For awhile there, Team USA had us worried.
In the end, however, they showed us why they’re the favorites to win yet another Gold Medal with a huge second half en route to a 126-97 victory over a scrappy Argentina team.
Kevin Durant led the way with 28 points, including 8-of-10 shooting from beyond the arc. He hit a slew of three-pointers in the third, helping to push a one-point halftime lead to 26 heading into the fourth. Durant hit jumper-after-jumper, including an insane jumper that was taken closer to half-court than the international three-point line.
LeBron James contributed 18 points, five assists and three rebounds, before sitting out the end of the third and the entire fourth with foul trouble. Chris Paul had 17 points on 5-of-6 shooting from deep, while Kevin Love and Andre Iguodala each chipped in 13 points.
The Americans looked as if they hadn’t learned anything from their previous matchup with Argentina in the exhibition games when they only pulled out an 86-80 victory. Argentina scored 59 first-half points at a high shooting-percentage thanks to hitting open three-pointers, using crisp passing to work it inside and thriving at the foul line.
Then the United States clamped down, and it was all over from there. Led by James opening up the period with nine consecutive points, the Americans began to score at a higher rate and their defense absolutely locked down on an Argentinian team that couldn’t miss in the previous 20 minutes.
Durant would take over with his incredible shooting ability, leading the Americans to an incredible 42-17 advantage in the third quarter. The team looked more like the squad that annihilated the Nigerians, as opposed to the team that struggled against Lithuania for a full 40 minutes.
Oh, and Russell Westbrook did this.
Before the blowout ensued, there was a tense moment between both squads. Following a Carmelo Anthony three-pointer to end the third quarter, he went down in a heap as a result of Argentine point guard Facundo Campazzon throwing a shot into ‘Melo’s groin. The two teams would exchange barbs–even Luis Scola and Coach K got into it–and all would restore to order.
Perhaps the Argentinians were a bit frustrated? It’s perfectly natural to get that frustrated after an awful third quarter where the opponent absolutely devastated them on both ends of the floor.
It’s so awesome to know that these two could play each other two games from now. Tournament play begins Wednesday with the United States taking on Australia and Argentina taking on Brazil. If the United States and Argentina win, they’ll face off with each other in the semifinals.
The Americans forced the issue inside more in the second half, but was still incredibly reliant on the three-point shot. This time around, however, the Americans thrived from beyond the arc shooting 20-of-40. Argentina–a great shooting team–could only muster 10-of-26 shooting from beyond the arc.
Manu Ginobili led the way for Argentina with 16 points, six rebounds and six assists, but only took seven shots. He did make all seven of his free throw attempts, however. Argentina was also supported through Carlos Delfino’s 13 points, and Andres Nocioni and Juan Gutierrez each contributing 12. Luis Scola finished with only 11 points and three rebounds.
Argentina managed to shoot 51 percent against America, but took 18 fewer shot-attempts thanks in part to the Americans winning the rebounding battle 46-28, including 19 offensive rebounds, and forcing 16 turnovers.
The United States had 11 steals; Argentina had two. That essentially told the story of the entire game.