Zach LaVine scores 15 as Team USA beats Argentina in exhibition play

The Bulls guard took the gravity out of Las Vegas when he exploded for a one-hand poster jam over an Argentine defender.
by Sam Smith
Remind Me Later

Body

Zach LaVine scored 15 points and had a Twitter-trending poster jam as Team USA defeated Argentina 108-80 for their first win in exhibition play. Olympic teammates Bradley Beal and Bam Adebayo offered praise for the Bulls guard.

English theorist John Staurt Mill's syllogism was one of the most famous:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore Socrates is mortal.

Shakespeare practices the device in his work Timon of Athens: All men are men that Timon has forgotten.
Flavius is a man.
Therefore Flavius is a man that Timon has forgotten.

And then there's USA Basketball:
USA Men's Olympic Basketball 2021 loses when Zach LaVine doesn't start.
Zach LaVine started for the first time Tuesday against Argentina.
Therefore USA Basketball didn't lose again.

Perhaps there were some other reasons for the 108-80 USA victory to make it 1-2 in exhibition play. Like the improved USA shooting, 51 percent overall and 45 percent on threes. The effort with their first rebounding advantage in the three games and swifter pace and ball movement, leading to 27 assists on 37 field goals and much less difficult shot attempts.

Though the highlight was supplied by the Bulls LaVine with a get-your-poster-here slam dunk and three-point play with 8:53 left in the game to give the USA an 86-62 lead. It was one of several highlight plays for the far more assertive LaVine, a play that not only energized his teammates but immediately was trending on Twitter.

"We've seen him do some crazy stuff," said Bradley Beal, who with Kevin Durant led the USA team in scoring with 17 points. "Obviously, we know his athletic ability. It doesn't surprise us. It definitely gave us a lift and a boost. Zach's talented. We know what he's capable of doing. We want him to stay aggressive and continue to be unselfish as he has been."

LaVine, Tuesday, got his first start with the USA team with Jayson Tatum sitting out with knee soreness. Coach Gregg Popovich said it was merely a continuation of playing various combinations. Though Durant, Beal and Damian Lillard continued to start as they have all three games and appear locked in as Olympic starters.

LaVine scored 15 points for his best game with USA Basketball. He also had five rebounds, three assists and a steal. He is tied for the team lead in steals and leads the team in steals per minute in the three games. He is fifth in scoring at 10 points per game and shooting 50 percent overall.

Lauri finishes and one

Whether it was because he started the game or because of the team's 0-2 start, LaVine seemed more comfortable and self assured in Tuesday's game. He had been mostly deferring in the first two games, facilitating on offense and mostly concentrating on defense.

He again initiated the team's offense in the backcourt, pushing the ball but with a faster USA offense. His steal led to an early score as the USA team quickly took a 15-4 and 24-12 lead and never trailed this time. LaVine had an early corner three in the run in shooting five of eight overall. The U.S. team led 33-19 after the first quarter and 58-42 at halftime.

LaVine had a running two-hand slam dunk late in the first half and in the third quarter connected with Adebayo full court for a score pushing the ball up court. Hey, did the Bulls finally find their point guard?

That's not believed to be the plan, although the USA team is relying on LaVine's primary ball handing. Durant, Lillard and Beal also have delivered the ball out of the backcourt.

Bradley Beal smiles and reacts to LaVine's ferocious poster dunk against Argentina

Bradley Beal smiles and reacts to LaVine's ferocious poster dunk against Argentina.

LaVine and Popovich have talked about LaVine's defensive effort for the team and there were some good moments. The USA defense relies on a lot of switching and late in the third quarter the Argentine team forced LaVine onto big players and got two scores. But when they tried it again, LaVine fronted the post entry to blow up the play and then forced a pass out with physical play and turnover.

LaVine's highlight play came when Argentina began pressuring in the backcourt. With Draymond Green navigating the ball forward, LaVine sliced toward the middle of the floor and got the pass. He dove hard down the lane on the right side and rose over Argentina's Juan Pablo Vaulet and with one hand sent the ball down the well of netting. LaVine lay on the court afterward signaling that he also was hit in the head. Or perhaps what was that guy thinking trying to stop that LaVine slam dunk?

"It deserves a 10," Adebayo said on the court in the post game TV interview. "We haven't had a body yet. It was good to finally get one. Glad it was Zach."

The U.S. team closes exhibition play with a rematch against Australia Friday and against highly regarded Spain Sunday before leaving for Tokyo.

It's a start.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Chicago Bulls. All opinions expressed by Sam Smith are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Chicago Bulls or its Basketball Operations staff, parent company, partners, or sponsors. His sources are not known to the Bulls and he has no special access to information beyond the access and privileges that go along with being an NBA accredited member of the media.

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