Team USA Dominates in the Argentine Tango

DeMarcus Cousins; Credit -  Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

DeMarcus Cousins; Credit – Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

By Ashley Douglas,

To say that Team USA has not lived up to expectations this Olympic season is an understatement. In years past, USA has dominated every country in Men’s Basketball and when compared to the Dream Team, this year’s Olympic lineup is a far cry from what they used to be.

It all boils down to a couple of key things. First, Team USA needs a leader. They need a playmaker who will control the offense and set up plays for the group to execute. Kyrie Irving is a phenomenal scoring guard, but he’s not the guy who will lead a team to victory. Kyle Lowry also lacks in the areas of playmaking and offensive control. It’s safe to say that Coach K’s team is really missing Chris Paul this year. Paul has the expertise to play against these foreign teams, but he’s also the guy who you will see leading the offense and setting up plays to execute each possession. Second, Team USA simply hasn’t had enough time together to develop the defense that is needed to beat the foreign offenses that have been playing together for a long time. They aren’t completely jiving on D and have left themselves open to the scoring efficiency of our international opponents. Team USA is truly a great offensive team this year, but to date they are the worst defensive team we have had in the Olympic Games.

USA has all the talent, but has very little chemistry needed to dominate as everyone expected them to. Coming up against Argentina, it appeared that USA had their work cut out for them. NBA giant Manu Ginobili played his last Olympic season this year in Rio, and was looking to close out his career with a medal. Coming off some very poor performances, USA would need to dig deep to find their will to win this matchup to move on to tougher teams.

At first, Team USA’s poor performance seemed as though it would continue in today’s game. It was a slow start for the stars & stripes as they caught up to take the lead just barely at the very end of the 1st quarter. They missed many opportunities to put some space between them and their opponent, and allowed the Argentinians to gain the confidence they needed to take the lead. USA had to fight for their 25-21 scoring lead in Q1, opening the 2nd with only a slight margin over Argentina. As I mentioned, defense has been a major problem for the United States seeing all but 2 successful shots by Argentina coming from inside the paint.

USA flipped a switch, and came into the 2nd quarter ready to take care of business gaining an early lead over Argentina by as much as 15 points at the 8 minute mark. A couple of turnovers by Argentina as well as some key steals from the hometown heroes put the United States in a position to capitalize on scoring and set Team Argentina’s teeth on edge. Argentina’s weaknesses in the form of being undersized and older got the best of them against the youthful United States lineup seeing Team USA go on a 27-5 scoring run. Kevin Durant made some very key offensive contributions in the 2nd putting the United States up by as much as 25, ending the half with a 16 point lead. Our boys shot 50% from the field, but they still tended to rely too much on their talent which is a result, once again, of the limited time they had together coming into the games in Rio.

Entering the 3rd, Argentina would need to quit playing one on one defense against the United States. Given the size and skill level of Team USA, no team will have a chance against this team if they play one on one D. Carmelo Anthony came into the 3rd with some enthusiasm for Team USA contributing to a 31-21 scoring lead for the good guys. Multiple cheap shot offender Campazzo took yet another shot at Kyrie Irving this year which got mild mannered DeAndre Jordan fired up at the unnecessary offense. Argentina warmed up at the three point line, but it just wasn’t enough for the fierce offensive prowess of United States ending Q3 with USA up 87-61.

At the start of the 4th, the United States’ bench was out scoring Argentina’s bench 40-9. The difference in each team’s depth was glaring. The United States is incredibly versatile and the amount of combinations Coach K has to work with on offense is pretty tough to beat. Our boys slowed down a bit in Q4 outscoring Argentina by only 1 point 18-17. However, Argentinian fans did not lose enthusiasm for their home team standing the entire 4th quarter in support of their team in belief that they could pull off a win. Rally towels swinging, they backed their country to the very end. The United States finished the game with a 105-78 win sending Argentina away from the Olympic tournament. Ginobili shook hands with his opponents and then embraced his teammates with tears in his eyes knowing that his final Olympic game had just been played.

Post-game, Kevin Durant said the difference in tonight’s outcome was that Team USA played with passion and energy. He explained that they finally got a wake-up call that this tournament wouldn’t be as easy as they thought. Durant led the way for the Unites States, contributing 27 points to the win followed by Paul George with 17 and DeMarcus Cousins with 15. I will say I am impressed to see Anthony’s ball movement improve even though it took a dent out of his numbers. We only saw 7 points from the notorious ball hog!

For Team Argentina, Ginobili and Scola just couldn’t get things going tonight. Ginobili only contributed 14 points to the team’s loss, and Scola was able to tally only 15. I will, however, commend their team’s excellent ball movement as 4 of their starting 5 scored in double digits. This type of ball movement usually results in a win, but one on one defense against the United States combined with lack of size and older age sank the Argentinian team in this game.

Team USA got a bit of a break today, and they’re moving on, but they will definitely need to make some changes as they move forward. First, they need to focus on better ball movement because 3-4 passes usually produces easy buckets for them. They might get away with playing one on one against aging Argentina whose tallest player is only about 6’8”, but they won’t be able to be successful taking that approach with the younger, taller, and more highly skilled teams they will face in rounds to come. They take on Spain Friday who boasts a lineup of 7 NBA players so Coach K and his staff will need to think fast on how to get our guys to play better defense and rely on each other as a team.

Overall the United States should be happy with their performance in today’s game, and hopefully they will have more confidence as they prepare for Friday’s matchup which will be tough to win. If anyone can bring this team together, it is certainly Coach K so you can expect to see some tricks up his sleeve in rounds to come. Go Team USA!

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