After seeing Team USA make a laughing stock of Argentina, usually one of their tougher, in their 126-97 win, completing the group stage with a perfect 5-0 record, it’s pretty safe to say that the 2012 version of the Dream Team, with LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony won’t have any more problems on their way to the gold medal.
The close win over Lithuania shook the right branches, and complacency isn’t something we’ll be seeing anymore from this team. It did struggle somewhat in the first half against a fired up Argentina team, but Manu Ginobili and his friends never make it easy for the Americans. The third quarter showed what Team USA is all about, taking care of business with a 42-17 run. Not a perfect team, but with just too much firepower to have anyone expose their weaknesses.
Who turned it up? Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Chris Paul. Argentina were physical, uber-physical, on purpose. That’s their way of getting into the heads of Team USA’s players. On talent alone, it’s impossible to thrive against a team too good and too athletic to handle when focused. They forgot about their tendency to get lazy on offense and throw three-pointers without justification; They forgot about the defense gambling.
They just resorted to incredible pressure on the ball, which didn’t give Argentina a chance to move it as well as the Lithuanians did a couple of days back, which led to easy basket after easy basket. Paul gave his best game of the tournament so far, while Andre Iguodala dominated on both ends of the court, as he should at this level. He’s probably the team’s best perimeter defender, and was absolutely astounding against Argentina.
What’s next? Brazil, or Argentina. Who? It doesn’t really matter. Both teams can give the United States some trouble in the paint with their size, but the moment Tyson Chandler comes off the floor they just look so much better. Again – too much versatility from the forwards, who can play as 5’s easily in this kind of competition makes them impossible to guard. As long as the focus is there, with the intent of playing quick, smart basketball without being tempted to settle for bad three-pointers, no one stands a chance.
Not Brazil with their centers, not Argentina with Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and their physical style; Not Russia, with Andrei Kirilineko and fantastic team play, orchestrated by their American coach or Spain, the most talented team out there, but just not good enough to handle LeBron, Durant and company, especially with the bad karma of losing on purpose to Brazil on their shoulders.
Is this the perfect team? No. But here’s a little secret – even the original dream team, with Michael Jordan, wasn’t perfect. It was just miles ahead of the competition. Just like this team is, and that’s all that matters.