Team USA still odds-on favorite to win gold despite lackluster play

RIO DE JANEIRO -- Two sluggish performances for the U.S. men's Olympic basketball team have not hurt its chances to win a gold medal in the eyes of Las Vegas oddsmakers.

Despite a harrowing 94-91 escape Friday night against Serbia, which followed a 98-88 struggle two nights earlier against Australia, Team USA remains a 1-to-20 overwhelming favorite to win gold at the Rio Olympics, according to the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook.

Team USA scrapped plans to practice Saturday in advance of Sunday afternoon's Group A finale against France, preferring instead of focus on film work and a walkthrough on the cruise ship that USA Basketball is using as a home base here in Brazil.

The quarterfinals begin Wednesday, with Team USA on course to play the fourth-place finisher in Group B -- Spain as of Saturday morning -- as long they beat France, which features NBA players Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert and Boris Diaw.

The Americans appeared to be assembling the ideal response to the Australia game when they bolted to a 23-5 lead against Serbia, but they found themselves hanging on frantically at the finish. Bogdan Bogdanovic missed an open 3-pointer from the wing that could have forced overtime after the United States' plans to foul before his shot went awry.

"It's a shorter game, a 40-minute game, and you can never let your guard down," Team USA assistant coach Tom Thibodeau said in a SportsCenter interview after the game. "We felt that that's what we did.

"When things aren't going well, we still have to play within a team concept and play together both offensively and defensively. The way this [international] game is played. ... You have to be tied together and you have to be able to sustain your concentration and effort through an entire possession. We didn't finish our defense as well as we could have."

Thibodeau added: "And then offensively, when things weren't going our way, I thought we probably tried to go a little too much one-on-one, more a result of guys trying to get us going. We still have to stay within a team concept when things aren't going well. You get into trouble together. You also get out of trouble together. ... We know things can change quickly. They can go from good to bad very quickly, but they can also go from bad to great very quickly."

Said Team USA guard DeMar DeRozan: "We just got to step up our communication on the defensive end. We all made that clear after the game. That's something we got to be better at and will be better at."

DeRozan echoed a concern raised after the game by teammates Draymond Green and Paul George, saying that offensive issues hurt Team USA as much as its defensive struggles to cope with a Serbian offense that, in the words of Carmelo Anthony, "ran fluently."

"When we're sharing the ball, we're getting out in transition and everybody's getting a chance to touch the ball," DeRozan told SportsCenter, "that's when we become really dangerous."

Said Team USA big man DeAndre Jordan: "Put together 40 minutes of defense and we'll be fine. We got some of the best scorers in the world. Offense isn't the problem. We got to worry about playing defense for a whole game."