Team USA topped reigning Olympic champion Argentina 101-81 (recap/quotes) on Friday morning. That result, coupled with Spain's 91-86 win over Lithuania, sets up a Team USA versus Spain gold medal game on Sunday at 1:30 a.m. central time.
Five observations following the game:
- A 20-point win over the defending champs has largely been met with mixed reviews for Team USA. And that's a loud sign of wonderful progress made in a remarkably short time by the American team. The fact is, people are once again expecting not just wins, but thorough blowouts against even the strongest competition. So while the latest effort may not have satisfied critics, it satisfied the oddsmakers, who pegged Team USA as 19.5 point favorites. They won comfortably, just as expected. The fashion they did so was atypical, sure. A 19-point first quarter lead multiplied by four quarters calls for a 76-point final margin, but that's really not realistic, gang. We were destined for a letdown, you know. Let's just keep things in perspective. A 20-point win in a 40-minute game against one of the elite basketball-playing nations isn't the shabbiest result.
- In the middle of Argentina's nightmare first quarter, they lost Manu Ginobili to a left foot injury. He's absolutely the team's best player, and staying healthy would have benefited the Argentines, though they played admirably in his absence. Andres Nocioni wasn't at full-strength either. Team USA is fortunate to have flown free of the injury bug thus far. Then again, its depth would allow them to withstand an injury to Kobe Bryant and a hobbled Carmelo Anthony, I'm really quite confident. For Argentina, life isn't that easy. And that makes me comfortable from a Team USA perspective. Even more comfortable than the comfortable margin of victory this morning.
- Carmelo's a touch on the feisty side on this day, and there's not much wrong with that. I'm happy with Anthony living at the line, where he nailed all 13 free throws against Argentina. That perfection offset his 3-14 mark from the field, and kept him on the floor for all but 10 minutes of the game. Deemed as the team's most important player in previous competitions, he had been relatively quiet until this game.
- Without Ginobili on the court, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino were forced to carry a heavy load. The inside-outside duo attempted 39 of Argentina's 68 shots and scored 45 of the team's 81 points. That's more than half of each. Both had their moments too, particularly Scola, who looks primed and ready to rock it for the Rockets this season. He gave Team USA defenders fits, and finished with nifty numbers: 28 points and 11 boards along with a couple blocks and steals.
- He's Chris Bosh, vote him for top player of the tournament? Just another day at the Olympic office: 11 points, 10 rebounds, and 5-5 at the line in 20 minutes. The power forward is 23-29 (.793) from the field and 19/23 (.826) from the line. Yes, that's 82.6 % for the 6'10" power forward, if you're reading, Kobe (44.4 %), LeBron (50.0 %), and Wade (61.8 %).