co. as they hunt for gold. This should be a good experience for LaVine, so we don’t want to see Team USA become a laughingstock. Then I might just have to think he’s cursed.