Argentina is in some way a better version of the Lithuanian team that gave the USA trouble on Saturday — more talented but with that same experienced veteran savvy that exposed the American’s mistakes.
But that’s really what Monday is about — has the USA learned from its mistakes as it heads to the medal round? Team USA faces Argentina in the final game of Group A play, starting at 5:15 Eastern Monday.
It’s not really about this game for Team USA — Argentina would need to beat the Americans by 110 points to win Group A. Team USA is the top seed heading into the medal round. But Argentina can be the two-seed with a win (beating out France because the tie breaker is total point differential and they are 65 points ahead in that category).
Argentina will be the more desperate side, but still it’s not about Argentina. It’s about team USA. It’s about them executing better, particularly on defense. It’s about them playing as one.
“We played a couple of games where we were able to jump all over the passing lanes and a little bit of bad habits creep in,” Tyson Chandler told ProBasketballTalk. “And then you play a game like Lithuania and those bad habits are exposed. But the great thing is they are exposed and we came away with a win. It was a learning thing for us. Now we go out and make the adjustments.”
Team USA had that same kind of game against Argentina in a tune-up to the Olympics. To open the game Kevin Durant was knocking down threes (he finished with 27 points) and Team USA started out 7-of-7 from the field. The USA had 13 fast break points in the first half. They overwhelmed Argentina and had a double-digit lead minutes into the game.
But Argentina kept moving the ball and stuck with their game plan to grind the game down to a crawl. It worked. They got back on defense to take away the easy fast break points that fuels Team USA. Argentina packed the paint on defense, went under picks and dared the USA to shoot jumpers. The Americans shot better than they did against Lithuania (31 percent on Saturday, nearly 39 percent against Argentina) but it wasn’t enough.
The USA would make a run, Argentina would grind it down — all the way down to a four-point USA lead inside of three minutes left in the game.
No team has knocked off the USA yet and no team will without some help from the Americans. They have to be off on defense and missing their outside shots.
But the formula to beat the USA is out there and Argentina will be the latest to use it. We’ll see if the Americans have learned their lessons from Lithuania about how to avoid it.