Argentina gave the U.S. all it could handle in the first half. Scoring 59 first half points and trailing by a mere point, Argentina dispelled the rumor that it has a weak bench. The rainbow-shooting center Leo Gutierrez nailed a couple of key threes in the opening half. Manu Ginobili passed well and scored effectively, ending with 16 points in 25 minutes. Luis Scola controlled the paint; he had 11 in only 18 minutes.
Tyson Chandler has had a subpar Olympics. Without him, the only basket protection the Americans have is Anthony Davis, who rarely plays. Foul trouble has plagued Chandler, but he's allowed too many easy buckets when he is on the floor. Defensive intensity as a whole was the issue for the Americans in the first half.
Andre Iguodala has had a strong Olympics in limited playing time. He's done a lot of the little things. At the end of the first quarter, he received a pass for a wide open corner three, but instead decided to defer to Kevin Durant, a better shooter, who promptly nailed the trey. However, indicative of the first half, Iguodala skied for a dunk that went through the net, hit him in the chest, and bounced back through the basket. It was deemed no score.
Argentina has experienced and steady guards, so the U.S. was reluctant to utilize its customary pressure defense in the first half. In their exhibition session, Argentina exploited the U.S.'s frantic defense. But point guard Pablo Prigioni sat out this game with kidney stones. Back up point guard Facundo Campazzo is capable, but doesn't have Prigioni's poise or experience. A subtle change was Chris Paul pushed up on Campazzo in the third quarter while his teammates remained conservative. It was the right tactical adjustment. Campazzo struggled to get into the offense in the third and the number of easy buckets for Argentina plummeted.
LeBron James took the game into his hands early in the third and Durant continued the onslaught. James finished with 19 points and 5 assists. Durant had 28 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field (8 for 10 from three point land). The combination of James's and Durant's offense with Paul's defense enabled the U.S. to take the third quarter by a 42-17 score. The game was effectively over.
Just before the buzzer sounded to signify the end of the third quarter, Carmelo Anthony rose to stroke in a three. Campazzo ran by and punched Anthony in the groin. The Americans were none too happy about Campazzo's cowardly act. Scola then marched over to the American bench and began woofing at the coaching staff. Perhaps, the Argentines were upset at the U.S. bench's enjoyment of their team's devastating third quarter. But that did not excuse Campazzo's cheap shot.
The U.S. kept it on the court. Russell Westbrook tied a couple of jet packs to his feet and flew in for a fourth quarter dunk. Curiously, he received a technical foul for staring down his opponent. Worse still, the officials had not penalized Campazzo for his dastardly deed.
I've been disappointed with Argentina in their two contests against the U.S. this summer. There might be a systematic problem with the team's competitive ethic and sense of sportsmanship. Campazzo was at the center of tension in their exhibition clash. He flopped into Paul, causing the referee to call a ridiculous technical foul on Paul. Andres Nocioni and Scola then took it upon themselves to start bumping chests with the Americans' two best players. Later in the game, Argentina was within four points and simply quit. Ginobili's constant flopping is in the same spirit as Scola thuggish mentality and Campazzo's disgraceful actions.
The U.S. had the last laugh with a 126-97 drubbing of Argentina. The Americans face Australia in the first game of the knockout round.