This was by far most challenging game for the US. But it didn't look like it would be that way from the beginning. The US led by 21 in the first quarter, the result of some good defense and great shooting by Kobe Bryant. When Ginobli went down with an ankle injury late in the 1st, I quickly declared the game over.
Not so fast. The 2nd quarter was all Argentina, the first time team US has really been outplayed over a period of time. Nocioni was able to come in and give them a boost of energy. He and Scola hit some big shots. The US became a jump-shooting, turnover machine. They also found themselves in foul trouble in the worst officiated FIBA game I have seen thus far. The lineup before halftime was Paul, Redd, Prince, Williams and Carmelo at center. With the lead cut to six, Melo was fouled (maybe) on a 3P attempt, and knocked down all three free throws. That is perhaps the story of the game. Carmelo Anthony did a great job defensively and was 13/13 from the line. He and Scola went at it a few times down low, including once when it looked as if Melo may have punched him.
The third quarter saw the US get back on track. Jason Kidd did an outstanding job running the offense and getting Dwight Howard involved for some easy buckets. The team defense also got back on track, and the margin going into the 4th was 14. Argentina made a few late pushes, but the US just wore them down for the rest of the game, coming away with a 20 pt. win.
This game was a struggle at times. LeBron had a rough game until the 4th, and D. Wade was a bit inconsistent. Kobe started great offensively, but faded. His defense was key, however. Carmelo's toughness down low and FT shooting made a huge difference in this game. He played some very valuable minutes.
After 7 turnovers in the first qtr, Argentina took care of the ball the rest of the way. The US had 15 turnovers, many of them LeBron's sloppiness. Despite the slop and poor shooting, the US did win the battle of the boards, which is what helped them win the game. Now, on to the final against Spain.
I am quite confident in this matchup. It was quite lopsided on Saturday, perhaps the best game the US played in the tournament. Spain plays more of an NBA style compared to the other teams here, and the US just matches up really well. I'm not sure if we will win by 40 again, but we should get the win and should get gold.