Team USA faced Argentina on Aug. 10 for the third time in just two weeks.
Although Argentina trailed big in their exhibition match, they stormed back and ended up losing by just six points. Then they got blown out by 29 points four days prior to this matchup.
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Hoping to exact revenge following the physical match, Argentina could not deliver and they were demolished by 26 points in the semifinal matchup — a figure that would have been much higher if Team USA didn't step off their throats with six minutes remaining.
Once again, Team USA was played rather evenly up to the half. Argentina trailed by just five points, 51-46, with 7:16 remaining in the third quarter. But explosive efforts from Kevin Durant and LeBron James allowed Team USA to enter the fourth quarter ahead 75-57. Just like that, the game was put out of reach. Team USA stretched the lead to 29 in the fourth, and they coasted to a 26 point beat down. I touched upon Team USA's ability to wear down teams in my opening comments in the Australia game review, and those same points remained true against Argentina.
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With the 109-83 victory, Team USA will face Spain in the gold medal round — offering a great test for Team USA, and a rematch of the '08 gold medal game in Beijing.
Team USA lives and dies by the three, and this game would be no different. Team USA started the game by shooting lights out — dropping 4-5 in the opening four minutes — but they would cool off and finish the quarter 5-12. In the second quarter, Team USA shot blanks, 0-5, and Argentina hung around. In the third quarter Durant finally got rolling and he sank all four of Team USA's threes as Team USA shot 4-13. Despite the poor shooting in the third, Durant was able to open the game up, and Team USA raced out to a huge lead. In the fourth quarter, Team USA rained down threes. Team USA sank 5-5 in the opening three and a half minutes — with Carmelo Anthony dropping four straight — and Team USA finished the quarter 9-12. Overall, Team USA shot 18-42 (42.9%) from deep. Team USA shot the three ball in waves, with makes and misses raining down in bunches. Any time Team USA got hot, they ballooned the lead.
With Argentina primarily playing a 2-3 zone for much of the game, Kobe Bryant started things off from deep. Following a post up and kick out from James, Bryant sank a corner three to get Team USA on the board. Following a missed Bryant three from the top, Tyson Chandler gave Team USA an extra possession, and Bryant responded by providing the viewing audience a flashback to his afro days. Bryant caught the ball at the near side, thought about firing up the three, instead drove baseline, and threw down a 180° two handed reverse dunk at the front of the rim over Andres Nocioni. Bryant may not have soared as high as his #8 counterpart, but the dunk was still impressive. Following that, Bryant fed Paul a wide open corner three to put Team USA up 8-4 at the 7:58 mark.
Following Paul's three, Team USA turned up the heat defensively. After Scola was able to pin Bryant and roll to the basket from the far mid wing, Manu Ginobili sent the pass, and Durant rotated from the weak side to rise up and spike Scola's shot out of bounds. After Argentina inbounded the ball, Chris Paul was able to deflect a Pablo Prigioni behind the back pass. As the ball rolled to midcourt, Bryant raced to it and dove to the floor to force a jump ball. Team USA gained possession, and James capitalized by sinking a step back jumper from the top of the key. Then James fed Kobe the ball at the near wing for another three — swish. On the ensuing defensive possession, Bryant played tough defense on Nocioni on the block, forcing him to kick the ball out, and Durant ended up stealing the swing pass by shooting the gap and racing ahead for a dunk. Bryant capped off the impressive opening with a catch and shoot three from the far side — giving Team USA an 18-6 lead at the 5:48 mark.
Despite watching Team USA rain down threes, Argentina stuck to their guns, and they continued to play a 2-3 zone. In the remaining 5:48, Team USA went cold and shot 1-7 from deep. Following Bryant's three, Argentina rattled off an 11-1 run in three minutes to make the score 19-17 at the 1:27 mark. In that span, James did prevent at least one basket — James performed his signature chase down block on Carlos Delfino. Deron Williams finally dropped a three late in the quarter, but a Ginobili setup for a Juan Guitierrez led to a layup and made the score 24-19 to close the first quarter.
