Team USA played another exhibition match in preparation for the Olympic Games today, this time against Argentina. It was the team’s fourth game and another opportunity to measure itself against the world’s competition. USA is currently ranked as the best squad in international play, whereas Argentina is just two slots down at number three.
Playing such a talented team like Argentina will only help USA prep for the actual games. USA will likely face Argentina down the road and seeing such serious competition this early will be very beneficial. This summer’s roster is filled with young players who have not played in the Olympics before, so hitting the court in a hostile environment will get them use to things to come.
Team USA had the perfect start to the game as everything fell for them in the early goings. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant started the game hot and their chemistry on the court was at a high. Both players were knocking down shots from behind the arc and gave the team a quick double-digit lead.
The starting lineup played extremely well and it was getting the shots it wanted. Open looks were plentiful and it seemed like every shot it took went in. However, once some of the starters subbed out, things went downhill for Team USA. The players continued to get nice looks at the basket, but their shots were not going in. To make matters worse, the USA players began to fall in love with the three-point shot and were not attacking the basket.
USA was not getting into its offense and the players were taking quick shots on nearly every possession. USA was leading by 20 points at one point in the first half, but Argentina headed into halftime on a 21-8 run to make it a 47-40 game. Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant led the team with 14 points each, but the rest of the players could not follow suit.
Team USA started the third quarter on a 7-0 run and it was clear it wanted to begin the half by sending a message. Once again it was Bryant and Durant who created the spark for the squad. Their hot shooting did not dwindle down and Argentina could not do anything to stop them.
As the quarter progressed, Team USA’s length caused distress for Argentina. USA was getting into the passing lanes and disrupting the opponent’s offense. Tyson Chandler continued to punish Argentina in the paint, and that helped Team USA go up 58-43. The squad was playing with the same level of intensity as it was in the first half, which allowed it to take complete control of momentum.
However, Argentina once again responded to USA’s large lead. It was getting into the fast break and created looks near the basket. Argentina has a team full of shooters and that allowed it to weather the storm extremely well. It looked like USA would enter the final period with a large lead, but with one quarter remaining, USA was up just 72-61.
USA had another hot start to the period and momentum was on its side. This time it was LeBron James who stepped up and added a much needed spark. James showed his athletic ability on several plays and his dunks gave USA a little cushion.
Not only was James scoring, but he was also finding his teammates open near the basket. James does so much more than just score and his passing skills are a great asset to the team. Still, Argentina never backed down and cut the lead down to ten, 78-68, with 4:58 to play.
USA’s offense became very stagnant in the final minutes of the fourth and that allowed Argentina to come within single digits. Argentina was knocking down its outside shots and it had a great chance to win the game towards the end. The pick-and-roll was very effective for Argentina and that allowed it to get shots in the paint.
However, at the end of the day Team USA just had too many stars. The entire lineup on the court had the ability to come up clutch and the opponent could not do very much to stop that. USA hit two huge threes in the final minutes which put away Argentina. Durant and Chris Paul knocked down the two long balls and that ended any chances of an upset.
As the final buzzer rang, Team USA walked away with a 86-80 win and stayed undefeated in exhibition play. Durant led USA with 27 points and Kobe Bryant put in 18.