Tag: 2012 London Olympics

US guard Kobe Bryant (R) stands by Argen

Argentina may be tougher test for USA than gold medal game


Argentina is not more talented on paper than the Spanish men’s national team in these Olympics. We can have a debate about Argentina vs. Russia but it’s close.

But the Argentineans could pose a bigger threat to the United States’ gold medal hopes in the semi-finals on Friday than either Spain or Russia in a potential Gold Medal matchup Sunday.

Why? Style and familiarity.

Familiarity as in this will be the third time the two teams will meet inside of three weeks (once in a tune-up game, once in group play in London). It’s hard to beat a good team three times that close together — they know your actions, your preferences and your weaknesses. They have an understanding of what they have to do — and this is a veteran Argentinian side with Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino. They play a high-IQ, savvy game. They run multiple picks on each offensive play — they run a pick-and-roll at the top of the key where the pick setter doesn’t roll or pop but runs to set another pick for a wing player, trying to force switches into mismatches or just confusion. They have seen what works. The familiarity helps them.

Style wise, Argentina knows what to do to try and take the United States out of its up-tempo, free-flowing game. This is going to be a grinding, physical — let’s call it chippy — contest. Argentina likes to get under your skin. The USA can’t let them.

The USA has won the first two meetings because they made big runs for a quarter the Argentines could not match. The Americans are more athletic and deeper, they can do this at any time. In the first game the USA push came at the start, they owned the first quarter, but then the rest of the game Argentina chipped away at the lead, they ground the game down, they took away the transition points and easy baskets for the USA. It ended up being a six-point USA win.

On offense Argentina runs a flex-like system (think Jerry Sloan Utah Jazz) that can expose and lead to easy buckets against a USA side together for less than six weeks and still not covering each other on defense all that well. They run multiple picks with lots of action off the ball, all looking to create confusion or a mismatch. And they have veterans like Ginobili who do not make many mistakes under pressure defenses.

Think of it this way — Argentina plays the kind game that Australia and Lithuania do, but they have more talent and play it better than either of those sides.

The Americans are and should still be the favorites — it will take a perfect game from the Argentines to beat the USA… and they would still need some help. The USA had Kevin Durant raining threes on Argentina before, if he and Team USA go cold from beyond the arc in this one it could be trouble. If the shots are falling from deep the USA is virtually unbeatable.

In the two previous meetings Argentina played most of the game well but the USA’s athleticism (and in second game depth) got them big runs of points the Argentines could not recover from. That probably happens here. Probably.

But this is the last Olympics for Argentina’s golden generation, and they will not go quietly into that good night.

This could be a real test for the USA. Maybe their biggest test.

Report: There will be no age limit for 2016 Rio Olympics

Lebron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler

FIBA is a beurocratic institution of the old-school order. The Olympics even more so.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that the idea of change — turning the Olympic men’s basketball tournament into an under-23 event — is not something that is going to happen quickly.

Meaning not by the games in Brazil in 2016, according to a report by Ian Thompson at Sports Illustrated.

The NBA’s interest in pursuing an age ceiling for Olympic basketball is “unlikely” to be instituted in time for the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro, according to the source, who has direct knowledge of the talks involving the International Olympic Committee and FIBA, the international ruling body for basketball….

But the source stressed that quick action on an age limitation is highly unrealistic for FIBA. Passage of the new rule will require the ratification of 213 national basketball federations around the world — the sporting equivalent of the United Nations. The involvement of the IOC will further complicate the talks.

Players have almost universally opposed the idea of changing the Olympics, an idea pushed by David Stern on behalf of the NBA owners. Players like LeBron James, Kevin Durant and even guys who missed out this year (Derrick Rose, Dwight Howard) want to have the control and the option.

This is a money grab by the owners — they don’t like “their” star players taking part in a big tournament that generates a lot of money and they don’t get a piece of it. The NBA wants to partner with FIBA to boost the World Cup (or start their own event).

The NBA stars have the ultimate power here — if they promise to boycott a World Cup event this idea will die fast. It may anyway, it’s going to take a lot of persuading (meaning money) to get the other countries on board.

Meaning, it’s not happening in the next couple years before qualification for Rio begins.

Report: Carmelo Anthony playing through sore hamstring

Olympics Day 12 - Basketball

It sure hasn’t shown much in the London Olympics — Carmelo Anthony is averaging 17.3 points a game on 57 percent shooting (53.1 percent from three), is chipping in 4.5 rebounds a game and is working hard off the ball. Plus, I could swear I saw him play defense.

But, apparently he’s a little banged up. From Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

Carmelo is nursing a sore hamstring but says he’s fine. Knicks sent one of their own trainers to London to look after him

The physician for Team USA is from the Portland Trail Blazers. More than one team has sent along its own medical staff to monitor their players. Draw your own conclusions.

Hamstrings can be tricky things, but with just two games left and ‘Melo a key contributor to Team USA, you can bet he is going to play. After that he has about six weeks before the start of camp to rest it, and you know coach Mike Woodson is not going to push his star that hard in the preseason if there is still an issue.

