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Tom Thibodeau thinks Team USA’s defense is good, could be better

USA Basketball Showcase Practice Sessions

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 20: Assistant coach Tom Thibodeau of the 2016 USA Basketball Men’s National Team looks on during a practice session at the Mendenhall Center on July 20, 2016 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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In its first outing of the Rio Olympics, Team USA held China to 38 percent shooting, 29 percent from three, forced 24 turnovers, and generally made every made bucket by China require an impressive shot from one of their skill players. The USA cruised to the win because of that defense.

Tom Thibodeau thought it was okay.

The never-pleased coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves was barking out defensive assignments during the game and said this to Marc Stein of ESPN after the contest.

“Every night you want the bar set high,” Thibodeau said. “So there’s a lot of things we did well, but I’m sure there are things that we could do a little bit better. And that’s what we want to keep our focus on.”

When a helpful reporter followed up by suggesting that the Americans had to have registered at least an “8 and a half” with the way they tormented China in a 119-62 rout, Thibodeau shot back: “I wish I had a professor in school like you.”

The USA’s first couple games of the Olympics are against teams they dominated in the exhibition run-up to Rio — first China, next a Venezuela team without a single NBA player on the roster.

But they will have tougher games coming up in the group play stage — France a team considered a medal contender before the games, and Australia, the team that beat France handily Saturday — and that’s when they will need their defense. Those teams have good talent (not the depth of it the USA has, but they have good players). You know Thibadeau will go into the film session saying “you got away with this against China, but do that against France and they will score easily.” That drive is what makes him so good.

But from a fan’s perspective, I’m not too worried about Team USA’s prospects in these games, and nothing in a 57-point win will have me feeling otherwise.