As the clock ticked down toward halftime, Facundo Campazzo, infamous for his cheap shot to Carmelo Anthony’s groin area in group play, weaved his way through American defenders. He managed to sneak a pass to teammate Manu Ginobilli, left unguarded, who made a leaning 3-point shot to pull Argentina within seven as the buzzer sounded. It seemed to be the type of play that would have inspired the country’s most hallowed basketball quintet to push the U.S. to the brink.
The problem, however, is that no amount of inspiration can overcome Team USA's overwhelming collection of talent. Led once again by the brilliance of LeBron James, the Americans kept the Argentinians at arm's length for two and a half quarters before an effortless run turned a semi-competitive game into a total blowout. Anthony led the surge with yet another incredible scoring burst (18 points in 22 minutes), highlighted by three consecutive 3-pointers early in the fourth quarter.
At that point the rout was on and the Golden Generation's attempt to build on their incredible legacy was left in ruins by the unstoppable force that is Team USA.
In a word - everything. The U.S. controlled every facet of this game. They shot well (53.1 percent from the field, including 42.9 percent from 3), they moved the ball (25 assists) and completely crushed Argentina on the glass (40-23 rebounding edge).
From an individual standpoint, James was again outstanding. Anthony and Kevin Durant put on a shooting clinic while Kevin Love wrecked the Argentina front line with his insatiable desire to gobble up missed shots. With efforts like that, there was simply no way the U.S. was going to be beaten.
If forced to pick something, the pick-and-roll coverage was again slightly problematic. Team USA had their issues primarily when the crafty duo of Ginobili and Luis Scola ran this action in the middle of the floor. Outside of that, it’s extreme nit-picking to find flaws in Friday’s performance.
The gold medal game is finally upon us. On Sunday morning (10 A.M. ET), Spain gets another crack at Team USA in a rematch of the exciting 2008 final in Beijing. If they can follow up on a dominant second half against Russia, Spain has a chance to make this one interesting.
Marc and Pau Gasol have been great all tournament (as has the Spanish defense), but they won’t be able to carry the load alone. The Spaniards will need their guard quintet of Jose Calderon, Juan Carlos Navarro, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez to come through with clutch efforts and lights-out shooting if they hope to pull off an upset. However, with the way Team USA is playing, Spain keeping this game within 20 points will be an impressive feat in its own right.