And that would seem to be the issue. Team USA has won not by playing exceptionally good defense (though it has been good), nor by executing a particularly ingenious game plan. It has won because, at some point in its games – and for seemingly inscrutable reasons – it has simply ignited in a Wagnerian conflagration of 3-pointers.
In Friday’s semifinal, it was Kevin Durant, cold from the field throughout the first half, who suddenly found his eye, hitting four 3-pointers in five minutes. As has been the case throughout the Olympics, the initial outburst seemed to send a palpable ripple through the team, as though Coach Mike Krzyzewski had some secret on-off switch beneath his seat, and his team was suddenly and unstoppably electric.
A 40-17 run ended when Carmelo Anthony, who had also been erratic earlier, hit his third consecutive three from almost 30 feet. The crowd began chanting “Unabrow” – a good-natured call for University of Kentucky standout Anthony Davis to enter the game.
At these Olympics, that is the equivalent of the fat lady singing.
How do you stop Durant, who is 700 feet tall and shoots threes with the accuracy of a Korean archer? How do you prevent Anthony from lobbing 30-foot 3-pointers with the aplomb of a Polish shot-putter? And what in the name of Albus Dumbledore do you do about LeBron James? When he doesn’t score, it seems a personal choice, not a defensive success.
Confundus charm? Petrificus totalus?
Maybe it is time to call in J.K. Rowling, because every time someone has tried to answer those questions, they have come away with the strong scent of singed underpants.