As what most of us expected, Team USA was challenged by Argentina in an exhibition game at Madrid, Spain. Fortunately, for the Americans, they won the game 86-80.
Sporting the red,white, and blue jerseys of the 1992 USA Basketball Team a.k.a “The Dream Team” in respect to the USA Olympic basketball squad that won the gold medal in Madrid 20 years ago. Unlike the 1992 team, the 2012 USA Basketball team clawed their way out into a victory on an average Sunday night in Madrid. And they still have a bigger test in two days. With this performance, the Spanish National Basketball team looks like the favorites to win their exhibition game with Team USA this Tuesday.
After starting off the game with a 19-3 run, Team USA looked more than poised for another classic Team USA blowout, or better yet, since they were wearing the 1992 Dream Team’s jersey, a Dream Team blowout. However, just as what I’ve stated in my preview for this somewhat anticipated exhibition game before the 2012 London Olympics, Argentina is a team that knows how Team USA plays. They love to run you out of the gym and of course, make three pointers. As a result, Argentina came all the way back from a 1st half 20 point deficit to cut the lead to seven at end of the first half.
The three point line in FIBA/Olympic games are 22 feet and 2 inches while the NBA three point line, where all of the players of Team USA play in, is 23 feet and 9 inches. In this game, Team USA fell in love with the three point line and in some way was the reason for their nerves to shake as Argentina rallied back. On the other hand as well, it was the reason why they had the lead in the first place and the reason they would win the game at the end.
Instead of attacking the smaller (in height and size) Argentinians, Team USA decided to just jack up three pointers. With only LeBron James being the only solid post player on Team USA, it’s no wonder as to why Team USA would decide to shoot jump shots. However, LeBron James himself felt like joining the rest of the crew in shooting the long bomb. Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love are solid big men down low for rebounds and put back shots, but they don’t have the post moves a big man that Team USA clearly lacks. Now I’m not saying that three point shooting is bad, especially when you have players such as Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, and Carmelo Anthony, but all I’m saying is that there is an easier and smarter way to score. Especially when the game gets tight.
As the second half turned around, Team USA and Argentina were both answering each other’s baskets. As the fourth quarter turned around, Argentina found themselves only down 4 points after a Manu Ginobili three-point play with a few minutes left in the game and looked more than ready to take the lead from Team USA. Fortunately, the line that Team USA has fallen in love with throughout the game and their exhibition games, paid off. Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant and Los Angeles Clippers guard Chris Paul knocked down back-to-back three pointers which basically iced the game for the Americans. Lucky for Team USA, those shots went down.
The starting line-up for Team USA changed once again from the Great Britain exhibition game as the Coach K decided to start Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and Tyson Chandler. With that line-up Team USA is starting to show that Carmelo Anthony will be coming off the bench in the Olympic games. And so far it’s been great. Carmelo is still scoring and Team USA is still winning. Coach K also had a different approach to this game as some bench players for Team USA barely got some action on the floor. James Harden and rookie NBA forward Anthony Davis weren’t even able to play today. Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Andre Iguodala were used sparingly throughout the contest.
Consistency was a huge problem for Team USA throughout the game. Despite multiple runs and impressive shooting, Team USA still were not able to fully solve the Argentinians on both ends of the floor. Argentina as well had their fair share of falling in love with the three point line as that helped them stay alive throughout the game. San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili led the way for Argentina with 23 points. Phoenix Suns forward Luis Scola helped Argentina’s captain with 14 points while Milwaukee Bucks guard/forward Carlos Delfino poured in 15 points.
Kevin Durant led the way for Team USA with 27 points which included 7 three pointers. Yes 7 three pointers. Imagine how the rest of the players on Team USA made and most of all, attempted. Miami Heat forward LeBron James chipped in with 15 points and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant had 18 points to help Team USA to a victory.
Team USA will be staying in Madrid for the night and tomorrow as well as they will be taking on the #2 ranked Spanish team led by NBA forwards/centers Pau Gasol and his brother Marc Gasol on Tuesday (July 24).
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