Fast start, finish highlight Americans' 111-74 win over Argentina
POSTED: Jul 23, 2016 12:17 AM ET
LAS VEGAS — Kevin Durant scored 23 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 14 points and 15 rebounds, and Paul George added 18 off the bench as USA Basketball began its 2016 Olympic gold medal quest with a 111-74 exhibition victory over Argentina Friday night at T-Mobile Arena.
Playing together after just four days of practice, Team USA's greater challenges came more from communication and teamwork, less from the skill level of the Argentinians. But the NBA stars kept their turnovers to a reasonable number while pushing Argentina's attempts to the perimeter.
By halftime, the USA led 56-33, thanks largely to a 35-15 rebounding edge that produced second chances and defensive pressure that stymied Argentina's attack. Led by Carmelo Anthony's three steals and Cousin's two in the first 20 minutes, the NBA stars shook loose 14 turnovers and turned them into 25 points. All those offensive rebounds -- they grabbed 19 of their missed shots to Argentina's 14 defensive boards in the half -- showed up in a 19-2 advantage in second-chance points.
George, playing for USA Basketball for the first time since fracturing his right leg in an August 2014 intrasquad scrimmage, shot 6-for-9 with a pair of 3-pointers. Cousins had nine points and 10 rebounds in the half, while DeAndre Jordan maintained USA's inside advantage with six points and four boards.
Andres Nocioni scored eight points in the first half, and Manu Ginobili had six. Argentina was better from distance -- 6-for-14 on 3-pointers vs. 4-for-12 on 2-point field goals -- thanks to cleaner looks. In the paint, USA dominated in the half 34-6.
Taking better care of the ball in the third quarter -- just two turnovers -- Argentina stayed even with the Americans at 80-56. They got 22 shots, compared to 26 in the first half, and only allowed USA one offensive board.
The Americans got their swagger back in the fourth, though, outscoring Argentina 24-8 through the first six minutes of the quarter.
The game was the first of five that Team USA will play over the next 11 days before heading to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil for the 2016 Summer Olympics. The Americans will play the Chinese national team twice -- Sunday in Los Angeles and Tuesday in Oakland -- before traveling to Chicago and Houston for games against Venezuela and Nigeria, respectively.
Team USA will again face China in both teams' first game in Rio on Aug. 6 in the preliminary round.
Since drawing its roster from NBA players starting in 1992 with the legendary "Dream Team," USA Basketball squads have gone 48-1 in preliminary round play, with the only loss coming against Italy in 2004.