Saturday, August 11, 2012

Team USA destroys Argentina 109-83; advances to Gold Medal Game

By Kshell

The United States once again for the third time in the past three weeks proved to be too much for Argentina. The Argentina team that defeated the United States back in 2004 lost twice in a span of four days to this current USA team. Team USA sent a message today that they have four guys capable of carrying them and all four took turns. In the first quarter it was Kobe Bryant dominating the game, in the second quarter Lebron James simply wouldn't allow Argentina to grab any momentum, in the third quarter Kevin Durant and James started to carry the team then in the fourth quarter Carmelo Anthony put on the finishing touches. The United States team after struggling with the three point shot in the first half shot 13-25(52.0%) from down town. In 2004 when the upset happened only one of the top 10 scorers was on the United States basketball team, while the top six scorers are on this current team. The Americans are now just one game away against Spain who they defeated for the Gold back in 2008 from repeating as Gold Medal champions.

The United States started the game off red hot led by Kobe Bryant as the U.S. took an 18-4 lead to start the game. Argentina immediately answered with a 13-1 run cutting the lead to 19-17 before the United States led 24-19 after the first quarter. Kobe Bryant scored 11 points drilling three three pointers while Luis Scola scored six for Argentina. In the second quarter the game went back and forth as the United States outscored Argentina 23-21 but Manu Ginobili hit a three pointer at the buzzer as the United States took a 47-40 lead at halftime. Lebron James scored nine points in the second quarter. For Argentina in the first half they shot 15-34(44.1%) from the field and 6-14(42.8%) from three point range. They were led by Scola who scored 10 points on 5-11 shooting. Carlos Delfino scored 13 points on four for nine shooting including three three pointers. While Ginobili scored eight points on three for seven shooting with two three pointers.

In the first half for the United States they shot great from the field making 20-38(52.6%) from the field but struggled from three point range making only 5-17(29.4%)  from the outside. They out-rebounded Argentina 23-12. At halftime they were led by Kobe Bryant who scored 13 points on five for eight shooting including three three pointers with three rebounds. Lebron James scored 11 points on five for six shooting with three rebounds and four assists. Kevin Love scored seven points on three for six shooting with four rebounds all four were offensive. Chris Paul scored three points making a three pointer but had four assists. The United States two big three point shooters Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony had made only one combined three pointer in the first half. In the second half though that would change as both finally woke up.

The lead cut down to 51-46 that is when Kevin Durant started to explode from down town. Then with the United States leading 56-46 after a missed three pointer Lebron James grabbed the rebound kicked it out to Carmelo Anthony who then passed to an open Durant for a three pointer. Later in the quarter Lebron James blew by everyone for a dunk and one giving the United States a 64-51 lead. In the third quarter the United States had outscored Argentina 27-17 to take a 74-57 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Durant scored 12 points in the quarter hitting four for six from three point range while James scored seven points with three rebounds and three assists. In the fourth quarter the United States blew the game open outscoring Argentina 35-26 led by Carmelo Anthony scoring 12 points on four three pointers as he finally caught fire. Anthony is now the career three point leader in U.S. Olympic history while Durant set the single tournament record for three pointers.

For the United States they finished the game shooting 43-81(53.0%) from the field and 18-42(42.8%) from three point range while winning the rebounding battle 46-29. The United States had five guys in double figures led by Kevin Durant who scored 19 points on 7-14 shooting including 5-10 from three point range. Lebron James scored 18 points on 8-12 shooting with seven rebounds and seven assists. Carmelo Anthony scored 18 points on 7-14 shoting including four for eight from three point range with six rebounds and three assists. Kobe Bryant scored all 13 points in the first half on 5-10 shooting with three three pointers. Chris Paul scored 10 points on three for four shooting including two three pointers and seven assists. Kevin Love provided a big spark in the first half finishing with nine points and nine rebounds including four offensive. Russell Westbrook who had to leave the game due to injury scored seven points on three for four shooting. Deron Williams scored six points hitting two three pointers with six assists. For the United States this was a total team effort as they are one game away from placing themselves up there with the 1992 Dream Team for the best ever. This team has so many weapons and during this game you had four different guys carry the team for a quarter. They blew out a good Argentina team by a combined 55 points during this week hitting 38 three pointers on them.

For Argentina it was an end of an era. They took 2nd in the 2002 World Games and then in 2004 upset the United States while taking home the gold medal. They were led by Manu Ginobili who scored 18 points on 7-15 shooting with three three pointers. Luis Scola scored 15 points on 7-15 shooting as well. Carlos Delfino scored 15 points on 5-12 shooting with three three pointers. Argentina was simply too old and more importantly not athletic enough to hang with the Americans. Due to his age and a possible rule change this was the last Olympics for the core players highlighted by those three I just mentioned. Ginobili and the rest of his team is why the United States decided no more just putting a team together and sending them over. Instead the United States has been building this team since 2006 where James, Anthony, Williams, and Paul have been playing since 2006. Kobe Bryant joined the team in 2007. Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook joined the team in 2010. The United States copied Argentina and sometimes you need to get punched in the mouth to become excellent again. For that all the Americans should thank Argentina for what they did to the U.S. back in 2002 and 2004.

