Let’s take a moment and applaud this Argentina team. Lead by Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, and Andres Nocioni (no, really), this Argentina has battled for one another for a decade. They have been the biggest thorn in the side of the U.S. in international play, and were what prompted widespread changes in the U.S. approach to world championship play. They fought as hard as they could on Friday, hanging around with the U.S. for two and a half quarters. They played with heart, they played with intensity, and they played with the identity of their leader, Manu Ginobili. Smart, gritty, and beautiful.
Then they lost by 26 points, 109-83, because Team USA is much better.
There has been talk from some on this Argentina team that the U.S. wasn’t really all that invincible, that they were in this, and that maybe this team wasn’t that good. One player said after their last meeting that the U.S. had only won because the officials hadn’t called traveling correctly.
The spread for Friday’s game was 25.5 points. The U.S. cleared it, but it was a battle to the wire. To cover the 25.5. spread.
It was more of the same of what we’d seen from this Team USA. When they needed an answer, LeBron James would provide it, be it a nifty pass to an open shooter, or a tough finish at the rim. From there, it was only a matter of time before the three-point shots began to fall, and when the cold spell ended, Kevin Durant, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony took care of the rest. It was a barrage, and it blew open a close game.
Argentina hung in there because of some tough, and I mean tough, shots from Carlos Delfino, who simply could not miss for a stretch, no matter how contested the threes were. American ball is supposed to be the isolation-contested-jumper offense, but Argentina used that same model to stay in the game. Ginobili of course was the other huge factor, hitting floaters and slicing through all defenders. When the defense collapsed, he found Scola. But it wasn’t enough. The talent just wasn’t there, and Team USA’s pressure defense rattled Argentina just enough to facilitate the collapse.
So Team USA will face the team everyone expected them to face in the gold medal match Sunday, Spain, who toppled Russia earlier. They’ll face the biggest interior team yet with the Gasol brothers down low, and Juan Carlos Navarro to hit from the perimeter. But even with the holes on this particular roster due to injury, you have to expect the U.S. to win. They’ve been dispatching great teams throughout this tournament, and every time it looks like they might be challenged, they turn on the jets and leave their opponents faces scorched from the engines.
Argentina faces Russia in what will be the last Olympics match for this core. There are concerns about the future of the program for Argentina. But they’ll go down swinging, no matter what the final margin is.
Kevin Durant lead all scorers with 19 in the win.