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USA has to work for win over Argentina. Just a reminder gold will not come easily.

Jul 22, 2012, 6:17 PM EDT

U.S. Olympic basketball player Kevin Durant challenges Argentina's Luis A. Scola during exhibition game in Barcelona Reuters

Team USA was back in Barcelona, wearing 1992 Dream Team throwback jerseys, which led to another round of the Dream Team vs. 2012 team talk.

But the 2012 version of Team USA having to work for an 86-80 win Sunday over Argentina in an Olympics tune-up shows why comparing the two eras is hard (and why the 2012 team’s style can lead to some close games).

The first minutes of Sunday’s game looked like one of those old Dream Team routs. Team USA had Kevin Durant raining threes (he finished with 7 and a game-high 27 points, he will be the MVP of this team) and started out 7-of-7 from the floor and were quickly up 19-3. The USA had 13 fast break points in the first half. They overwhelmed Argentina.

But the Dream Team faced a bunch of international teams in awe of them who rolled over when the first run came. Those teams never dreamed of a comeback.

That is not Argentina. They roll out five NBA players (past or present) including scrappy veterans such as Manu Ginobili (23 points on the game), Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino. They have grown up together as Argentina’s golden generation, they won the gold medal in 2004 in Athens. And they will not quit.

Argentina ground the game down and executed with their passing (and a lot of step-back threes). 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. Team USA obliged and put up 34 threes in the game (hitting 13, 38.2 percent).

And while the USA would make runs, like they did again at the start of the second half to get the lead back up to 20, Argentina would just grind it back down. All the way down to a 78-74 USA lead with 2:45 left in the game. It took a Durant three, a Chris Paul three and some getting the ball inside for the USA to old on and win. Kobe Bryant added 18 for Team USA.

The USA’s aggressive attacking style that gives them the runs can make them more vulnerable against veteran sides that can handle the ball pressure better and know how to slow a game down.

Argentina is not better than the USA. Neither is Brazil (which led Team USA after a quarter) nor France. But those are good squads that can suck the USA into playing a different style. The USA goes on runs but lets up a little, and these team will not quit.

Then there is Spain, who beat Argentina by 20 a few days ago.

The USA plays Spain in a “friendly” on Tuesday in what should be a preview of the gold medal game in London.

It’s going to be the biggest test of the USA’s small lineup, as Spain starts Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol, then brings Serge Ibaka off the bench. Against Argentina Tyson Chandler was a huge impact in the game — he was +26 after three quarters — and he needs to stay on the court against Spain.

The USA is now 4-0 in tune-up games and what we’re judging them on is style points — are they looking as dominant as we expect and want them to be. Like we remember the Dream Team being. And so far this 2012 team has not always been that, not consistently. Coach Mike Krzyzewski is still playing with lineups (he changed it up again for this one, starting Chris Paul over Deron Williams) and trying out combinations. It’s a preseason game and you’re not playing to win so much as to experiment and see what works.

So you can’t take too much away from a closer-than-expected win over Argentina (USA was 28 point favorites). But what you can take away is that the road to gold in London is not a cakewalk. These teams will not just lie down for the Americans.

  1. surefooted1 - Jul 22, 2012 at 6:27 PM

    “That is not Argentina. They roll out five NBA players (past or present) including scrappy veterans such as Manu Ginobili (23 points on the game), Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino. They have grown up together as Argentina’s golden generation, they won the gold medal in 2004 in Athens. And they will not quit.”

    You really think that the Dream Team would struggle against Manu Ginobili, Scola and Delfino? Bwahahaha

    • Kevin S. - Jul 22, 2012 at 6:35 PM

      Maybe not, but they didn’t play any competition remotely as talented as some of the squads this year’s team will face. There just wasn’t as much talent overseas twenty years ago.

      • surefooted1 - Jul 22, 2012 at 6:57 PM

        That much is known. We know the world has gotten better. But once again, do you really think the Dream Team would struggle with Ginobili, Scola and Delfino?

        Saying “the comps harder” is pure deflection at best, dillusion at the worst.

      • borderline1988 - Jul 22, 2012 at 8:30 PM

        Did you really think the current US team would struggle against Argentina (anymore than the Dream Team)?

        They should be blowing them out of the water also. The point is that the competition from international basketball is much different than it was 20 years ago. Think about Nash and Nowitzki, both foreign born MVPs (the idea of a foreign born MVP would have been ridiculous to think about in the 1980’s).

