By Evan Roessle, Guest Writer
Was this to be a repeat of the 2004 Olympics in Athens? Team USA began that Gold medal game vs. an Argentinean team led by Manu Ginobilli. The US team’s inability to knock down three point field goals was evident as they lost 98-90, but what was more disturbing was the seeming lack of heart and the inability of the US to perform as a team.
Ginobilli scored 29 points, dominating the game with his effective three point shooting. Fabricio Oberto, Andres Nocioni, and Carlos Del Fino rounded out the field for Argentina, beating Team USA. The defeated US team was led by led by Tim Duncan, Allen Iverson, and Kobe Bryant who were never able to become comfortable with one another.
This year, the team has been constructed differently, requiring players to commit three off seasons to Team USA. This has allowed Lebron James, Dwayne Wade, and Carmelo Anthony to gel, and become comfortable playing as a cohesive team.
As the game began, Team USA ran up a huge early lead, going up 21-4 in the first quarter. Argentina was playing their game from there and began to chip away, cutting the lead to nine by half time, but Manu Ginobilli, Argentina’s most important player had been lost to an ankle injury. Typically this would indicate a blow out by Team USA in the second half.
Luis Scola and Carlos Del Fino of Argentina took up the slack. Scola dominated down low, using his slick back-to-the-basket moves to score 28 points while Del Fino continued his hot shooting from outside, scoring 17 pts.
On the US side, Carmelo Anthony was the catalyst, scoring 21 points and converting all 13 of his free throw attempts. Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard combined for 20 rebounds, solidifying the low post defensively.
Howard also had two blocks contributing to strong defense throughout the game. After winning easily once again, 101 to 81, Team USA will face Spain in the Gold medal game. This will be a rematch of the group level game where Team USA disposed of Spain like a used Kleenex, embarrassing them by nearly 40 points.
If the United States can win they will return to the Gold Medal status they demonstrated in the Sidney games in 2000. People forget, the US only had one bad game in 2004 despite not playing up to their capabilities, and still made the Gold round. This year, the team is vastly improved and looks unbeatable.
Spain is likely to have learned from their earlier whooping. Expect them to come out playing tenacious defense and sinking 3s. If they can get by their desire to be Chinese, they could work the US Team and play them tight, but if they run around pulling the skin around their eyes into an oriental shape, they may find it difficult to hold onto the ball.