In the second quarter, Team USA and Argentina traded punches. Team USA won the quarter 23-21, but their cold shooting from deep (0-5) prevented them from opening up the game. Team USA attacked the paint, while Argentina hung around and nailed 5-9 threes. Team USA scored just two points in the opening two minutes.
From there, Team USA scored on nine straight possessions. Kevin Love started things off with a putback tip. Then James attacked the basket for a layup in semi-transition. Paul followed with a drive and dump that led to a dunk for Love in the lane. Then Paul ran a pick and roll with Love, attacked the middle, and hit a diving James in the lane for a layup. Following an open corner three miss from Paul, Love kept the ball alive with a tap out, and Paul ended up attacking the lane and dumping off to James for a layup. James followed by attacking the basket and finishing a hanging one handed layup, and-one, and he made the free throw. Bryant got in on the act by dropping a one dribble pull up jumper from the wing. Then Anthony hit a far mid wing jumper over Scola. Then Paul sent a skip pass to James at the near wing, and James sent a quick touch pass to a diving Durant for a layup. Durant's layup would close out Team USA's impressive assault in the paint.
Despite Team USA's strong inside play, Delfino kept Argentina in the game with 11 straight points throughout the nine possession stretch by dropping three shots from deep and sinking two free throws. Delfino's efforts were nice, but Durant's layup put Team USA ahead 43-32 at the 3:29 mark. A powerful two handed jam after a baseline drive from Anthony, and a Love layup following a feed from James served as Team USA's only buckets in the remaining 3:29. Meanwhile, Argentina sank two more threes, with Ginobili sinking a buzzer beating three to end the half, and Scola finished a layup following a drive and dump from Prigioni. Argentina tried to feature Scola on consecutive possessions in an effort to further cut into the deficit, but Bryant did an excellent job fronting him, and eventually forcing him to miss hooks in the lane.
Team USA finished the half ahead 47-40. Team USA shot 5-17 from deep, while Argentina shot 6-14, giving them a three point advantage from deep — an advantage many teams have struggled to gain against Team USA. Argentina also took special care of the ball, coughing up just five turnovers, and keeping Team USA out of transition — just two fastbreak points in the half.
In the third quarter, Durant finally got rolling with the deep ball, and James continued attacking the basket and distributing the ball. But before they would take over, Ginobili started the half with aggressive play. Ginobili opened the half with a three to cut the score to 47-43. Ginobili followed with an and-one, making the score 51-46 at the 7:52 mark. Before Ginobili's and-one, Nocioni sank a three pointer, but it came about a tenth of a second after the 24 second clock went off, and Argentina was assessed a shot clock violation.
After an unforced turnover from Prigioni following a miscommunication, James skipped the ball to Durant at the near wing for a three. Paul followed with a sick inside-out fake crossover that turned around Prigioni and allowed Paul to enter the lane and sink a floater. Later, Durant kicked out to Anthony for a three in the corner, but Anthony missed the open shot. With three Argentina players at the rim, James gobbled up the offensive rebound and kicked the ball out to Anthony. Anthony wisely swing the ball to Durant for a far wing three. Durant swished the shot and put Team USA ahead 59-46 at the 6:28 mark. Later, Anthony fed a cutting James for a layup. Then James utilized a pick from Love at the wing to attack middle and throw down a one handed hammer, and-one. Durant followed with a catch and shoot three in the corner. Then Love ran down an offensive rebound, and James ended up kicking out to Durant at the top for a three. Durant fired up another three on the ensuing possession, but this time he missed — no worries, James skied for an offensive rebound and finished a sweet one handed putback lay-in to stretch the score to 72-53 at the 1:38 mark. A long two from Anthony closed the quarter, and Team USA headed into the fourth ahead 74-57.