        I don’t buy into all the nostalgia. Maybe the Dream Team is better, but there’s no way they would have steamrolled the competition by an average of 43 points if they played today. Certainly, Spain would make a game out of it, just like they will against the US in the finals.

      • zblott - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:38 PM

        @borderline1988
        To say the idea of a foreign-born player winning an MVP being a ridiculous thought in the 1980’s is a ridiculous comment. Facts:

        1) Hakeem (Nigeria) finished as high as 4th in the 80’s and actually won the MVP just two years after the ’92 Olympics, which would not have been a shock for someone in the 80’s to find out.
        2) Ewing (Jamaica) finished as high as 4th during the 80’s, and no one in ’89 would have been shocked had he won one in the 90’s.
        3) Dominique Wilkins (born in France, although on an AF base) finished as high as 2nd in the 80’s.
        4) Considering many NBA fans knew back in ’86 that David Robinson was outplayed by Arvydas Sabonis at the FIBA Worlds (who outrebounded Robinson again in another head-to-head in ’88 in Seoul) meant people were awake to the idea that there were foreigners at least as good as our best preps.

        I can’t disagree with a lot of what you’re saying, but that one comment is WAY off base.

    • schlom - Jul 22, 2012 at 6:57 PM

      You should watch some of the highlights from the Dream Team in the 1992 Olympics – it looks like they were playing the Washington Generals. The difference between the non-USA teams now and then is probably greater than the difference between the Dream Team and their opponents.

      • surefooted1 - Jul 22, 2012 at 6:58 PM

        I’ll refer you to my reply to Kevin S.

    • abasketballthing - Jul 22, 2012 at 11:39 PM

      They would struggle against the Gasol brothers, Navarro, Calderon and Ibaka. They’d beat ARG easily because of their size advantage, but remember they were playing together for the first time ever. Those international teams already have chemistry, but the 2012 USA team doesn’t, and the Dream Team didn’t, either. Even if you think the Dream Team was twice as talented as the ’12 team, you have to admit the ’12 team is twice as talented as Spain, and three times as talented as Argentina(USA’s 11th man is probably better than Ginobili at this point in their careers). The Dream Team dominated because of the inmense talent gap between them and the rest of the world. The gap is now close enough for Spain to make the Dream Team work, especially if they insisted on giving Magic and Bird playing time for sentimental reasons.

      • daf52 - Jul 23, 2012 at 12:24 AM

        The guards and small forward of this year’s team would matchup fairly evenly although I believe the ‘Dream Team’ would have the advantage. Where our 2012 team lacks is the power forward and center. This may be our achilles heel and would be the reason why this team would lose to the Dream Team by at least 10 points, there would be nobody to match up with Ewing and The Mailman.

  2. foozeball - Jul 22, 2012 at 6:52 PM

    “The USA’s aggressive attacking style that gives them the runs”
    I couldn’t resist.

  3. hay1111 - Jul 22, 2012 at 7:09 PM

    We have perfectly good big in Anthony Davis sitting the bench. He gives you the same game as Chandler but lacks his strength

    • connaniii - Jul 22, 2012 at 7:52 PM

      And his experience or do you believe Christian Lattner could defend Drazen Petrovic

    • hoops45 - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:34 AM

      This team seems a bit unbalanced. We needed one more solid defensive big. Hibbert, McGee, center from the Clippers, heck even an old Ben Wallace. Watching Melo playing post defense makes me extremely nervous.

  4. imforbigblue - Jul 22, 2012 at 7:20 PM

    Coach rat won’t play Davis because he played at UK and coach rat is dUKe

  5. connaniii - Jul 22, 2012 at 7:54 PM

    Could have defended Petrovic that is?

  6. tampajoey - Jul 22, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    Anyone else hoping that this “Dream Team” loses?

    • davidly - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:56 AM

      It would be a tempting equal and opposite to the “they better not lose” attitude, but, no. I prefer to not give to much a hoot either way.

    • skids003 - Jul 23, 2012 at 8:20 AM

      If they lose, they’ll blame Coach K. It couldn’t be the players and their massive egos, it would have to be the coach.

  7. mrlaloosh - Jul 22, 2012 at 8:12 PM

    No

  8. ampz303 - Jul 22, 2012 at 8:54 PM

    1992 opponents And 2012 opponents! 2012 dream time all the way!!

  9. davidcl77 - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    These guys are nowhere near as good as the Dream Team. Ridiculous statement by the old Kobe. He’s an old man and is started to run his mouth. Fitting that Michael just laughed. They had their hands full with Argentina. Dream Team, take their place!

