LeBron James lost Manu Ginobili in delayed transition after feeding Kevin Love for a Team USA layup, and the Golden Generation’s brightest star hit a three-pointer from the right wing as time expired in the first half, cutting the American lead to 47-40. That was a sign of things to come for Ginobili early in the third quarter, as he hit another three and made a layup plus the foul to cut the U.S. lead to five and put the outcome of this game in serious question.
Unfortunately for the underdog Argentineans, though, Team USA has multiple Manus, and they stepped up when it mattered most in a 109-83 win for the red, white, and blue. James, Kevin Durant, and later Carmelo Anthony led a dominant second half for the Americans that saw them run away from Argentina well before the fourth quarter clock struck all zeros. In the blink of an eye this one was a laugher, the U.S. moving on to face Spain on Sunday in a rematch of the 2008 gold medal game in Beijing.
A relatively close first half score not withstanding, this team was as engaged on both ends as we’ve seen all summer long, playing defense with re-found precision and intensity while maintaining explosive offensive exploits. Argentina – playing in what’s likely this group’s last Olympics together – was predictably competitive for as long as they could be, before Durant and James did what the world’s two best players have routinely done throughout their run on Team USA together. James’ exerted his typical all-around dominance while finding Durant for four third quarter three-pointers, pushing a five point lead to an insurmountable one of seventeen. By the time Anthony almost duplicated his record-setting performance against Nigeria in the fourth quarter by hitting four treys of his own, this game was all but over.
Durant led Team USA with 19 points, while Anthony and James followed with 18 apiece, the latter contributing a ho-hum seven rebounds and seven assists, too. Kobe Bryant continued his suddenly hot-shooting ways from the quarterfinals in the first half, amassing all 13 of his points before intermission. Ginobili paced Argentina with 18 points, and Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino each chipped in 15. Delfino was especially influential in keeping this one close, hitting several first-half three-pointers when it seemed the U.S. were on the verge of blowing the game wide open.
Team USA meets Spain, FIBA’s second ranked team in the world, for the gold medal on Sunday, while Argentina faces a surprising Russian squad that held an 11 point half-time lead over the Spaniards in today’s first semi-final for the bronze. Coverage of Team USA–Spain kicks off live on NBC Sunday morning at 10:00AM EST.