Holding a 17 point lead to start the fourth, Team USA came out and put the game away. Love started it off with a layup following a pass from Andre Iguodala. Then Russell Westbrook pressed Ginobili and forced him to dribble the ball off his own foot for a backcourt violation. Feeling good about himself, Westbrook sank a pull up for three from the top. Then Williams pushed ahead in semi-transition to feed Anthony a three from the far side. Westbrook followed with a pull up jumper from the elbow — making the score 84-60 at the 8:17 mark.
Then Anthony slammed shut any hope of a comeback. Anthony sank three consecutive three pointers to put Team USA ahead 93-64 at the 6:33 mark. Williams assisted on all three shots. Following a drive and kick from Williams, Anthony sank a three from the corner. After Love swatted a Scola shot from behind, Williams pushed ahead and dumped off a pass for the trailing Anthony. Williams acted as a screen man by turning around and facing Anthony as he nailed the three from the wing. Following another miss at the rim, Williams raced up court and performed the same screen and dump off for the trailing Anthony to sink a three from the top.
Following Anthony's hot streak, Team USA coasted to a victory. Durant, Harden, Paul, and Williams sank some threes for good measure. Team USA capped the drubbing with a sick over the shoulder alley oop pass and jam from Paul to Iguodala. Team USA outscored Argentina 35-26 in the quarter on their way to the 109-83 victory.
Team USA finished the game 43-81 (53.1%) from the field, and 18-42 (42.9%) from deep. Argentina finished 31-70 (44.3%) from the field and 11-26 (42.9%) from deep. Team USA dominated Argentina on the glass, winning 40-23, and pulling down 13 offensive rebounds compared to just six from Argentina. Team USA dished out 25 assists on 43 made buckets, while Argentina dished out 22 on 31 made buckets. Team USA racked up five steals and blocked five shots while committing just 10 turnovers. Argentina picked up two steals and blocked one shot while committing just 9 turnovers.
Durant led all scorers with 19 points on 7-14 shooting, 5-10 from deep. James and Anthony flanked him with 18 apiece. James scored rather efficiently, making 8-12 shots, 0-2 from long range. Anthony shot 7-14, and 4-8 from downtown. Ginobili led Argentina with 18 points on 7-15 shooting, 3-7 from distance. Delfino and Scola flanked Ginobili with 15 apiece. James led the game with seven rebounds and tied for a game high seven assists — Paul also dished out seven. Bryant led the game with two steals, and Durant led all with two blocks.
Overall, Argentina played a solid game. They didn't turn over the ball, they shot the ball well from deep, and they moved the ball well to rack up assists. But Argentina simply couldn't keep up with the firepower of Team USA. Bryant dominated the first quarter, Durant and James dominated the third, and Anthony closed things out in the fourth. These stretches proved pivotal in the outcome of the game. After a contentious game in group play that featured plenty of cheap shots from both sides, I'm pretty surprised the match lacked any sort of controversy or scuffles. Argentina probably would have been better served by turning the match into a slugfest. Instead, Argentina played a soft zone all game and allowed Team USA to fire up good looks. Argentina's three point baiting worked for stretches, but once the shots started dropping, they came in bunches.
Now that Team USA has disposed of Argentina, they will face Spain in the gold medal round on Sunday, August, 12. Team USA's match against Spain in the exhibitions was rather one sided, but that contest didn't feature a full, healthy Spanish roster. Although Team USA has relied on small ball, it will be important for Chandler to stay on the court against the likes of Pau and Marc Gasol, as well as Serge Ibaka. Chandler can't afford to get in foul trouble, or else Team USA will truly be tested. I expect a competitive game, but as usual, I expect Team USA to rely on their depth and versatility to wear down Spain and eventually blow the game open with a big run. I fully expect Team USA to win the gold, and I hope they do so in impressive fashion. If Team USA needs another four point play from Bryant late in the game, I'll be disappointed.
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