  10. isujames - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:56 PM

    Argentina, Argentina, come on man you can’t be serious, Argentina LMFAO.

    • atahualpaoxford - Jul 23, 2012 at 12:44 AM

      I’ve seen your postings here before…now I know you’re an absolute idiot.
      Granted, this was an exhibition game, and everybody will play hard against the USA, but…
      Let’s see: Ginobili is 36 yrs. old, Nocioni 32 (no longer in the NBA after riding the bench last year with the 76’s…is now in Spain), last call of duty for both with the national team.
      Delfino, last with the Bucks, hasn’t got an offer from any team yet.
      Prigioni, the PG, is 35…just got signed by the Knicks…will be the oldest ( or 2nd. oldest) rookie to play in the NBA.
      Jansen and Leo Gutierrez are 34, Scola and Leiva 32.
      The rest are guys mostly in the national team for the first time.
      USA was 28 points favourites. Losing by 6, Argentina played a terrific game.
      Also, don’t forget that they were the first team EVER to defeat a USA team made up of NBA players.( see World Championship 2002 in Indianapolis).
      So…a little bit more of respect. This is a World champion and an Olimpic champion.
      On the way out, collect your brain (sure you must have one) that you checked in before you started writing your post.
      You’re a fu…..g moron…!!!

  11. isujames - Jul 22, 2012 at 9:59 PM

    Besides Manu, the rest of their team is SCRUBS, don’t tell that to the mighty Day Dream Team though, who thought they might beat the almighty DT1.

  12. badintent - Jul 22, 2012 at 10:57 PM

    We heard the gangta whoofing before the Brazil game, DT only wins by 6, now the SOS ! Get a new record , cauz these chumps only win when Durant goes off ! DT needs Steve Novak raining 3s , Gotta be the Knicks, not Kobe throwing Bricks.

  13. tomtravis76 - Jul 22, 2012 at 11:37 PM

    I do not want to see this team lose. I want them to win the gold. If they come back with anything less than gold, it becomes a blackmark on each member of this roster and coaching staffs basketball legacy.

    There is no more talk about Dream Team vs London team, if you don’t then you are way too young to appreciate what the Dream Team did for basketball. You must think then Wilt, Dr. J, Oscar, Pearl, Pistol, Bernard King, Moses, Kareem, Unseld and many more wouldn’t dare step on a court with players of today.

  14. davidly - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:42 AM

    I love that this thread immediately degenerated into a continuation of the ’92 vs. ’12 discussion, albeit via comparisons between the respective quality of international competition they faced.

    People keep saying that the Dream Team inspired a wave of new talent overseas that wouldn’t have existed otherwise. But I see it the other way around: The NBA benefited more than international competition from the Dream Team because scouts were able to see just how much more talent there was out there to be had.

    The only difference between the competition now compared to then is that more international players have NBA experience. But this is not some paradigm shift that’s taken place in quality, rather a natural and the likely course of events.

    Regarding how the Dream Team would fare against this year’s competition? They’d get blown out every game. They’re all, like, fifty years old and sh*t!

  15. brianjoates - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:47 AM

    Guess watching better, closer games will be more enjoyable basketball. This team can’t lose in London.

    Iam already sick of this dukie modified version of an offense. I can’t stand so many three’s being launched. 34 is way too many.

    No depth down low is not good. I hope Jerry takes note. What will 2016 Brazil look like?

  16. davidly - Jul 23, 2012 at 1:58 AM

    And, oh yeah: ’92 versus ’12? Depends on whether they play in ’92 or ’12.

  17. papichulo55 - Jul 23, 2012 at 2:55 AM

    Relax everyone. These games are like the final pre-season games in the NFL. There is no way in hell that competitors like Kobe and LBJ will let the USA lose to anybody.

    They are shooting a lot of jumpers becuse they need to practice. Dont read too much into it. Coach K is anything but stupid. The NBA has been generous in risking injury to their stars. Just win the Gold, and bring eveyone home in one piece.

    Besides, if you love the game, you should be happy that the competition is getting better.

  18. 24thesho - Jul 23, 2012 at 6:29 AM

    Seems like a little “bad attitude” from DeMarcus Cousins on the court would have been good for this game and will be needed to win the gold. Poor choice for Coach K and his staff not to have had more bigs. Spain will win the gold if Team USA does not step it up. Actually, I don’t think the USA team is going to win the gold this year, I hope they do but I think not.

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