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USA plays one good half, that’s enough to beat Argentina handily

Aug 6, 2012, 7:50 PM EDT

London Olympics Basketball Men AP

If the USA can play the next four games like they played the second half against Argentina, they will cruise to a gold medal.

Let’s just forget about the six quarters before that, shall we?

After a sloppy first half of the defensive end and a lot of three point shots, Team USA got it together on both ends in the third quarter to win it 42-17 and cruised from there to a 126-97 win over Argentina. The USA is 5-0 and finishes in first place in Group A.

Their reward is they start the sudden-death medal round against an Australian side they should be able to overwhelm, with the game Wednesday at 5:15 ET (on the NBC Sports Network). Argentina (3-2) finishes third in Group A and will face South American rival Brazil in the first game of the medal round.

The first half just had to be frustrating for Team USA. Because it was for their fans — it did not look like they learned the lessons of the close game against Lithuania two days before.

Team USA hit 7 threes in first quarter, including a Kevin Durant shot at the buzzer, but led only 34-32 because their defense was flat-footed again. All the issues players said they recognized and rectified from the Lithuania game resurfaced — Argentina shot 65 percent in the first quarter, led by Manu Ginobili with 9 (and he was just getting started).

At the half it was 60-59 USA and Ginobili had 16 for Argentina (he would not score in the second half). Just as disturbing for the Americans was Argentina was without Knicks point guard Pablo Prigioni (kidney stones) and Luis Scola had not set foot on the court in the second quarter. The USA was barely beating and Argentina team playing with one hand tied behind their back.

USA shot 9-of-22 from three in the first half — that is not a bad percentage (40.9%) but it shows they could not or would not take the ball inside. The looks from three were often good, very open ones. But still, 22 in a half.

The USA team that came out in the second half looked like the USA side that rolled through its first three games, the one USA fans expect to see. A team that imposed its will (particularly on defense and at the rim) with its superior athleticism.

It started because LeBron James had 9 early third quarter points (on his way to finishing with 18. He set a tone, hitting a three and making a play in the post.

Then the Kevin Durant show started. He had 17 points in the third quarter — as many as the entire Argentinian team in that stretch. He was 8-of-10 from three for the game and finished with 28.

More important, the USA’s hounding defense was back — they weren’t gambling they were harassing. Pressuring. Andre Iguodala was making his presence felt, the USA was controlling the paint and glass.

Pretty soon the USA’s lead was blowing up and Argentina started to take it foot off the gas pedal — they have an older team and were locked into the third seed. They decided to rest not challenge the USA late.

It’s a good bit of momentum, something they can take into the medal round against Australia. That is another team they can overwhelm and build up confidence against. It’s another game they should win handily.

Hopefully that doesn’t lead to bad habits establishing themselves again. Because now things get serious. Now it is lose and go home, and more quarters like the six before the final two against Argentina could spell trouble for the USA.

  1. ptestonm - Aug 6, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    everyone wants this team to lose. sorry…..not going to happen…..just accept the fact their going to win gold and STFU

    • raysfan1 - Aug 6, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      “everyone wants them to lose”… Except the athletes asking them for autographs after the games, the London fans cheering for them, and 300,000,000 Americans.

  2. timb12 - Aug 6, 2012 at 9:11 PM

    Kevin Durant looks like he’s on NBA jam. His shot is just so clean, it’s ridiculous. I love it.

  3. jimeejohnson - Aug 6, 2012 at 9:12 PM

    Kevin Durant shot the lights out of that place. When he is on like that, fahget about it! Kevin Love had a bunch of tip-ins, and LeBron, was LeBron, especially when Manu that old geezer who can stil play this game Ginobli ran right into him and reacted as if he had just run into a brick wall. Finally, just have to add that machismo is overrated! That’s why a tough competitor like Luis Scola is not a champion: too much machismo, not enough talent! Tyson Chandler moved cheap shot Scola out of the way as if the second rate Scola wasn’t even there. Russel Westbrook sure wasn’t concerned with the Argentines. His sick drive and dunk was as in your face as it gets.

  4. lmvs2012 - Aug 6, 2012 at 9:35 PM

    Like what i said u.s.a will shutdown any team in pool a and b by a dozen not below 20 points blowout!

  5. diablito0402 - Aug 7, 2012 at 1:20 AM

    @jimmijohnson”lebron was lebron” i didnt see the game, so was he missing freethrows and shots down the stretch, and being passive, like his career, or clutch like a couple of games in these last finals?

  6. rickyspanish - Aug 7, 2012 at 4:47 AM

    The Olympics have made me love Andre Iguodola’s game even more. He does everything well and his demeanor is great. He reminds of Gerald Wallace, effort and willingness all day.

  7. mannyicey - Aug 7, 2012 at 8:25 AM

    Yeah, that Kevin Durant 3-pointer from right outside of half-court was really like putting the little kids to bed, right? “We all had our fun, now it’s time to go to sleep.”

    And the cheap shots and flopping all over the place was getting really exhausting. Manu Ginobili must practice flopping and falling because I’ve never seen someone that can do it so well. I started clapping on that one performance with Lebron. He won’t get the Gold Medal, but he’s a shoe-in for the Oscar for Best Actor in an Athletic Event.

    But what’s kinda troubling to me is that I can see that Kobe has missed a step. You can see that his career is winding down. I’m not a big Kobe fan, but he’s one of the best ever. So to see that Kobe still got it, but it’s dwindling, comes to show that his days in the NBA are numbered.

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