For the United States the dream is about to become a reality as they are about to etch their name in history. I think if the United States wins the gold medal game in a blowout this team will be revered much like the 1992 Dream Team was. The United States is beating their opponents by an average of 35.7 points per game with only one game being within 25 points which was the scare against Lithuania where ever since James and Durant started to log more minutes along with Bryant. The 2008 team was cruising as well but the gold medal game against Spain got uncomfortably close which is why this team and not the 2008 team has a chance to be up there with the 1992 Dream Team. The competition in the world is a lot better today than it was back in the 1990's and for this team to be destroying their opponents especially a good Argentina team by an average of 27.5 points in one week is something special. For this team the goal is within sight finally all they need to do is finish the deal.


- Kobe Bryant came out looking like the old Kobe in the first quarter. He scored 11 points drilling three three pointers and made a great baseline move for the dunk which reminded everyone of his old self. There was no secret that Bryant was struggling during these games but he continued from where he left off against Australia which really set the tone for the game. Although he didn't score in the second half it didn't matter as the United States has so many weapons. What matter was the fact that Bryant for the second straight game showed he belongs on the court in crucial moments. During these Olympics now Bryant is averaging 11.4 PPG but only shooting 41.7% from the field. However he is making his three point shot making two full three's a game at 43.8% clip which is pretty impressive. As long as Bryant doesn't force his shots team USA will blow out Spain. I felt Bryant did a great job playing within the offense waiting for his open three point shots and drilling them.

- Kevin Durant struggled in the first half but erupted like he did last time these two teams played in the third quarter. He scored 12 of his 19 points in the third quarter just like four days ago he scored 17 of his 28 points in the third quarter. This game Durant made 5-10 from three point range as he set the single Olympic tournament record for 29 three pointers made. During these Olympics Durant is leading the team in scoring averaging 18.0 PPG and 5.3 RPG. He is shooting 49.4% from the field but making 4.1 three pointers per game at a ridiculous 55.8% clip. To have that much weight and to be shooting that well from three point range is ridiculous. The United States have Kobe Bryant and Lebron James on their team yet offensively the world probably fears Durant and Carmelo Anthony the most. The United States has never in their history had a team be this good from three point range. Durant has been automatic from three point range and as a Sonics fan it has been nice to finally get to root for Durant as he would be my favorite player of all-time had the team that was stolen from us stayed.

- Carmelo Anthony caught fire in the fourth quarter to score 18 points making four three points all in the fourth quarter. Anthony during his Olympic career has hit 37 three pointers which gives him the all-time lead although Durant only trails by eight. Anthony during these Olympics has been a terrific sixth man off the bench much like Dywane Wade was back in 2008. Anthony during these games is averaging 17.4 PPG in only 17.3 minutes per game. He is also averaging 4.7 RPG as he is shooting 55.8% from the field and has made 21 three pointers during these Olympics which is good for three a game at a 52.5% clip. The United States has two athletic wing players who are shooting above 50% from three point range who are making over three three pointers a game. Anthony is averaging 48.2 points per 48 minutes which nobody has done in the history of the NBA besides Wilt Chamberlain. Anthony without a doubt is playing the best ball of his career and is proving when surrounded with good players he can take over. His shooting has improved a lot over the years and he is just one of many players on this roster who is a nightmare match up for anyone trying to defend them.

- Whenever Argentina would cut the lead down in the second quarter Lebron James would take over with a bucket or two. Then in the third quarter to put the game away he scored seven points while dishing out three assists. For the game James finished with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists. For these Olympics James is averaging 12.4 PPG, 5.4 RPG and 5.9 APG. Even more incredible is the fact he is playing so efficient as he is shooting 60.0% from the field and has 41 assists to only seven turnovers which is a 5.9 assist to turnover ratio. James is filling up the stat sheet during these games especially in the elimination portion of the tournament. James with his excellent defense and all around play as the United States one game away from him completing the best season we've seen since Michael Jordan in 1992. James has a chance to win regular season MVP, NBA Finals MVP and win the Olympic Gold Medal. Only Jordan is the only player in the history of the game who can say that so it's fitting that James who is the closest to challenging Jordan's legacy as best ever will reach that point potentially. With the way James, Bryant, Durant and Anthony are all on the same page I don't see the gold medal game being close. The offense runs best when James is running the point forward so he can attack the rim or dish to an open Anthony, Bryant, Durant, Deron Williams or Chris Paul for an easy three pointer.

This team is on the verge of something special but will face an interesting challenge against Spain. Spain features both Gasol brothers plus Serge Ibaka(so yes if not for Howard Schultz we'd have four guys in the gold medal game) which is the best front court in the tournament. The United States is weak in the front court due to Tyson Chandler constantly being in foul trouble. On the other end though I don't see how Spain matches up with a United States team who is hitting 16 three pointers a game shooting at a 44.5% clip. The United States is outscoring their opponents by 24.9 points per game on just three pointers alone. Like Chris Paul said going into the tournament every game someone is going to be red hot you can't stop all of them. This team is very deep, they know their roles well, they can go on a huge run at any moment in the game quickly to put an opponent away. The United States in 2008 had redemption while this team is proving they are the kings of the world. They still have one more game against Spain but I feel like that is more of a championship celebration. This team has put in the hard work been together for a while which has been something special. I missed out on the 1992 Dream Team but I'm sure glad I haven't missed out on this 2012 edition of the Dream Team.

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