The United States will take on Argentina today in the semifinal of the medal round at 4 p.m. EST. This will be the third time Team USA has played Argentina in the past few weeks with the U.S. beating them twice already.
The U.S. most recently beat Argentina 119-86 in the final game of pool play. In that game, Team USA led just 60-59 at halftime before putting together an incredible third quarter as they pulled away for the blowout win.
Argentina is still fully capable of beating the U.S. though. Argentina got past Brazil 82-77 in the quarterfinal behind 17 points from Luis Scola and 16 from Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino.
Those three players will have to be big again against the U.S. if Argentina has plans to upset Team USA. Ginobili led Argentina with 16 points the last time they played the U.S. with 14 of those points coming in the first half.
Scola played just 18 minutes vs. the U.S. in that game and had 11 points. Delfino had 13 and was 2-of-7 shooting from three while Andres Nocioni had 12 and made 2-of-4 threes.
Argentina went 10-for-26 from three in that game and will have to do better today. The U.S. led by Kevin Durant’s eight threes, hit 20-of-39 in that game.
The case can be made that Argentina wouldn’t have benefitted from beating Team USA on that day and, as international teams often think, would rather save themselves to try and beat the U.S. in the game that matters today.
We can expect a spirited effort from Argentina in this one as they should play more of a complete game, unless the U.S. goes into that unbeatable mode they’ve shown a few times in these Olympics.
The game should be a chippy one as well. Argentina always seems to get under the skin of the U.S. and did again in the last game in particular when Facundo Campazzo gave Carmelo Anthony a little tap below the belt on his way down after shooting a three to end the third quarter.
Pablo Prigioni, Argentina’s starting point guard, did not play in the last game vs. Team USA either and will surely make a big difference for them today. Prigioni was instrumental in Argentina’s win over Brazil leading the team with six assists.
Durant emerged as the unfair player to contend with for Argentina in the last game scoring 28 points and making eight threes. We have seen multiple players step up in that role for the U.S. in these Olympics, whether it’s Durant, Anthony, LeBron James or Kobe Bryant, who made six threes in Team USA’s quarterfinal win over Australia.
Team USA’s reliance on the 3-point shot is one of the things that could lead to their downfall in this tournament. They are attempting 35.7 threes per game and making .449 percent of them but if they fall to a realistic percentage under 40, they could be vulnerable to being upset.
The U.S.’s continued struggling interior defense could also be an issue today, especially dealing with Scola who is averaging 19.7 points per game in the Olympics to lead Argentina. Team USA has been better lately with their defensive intensity and LeBron and Durant have been decent containing other teams’ bigs but Scola will again be a big challenge today.
The U.S. will be favored today and rightfully so. They have shown throughout these Olympics that despite some of their flaws, they are talented enough to beat anyone at any time. Their familiarity with Argentina should benefit the U.S. too as the element of surprise in a 40-minute game can sometimes be a big factor contributing to an upset.
The other semifinal game today will be between Russia and Spain at noon EST.