Argentina Team USA’s Toughest Test?
If Argentina gives Team USA its toughest game in Group A of the Olympic tournament, as so many international basketball experts presumed at the start of these Games, Monday night’s farewell to pool play will be some show.
No opposing national team since the advent of the Dream Team in 1992 knows more about beating the United States than Argentina and its Manu Ginobili-led Golden Generation. As recently as July 22 in Barcelona, Los Albicelestes hacked away at a 20-point deficit in an exhibition game against Team USA and lost by a mere 86-80.
Yet it’s difficult to imagine Team USA letting the Argentines keep it that close after what happened at the Olympic Park Basketball Arena on Saturday afternoon. Little Lithuania didn’t just hang with the mighty Yanks but took multiple leads in the second half before finally succumbing to a 99-94 defeat. It was the narrowest Olympic victory for the Americans since a two-point escape against Lithuania and a young guard named Sarunas Jasikevicius in the 2000 semifinals in Sydney.
Argentina’s proud old guard of Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino thus have to know that they’ll be seeing a far more focused, aggressive and motivated pack of famous NBA peers after Saturday’s scare. Team USA finally made it back to the practice floor Sunday for the first time in nearly a week after sandwiching two off days around their historic 83-point trouncing of Nigeria that was another virtual day off, well aware that the benefits of taking an in-tournament break possibly contributed to their disappointing performance against the Lithuanians.