Rematch with Spain in Gold-Medal Game up Next
Facing off on Friday against Argentina, the #3-ranked team in the world, the U.S. men’s basketball team looked in the first half as if it might not be able to take its foot off the gas.
I guess looks can be deceiving. What was a mere five-point lead at the end of the first was still single digits at the break, with the U.S. up 47-40; the third quarter, though, was all Red, White and Blue, as Kevin Durant caught fire and the Argentines’ gold-medal hopes went up in flames. The final period, meanwhile, was ‘Melo’s time—cue badly forced LeBron fourth quarter jokes here—as the unfortunate ‘Cuse grad was unconscious from deep, going 4-4 en route to 18 points on the night.
By the time the final whistle had blown, that paltry seven-point halftime lead had ballooned to 26. Those who didn’t catch the game and just see the 109-83 score might be surprised to know that this one was ever as close as it was. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the U.S. was legitimately threatened, mind you, but there was a time back in the first two quarters where you started to see how an upset could potentially have come to fruition.
Kobe came out of the gate continuing his form from the Americans’ romp over Australia, scoring the U.S.’s first five points and starting off 4-5 from the field, including 3-4 from three. Then he went cold, going without a bucket from the 5:48 mark of the first until there was 4:43 left in the second. A couple Carlos Delfino threes made it look as if the South Americans would be able to capitalize.
What’s so incredible about this United States team, though, is that when a player like (future first-ballot Hall-of-Famer) Kobe Bryant isn’t on, there are bound to be a couple of other guys that are. On Friday, it was LeBron and Kevin Love picking up the slack in the second, with Durant and Anthony doing their parts in the second half as we’ve said. In this tournament, evidently, that’s much more than enough to get the job done.
Oh, and by the way, Bryant, Durant and Anthony were for the most part terrible (and I mean cringe-worthy terrible) when they weren’t on their respective hot streaks. And yet it didn’t matter at all. Just think for a second about how insane that idea is: three of the world’s undisputed ten best players are nowhere to be found for long stretches in a game, and the result is a near-30-point win against a top international opponent.
If the USA could somehow get those three playing at their peaks at the same time as the ever-steady James (who finished with 18 on 8-12 shooting), we might have to call a new Geneva Convention. It would be that unfair.
Still, judging by this one, even if Mike Krzyzewski’s squad goes just one at a time, they just don’t look vulnerable. So I hope I don’t jink us here, but really: good luck, Spain.
You’re gonna need a whole lot of it.