The US rode Kevin Durant's hot hand and an impressive second half showing to rout Argentina . The game was close at the half, with Argentina only trailing by 1, but the pace of the game and the lack of defense spelled doom for Argentina in the second half. Predictably enough, the US tightened the screws on defense and got out and ran in the 3rd quarter. Argentina couldn't keep up, and the Americans pulled away for a comfortable win that allows them to finish the group round undefeated. Team USA will go on to face Australia while Argentina will play Brazil in the quarter finals.Argentina came into this game with a mathematical possibility of finishing 1st in the group, provided they beat the US by 17 points. A win by less would give them the 2nd place and a date with Spain in the knock out round. A loss would put them in Brazil's path. There was no reason to believe Argentina could actually beat the US, much less by 17, and the game showed why: Argentina has trouble rebounding on defense and depends on solid perimeter defense that is not always there to stop penetrating wings from scoring easily inside. The zone defense, while improved from the preparation stage, still isn't more than a change of pace option, and on offense, the team is completely dependant on Scola and Ginobili.
By now you know Team USA's flaws. They can get over confident, not try hard on defense, and fall in love with the 3 on offense. If a team slows down the pace, the half court offense suffers. All of that, except for the half court offense not working, happened in the 1st half. The US kept chucking away and only great performances from deep by Chris Paul and Kevin Durant kept the team afloat. A dominant performance from Manu Ginobili (16 points, all in the 1st half) made the game too close for comfort, even after Argentina went deep into its bench in the 2nd quarter. But it proved impossible for the South America powerhouse to keep up with Team USA's scoring.
The 3rd quarter saw a more focused Team USA ready to blow the game open. On the first offensive trip, the ball went to Lebron James on the post, which showed that Krzyzewski wanted his team to play smart instead of just launching contested outside shots. The defense started pressuring Argentina, who simply couldn't get easy shots, and the long rebounds and turnovers fuled the American fast break. Especially lethal was Durant, who went 8-10 from deep and wrecked havoc on the secondary break. Ginobili and Scola couldn't get it going and, after some unlucky bounces, Argentina found itself down by 20. The US would cruise to a victory and a perfect record in the group stage.
The quarter final match-ups have been finalized and are as follows:
USA vs. Australia
Brazil vs. Argentina
Russia vs. Lithuania
Spain vs. France
Except from the almost certain US victory over Australia, there's room for upsets in the rest of the games. Argentina recently beat Brazil in FIBA Americas play and could do it again. Both teams have important players slowed down by injuries (plantar fasciitis for Nene, kidney stones for Prigioni), but they are both expected to play. Brazil has a clear edge inside, while Argentina, with Ginobili leading the way, has the better wings. My (admittedly biased) prediction is Argentina beats Brazil in a close game.
Lithuania vs. Russia is a very interesting match-up. Both teams qualified for the Olympics late during the qualifiers held in Venezuela on July. Russia has clearly played better so far, but Lithuania has the players to give Kirilenko and friends some problems. The Russian defense would have to be at its best to counter Lithuania's offense, and Kirilenko and Shved have to win their match-ups against Kleiza and Jasaitis. My prediction is Russia pulls away in the 3rd quarter and wins by a double-digit margin.
Spain and France is clearly the best match of the quarter finals. NBA players galore in this rematch of the Eurobasket final, which Spain won 98 - 85. For France to have a shot, Tony Parker has to lead them to the win with help from the consistent Nic Batum. France has the defensive players to bother the beautiful Spanish passing, and the big bodies to make the Gasols uncomfortable. My bold prediction is that France upsets Spain in a close game and moves on to face Russia in the semis