Aug. 10, 2008; Beijing, CHINA; Argentina fans cheer with their flag in Lithuania 79-75 victory against Argentina in the preliminary round at Beijing Olympic Basketball Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

Challenge Ahead For Team USA: Argentina


Jul 21, 2012, Barcelona, SPAIN; USA player LeBron James (6) during practice in preparation for the 2012 London Olympic Games at Palau Sant Jordi. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-US PRESSWIRE

In just a few hours, Team USA will be tipping off against Argentina, the national basketball team that won the Olympic gold medal in the previous Olympic games before USA took gold in 2008.

Team USA will have its hands full today as they will face an Argentinian team that features an NBA All-Star and 3-time NBA champion in Manu Ginobili from the San Antonio Spurs and two NBA starters on their respective NBA teams in Luis Scola from the Phoenix Suns and Carlos Delfino from the Milwaukee Bucks. Scola and Ginobili were both members of the 2004 Argentinian basketball team that struck gold in Athens and the 2008 team that won bronze in the most recent Olympic games.

Argentina will also feature a rookie NBA guard in Pablo Prigioni of the New York Knicks. Recently, Prigioni signed a one-year deal with the Knicks receiving a rookie minimum salary. Although Prigioni has 0 NBA experience under his belt, we can firmly say that Prigioni is an offensive weapon as the offensive-minded New York Knicks decided to sign an international unknown player like him. The Argentines will also have a former NBA forward and shooter in Andres Nocioni who last played with the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA for the 2011-2012 NBA season until he was waived in March 2012.

In recent games, Argentina has shown to have given Team USA a great challenge. With Manu Ginobili leading the way offensively and consistently driving into the lane, Team USA will have their problems. In the past exhibition games Team USA has played in, their inside presence has bewildered allowing opposing guards to slash and big men to make their imprint on the game. Luckily for the Americans, their opponents were never in full control of the game and Team USA easily adjusted their game to play in a way those teams had never seen before. For the Argentines on the other hand, they know how Team USA plays and they know how it feels to be dominated by them and also to win over them.

Carlos Delfino will be one player on Argentina to watch out for as his hot shooting might come out today and will heavily impact the final result of the game. Delfino has been known to get hot at some points of a game and Team USA must find a way to respond every time that happens. Argentina will go on runs and Team USA will have to adjust in a way Argentina will not expect what hit them. The coaching staff of Argentina pretty much knows how Team USA runs and they will do all they can to stop them from making the game into a classic Team USA blowout and keep the game as tight as possible. Ginobili, who is healthy as a horse now will be the focal point of Argentina’s offense. Plays will be ran through him and in my opinion, LeBron James should guard him at all times.

Luis Scola will be a key player in the low block for Argentina as he will most likely be matched up with either NBA small forwards like Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder and Carmelo Anthony from the New York Knicks. However, in my opinion, this is a game Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love must shine. Going up against one of the grittiest big men in the NBA and a player that he has stepped on before (literally), Love must be the guy inside for Team USA. However, Scola, who should remember being embarrassed and insulted after being kicked in the face by Kevin Love during an NBA game, will not back down easily. On the boards, Team USA has been struggling and haven’t been as dominant as they were in the past with Dwight Howard absent for the games.

Argentina’s starting center Juan Pedro Gutiérrez is someone also to watch for Team USA. Being only 6 foot 9 and Team USA starting center Tyson Chandler from the Knicks standing 7 feet tall, Team USA must take advantage of that by grabbing the boards and most of all playing solid defense inside. If Team USA is easily able to grab the rebound off a missed shot, the fast break will be an easy 2 points or even three. Overall with Team USA not much true big men aside from Love and Chandler, rebounding will be key for this team to dominate the game on both ends of the floor.

Kevin Love hasn’t exploded in the exhibition games thus far and is bound to have one tonight if he desires to or if the coach allows him to play more. Love will be helpful on the boards for the team as he has shown during the past NBA season. Although only averaging more than half of his 2011-2012 NBA season rebound average, K-Love will get back in rhythm sometime and will dominate. Today is the day for K-Love to do that and show his true worth on the roster that has been struggling where he does best.

The Argentinian National Basketball Team will be a challenge for Team USA as it will show if they are fully prepared for tough Olympic teams come the 2012 London Olympics in a couple of days. Team USA and everyone else knows that #2 world ranked Spain is waiting for an exhibition game on July 24 (Tuesday) but Team USA’s focus should be on Argentina alone today.

Argentina vs USA tips-off today (July 22) at 3:30 PM ET and can be viewed on NBA TV.  

For more NBA/basketball analysis and opinions, check out Theon’s general NBA blog, THEONBA

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