From last night, Croatia beat Russia in Group A action at the Olympics in Beijing in a mild upset. Some of you probably watched it and can conclude as do I that Croatia is probably the best team in Group A and will probably go on to win Group A. I watched Croatia play in the qualifiers last month, especially that great double OT game where they beat Germany.

People who watch Croatia will immediately notice their familiarity with one another. But beyond that, what makes them so good is their shooting. True to the European stereotype of great shooters, this Croatian team is full of sharp shooting snipers. In their win over Australia, they went 12-for-16 from 3-point. In the win over Russia, they went 8-for-15 from 3-point and 25-for-29 from the line. The Croatians run a lot of stagger screens to spring their shooters for catch and shoot situations. They also have a lot of quick draw shooters who are extremely difficult to defend.

The Quick Draw:

At the end of the game against Team Russia, Croatia hit some key 3-pointers down the stretch. Both of these shots below were straight off the dribble. This is one of the key advantages of developing the quick draw, you can get your shot off from the dribble in many cases before the defender can close out. The first one here is from Roko-Leni Ukic. You'll notice that the defender is in decent position, though a little further (ideal position is to be 1 arms length away). If you have a quick draw though, it's not a problem to go from dribble to shot,

In this second crucial shot by Zoran Planinic, you'll notice that the Russian defender actually has his arms down and is also farther than 1 arms length away. With a quick draw, that is as good as a wide open shot,

To be clear, there is a difference between having a quick draw and shooting when half-defended, and just chucking up a quickie. Notice in each of the screenshots above, the player is in their shot pocket before the defender is 1 arms length away. You don't have a quick draw if you're not in your shot pocket before the defender gets to you. Big difference.

So, the question needs to be asked, did Team Russia just play bad defense? In my opinion, no. Ideally, you'd like to be 1 arms length away, but with the threat of the dribble drive, you have to hedge a little, get your arm up but at the same time give a little distance so you won't get dusted. It's a tough decision either way. That is precisely why playing a team full of shooters is scary. Because if they are hitting all their shots, it's almost impossible to defend. Stephen Curry from Davidson this past March proved that much.


If there is any downside to Croatia, it's that they are extremely young. So while they may have great chemistry, will their youth be a detriment to them against an experienced team like Argentina or Lithuania? We'll have to find out. As for Team Russia, I think consistency has been their major deficiency so far. Sometimes they look like world-beaters, then they will make a really bad play or two and erase any gains they just had. If they can put it all together, they are as good as any.

For some great shooting tips from a former great shooter and now head coach at New Mexico, check out Steve Alford's DVD on The Shot. Don't forget to check out the X's and O's of Basketball Forum to talk about this and your favorite basketball topics.

If you're wondering why I don't have a Youtube clip as I usually have, you'll have to ask the IOC as they asked Youtube to shut me down. I'm not sure why they think this inconsequential educational blog is a threat to their Olympic brand, but I suppose it's a matter of principle. It is unclear whether my account will be reinstated but I'm appealing it now. Freedom of speech is a myth, big brother is everywhere!!