Meaning, by the time the Knicks take on the Nets to open the season, ‘Melo will be ready to go.

As for the next two key games for Team USA, ‘Melo has looked good so far so it’s just something to keep an eye on.

USA starts pretty blah, Kobe and LeBron help them run away from Aussies late

Australian guard Matt Dellavedova (L) ch

There are certain boxers and MMA fighters that nobody looks fighting good against. Even the fighters with all the style get sucked into an ugly grappling contest, nobody looks pretty in the ring/octagon against these guys.

That is Australian basketball.

For three quarters against Team USA the Aussies were physical, they mucked up the game, they made sure it wasn’t pretty and they hit a few threes. Australia played well and exactly how they wanted. They kept it close. But behind a triple-double from LeBron James (11 points, 14 rebounds, 12 assists) and some hot shooting from Kobe Bryant, the Americans pulled away in the fourth quarter to win 119-86.

Next up is a third game in three weeks against a good Argentina side. The Olympic semifinal is at 4 p.m. Eastern Friday. Win that and the Americans will play for the gold on Sunday.

But that’s getting ahead of ourselves because Argentina likes to grind out the game like Australia, the South Americans just do it better and have more skill.

And the Aussies gave the USA some trouble. Just like they did four years ago in the Beijing Olympics — Australia plays physical and can be tough to play against. There was not a great flow to the game but the USA was up 28-21 after one and you kept waiting for the big run in the second. But it never came, it was more ugly, more grinding. The USA still kept playing a little better and was up 14 at the break.

Then Australia opened second half on an 11-0 run, bringing it down to 56-53 lead for the USA. The USA needed a spark.

They got a one from the guy getting shredded on twitter. Kobe Bryant was 0-5 shooting with three turnovers by a few minutes into the third quarter, and after guarding Aussie star Patty Mills in the first half he was switched off him (Chris Paul took over). He was having a bad half. Anyone who has seen Kobe struggle over the years knows what is next — he is going to shoot his way out of it.

He did. And it worked. Kobe hit back-to-back threes in the third — one catch-and-shoot, then made a steal and knocked down a transition three — and that sparked a little run by the USA that got it back up to 14. In the fourth Kobe couldn’t miss from three as he racked up 20 second half points.

In the fourth, the USA picked up their defensive pressure and Australia just did not have the depth of talent to hang with it. The USA was back to putting on a show with Kobe threes (six total in the second half), LeBron passes and even an impressive James Harden dunk. They ran away and hid.

Deron Williams had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17 for the United States. Mills (the former St. Mary star who played for the Blazers and Spurs) led the Aussies with 26.

It was a win and in the end that’s all that matters for the USA. But now they will have to beat a good Argentinian team who has played them very well for five of the eight quarters when the two teams have met in recent weeks. They have Manu Ginobili playing very well and good guys around him like Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola. The USA will have to play better.

In the two meetings thus far Argentina has not been able to keep up with the runs of the USA and that has been the difference. But for the USA to do it a third time they will need a better game, a more consistent defensive effort than we saw against Australia.

Argentina grinds down Brazil for win, wants another shot at USA

London Olympics Basketball Men

Argentina’s “golden generation” will be playing for a London Olympics medal.

And (barring a major upset) they are going to get one more crack at the United States first.

Argentina beat Brazil in an emotional South American rivalry game Wednesday thanks to their savvy team play and defense. That team play turned out to be too much for the high-scoring guards of Brazil, so Argentina won 82-77.

If you didn’t think this game mattered to them, you should have seen them celebrating like they won a medal after it was over. They cared a lot about it.

Argentina next will face the winner of USA vs. Australia. Brazil will head one.

Argentina came out from the start in this game doing what they do — two man game, pick-and-roll at the top of the key, moving the ball and spacing the floor — all of which means good looks because they execute so well. And when they get good looks they will hit them — Argentina shot 60 percent behind balanced scoring in the first half.

Still, they were up just 46-40 at the break, in large part because Marcelinho Huertas was keeping it close for Brazil. He is not some guy who came out of nowhere, Huertas plays for Spanish powerhouse Barcelona and is an experienced international point guard. Huertas finished the game with 22 and got almost all his points in the first half.

However in the third the Argentinian defense tightened up and they started to pull away, stretching the lead out to 15 at one point. Brazil only scored 14 points in the third quarter while Argentina continued to score — Manu Ginobili finished with 16 as did Carlos Delfino, while Luis Scola had 17.

Brazil would not roll over — they cam back and made it a game late in the fourth quarter. Mostly because Leandro Barbosa started nailing threes and making plays (he finished with 22). But it never really felt like the veteran Argentinians would let this one slip away once they had control of it.

Argentina has lost both times they faced the USA this year. In a tune-up game they let the Americans get out to a huge lead then ground the game down and ended up losing by just six. The second meeting in the final day of group play it was close for a half but the USA went on one of it’s big runs in the third and Argentina kind of walked it in during the fourth.

Argentina has played the Americans well and they have the talent. If they can just control the American’s runs a little and make it a half-court, grinding game it could get interesting.

Even if Argentina were to lose that game, they would play for a bronze medal on Sunday.