TEAM USA OUSTS ARGENTINA
Team USA is a win away from gold.
After keeping Argentina at bay for much of Friday’s semifinal at the Summer Games, the United States used a flurry of 3-pointers to pull away in the second half and advance to the gold medal game with a 109-83 victory over their South American rival.
The United States (7-0) will look to complete their championship quest Sunday in a rematch of the 2008 gold medal game against Spain (5-2), the reigning FIBA EuroBasket Champion.
The semifinal round was the second meeting between Team USA and Argentina in the last five days, and much like their preliminary-round game Monday, the United States wore down the 2004 gold medalists with an overwhelming final 20 minutes.
Lebron James, who followed up Wednesday’s triple-double with 18 points, seven assists and seven rebounds, and Kevin Durant scored 19 combined points in the third quarter, including 15 from 3-point range. Carmelo Anthony added three consecutive baskets from behind the arc in a 42-second span in the fourth. Team USA, the top shooting team in the tournament, made 18 of its 42 3-pointers on the night.
“We have guys on this team that can get blistering hot,” said Kobe Bryant, who had 13 points in 19 minutes. “They get hot quick. Me, KD [Durant] and Melo [Anthony] knocked down two shots each and all of a sudden the floodgates opened. It feels like we can’t miss and it just seems like it happens instantaneously.”
Clippers superstar Chris Paul, as he has over the last four outings for Team USA, stamped his own imprint on the game. He canned his first shot, a corner 3-pointer off a whip-around pass from Bryant on the wing and later set-up Bryant for a three in the Laker guards’ 11-point opening quarter.
Paul finished with 10 points on 3-of-4 shooting with seven assists, four rebounds, and a steal. He manned the offense, played off the ball with Lebron James as the primary ball-handler and played a few minutes alongside fellow point guard Deron Williams, something that head coach Mike Krzyzewski has embraced throughout Paul’s two stints with Team USA.
“This team is a good example of [using players in multiple roles],” Krzyzewski said. “Lebron was the second big at one point today but he was guarding [Manu] Ginobili. You can use Deron and Chris together. You come up with some different lineups and because they are pretty strong they are able to handle the big guys.”
The United States rolled out to a 15-4 start Friday, forcing misses, scrambling for loose balls, and outrunning Argentina in the first four minutes. But Argentina responded with an 11-1 run to close within three.
That’s when Paul took control for a stretch in the second quarter, dishing assists on three straight possessions. He found Kevin Love for a dunk on a bounce pass after slicing through the lane from the left corner, dropped a second bounce pass to James for a layup, and scooped the ball to James for another hoop, again breaking down Argentina’s interior defense.
As much as Argentina tried to keep Friday’s semifinal matchup close, the United States seemingly had all the answers. Ginobili, who finished with a team-high 18 points, made a 3-pointer to make it 47-40 at the half and pulled Argentina to within four early in the third, but James, Durant, and Paul, among others, were overwhelming.
“We were getting deflections and steals and able to get some easy points,” Durant said. “When you have guys that can penetrate and pass the ball like we do, all you have to do is make shots.”
After the game, Krzyzewski talked about the matchup with Spain.
“I really haven’t watched them like I will tonight,” he said. “What I do know is that they have one of the type five players in the world on their team in Pau Gasol. I have watched a little bit of the game today and I thought [Jose] Calderon hit huge shots for them, just huge shots. Marc, [Serge] Ibaka, [Felipe] Reyes; those four guys really give them the best rotation of big guys in the tournament.
“They’re a team that definitely could beat us and we respect them and we will prepare really hard and hopefully have a really great game against them.”