Three thoughts on U.S.-Argentina
LeBron James and Kevin Durant shined in the third as the U.S. downed Argentina
Though the second half was great for the U.S., the first-half defense was poor
The Americans need to find a way to succeed with their big men on the bench
LONDON -- Three throughts from the U.S's 126-97 win over Argentina.
1. Here comes LeBron James, here comes Kevin Durant. After the U.S. stumbled in the first half (more on that below), they showed every team in the medal round what they should be scared of, outscoring Argentina 66-38 (which could have been more) and turning a one-point halftime lead into a 29-point rout. This one was all James and Durant, who put on an offensive clinic in the third quarter. James set the tone, posting up twice to open the second half, attacking the rim for nine quick points that swelled the lead to double digits. Then Durant, the NBA's three-time scoring champion, took over. Playing pop-a-shot behind the international three-point line, Durant knocked down five of his six threes in the third, when the U.S. outscored Argentina 42-17. The second-half surge took Argentina completely out of its game; the disciplined offense devolved into a bunch of let's-catch-up jump shots as the U.S. built an insurmountable lead.
2. The defensive woes continue. The USA's second half was great. The first? Not so much. Argentina with a disciplined, second and third option offense consistently created open looks, shooting 56 percent in the first 20 minutes. The U.S. is phenomenal at individual defense, as well as playing the passing lanes -- the team averaged an Olympic best 11.8 steals per game coming in, and picked up 11 more against Argentina -- but when forced to defend screens and back cuts, they get in trouble. When the Americans put up 66-point second halves like they did on Monday, it doesn't matter. But if the shooting goes cold, like it did against Lithuania, the games in the medal round - -which begin Wednesday, against Australia -- will get tight.
3. Small ball still sloppy. It's not like the U.S. wants to play center-less. But when Tyson Chandler gets into foul trouble -- as he did in the first half on Monday -- the U.S has still not settled on a rotation to replace him. Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Love both logged sporadic minutes at the pivot against Argentina, but neither were especially effective in the first half. Granted, when you hang 126 points on an opponent, it rarely matters. But with some muscular front lines looming and Chandler having as many problems with FIBA referees as Tim Duncan once did, it's a legitimate cause for concern.