LONDON — After this game between the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team and Argentina, the final game of pool play for everyone in this Olympic competition, we are saying goodbye to the venue so many of us have called home since the Games began.
As much fun as we’ve had in and around the Olympic Basketball Arena, the building dubbed the “Big White Marshmallow” by some locals, the grown man stage of this tournament will take place at North Greenwich Arena. U.S. point guard Deron Williams knows the place well, having played two games there with the Nets in March 2011 when he first joined the New Jersey (and now Brooklyn) Nets.
But before we go, we’re going to find out if U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski knows his team as well as he does. He insists that their somewhat uncharacteristic performance against Lithuania Saturday night was an aberration, a temporary departure from the Olympic script for his team.
They can play better, they can play harder and they can defend the pick and roll. He says they can certainly much better than they did Saturday night. We’re assuming he meant they could do all of those things by tonight, because the world is watching now to see if the U.S. really is vulnerable as they seemed, at times, during that 99-94 win over Lithuania.
You better believe Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and the rest of this confident Argentina team are going to test the U.S. and see if they have indeed learned their lessons.
We’re going play-by-play (as best these typing fingers will allow) from right here at the BWM throughout, knowing full well that the quarterfinal matchups are all but set and that the U.S. will see Australia next (Patty Mills made the Horry Scale, in case you missed it), and a potential semifinal date against either Spain or Brazil (they are in the final two minutes … UPDATE, Brazil wins 88-82 to finish second in the group while Spain finishes third).
But we’ll get to the future in due time. The U.S. and Argentina have business to tend to first …
— FOURTH QUARTER —
0.0: Harden drains a 3 at the buzzer. 126-97. Rout City. Argentina quit at the end of the third.
4:25: CP3 puts on a 16-second dribbling clinic and then drains a deep 3 in Gutierrez’s face for a 116-89 lead. These last four-plus minutes are about not letting anyone get hurt doing anything silly and making sure you walk out of here without anyone swinging on anyone else.
5:56: Harden scores on a layup produced from a fast break started by a Davis block. 111-85.
6:24: Davis gets on the board with a baseline layup. 109-85.
6:44: Durant took the fight out of Argentina. Manu and Scola are on the bench. Not sure they’ll even bother coming back. Didn’t like the way Argentina tried to turn up the physical nature of the game and then when the U.S. responded they started crying. This is how they wanted it and it backfired tonight.
7:32: Anthony Davis checks in, taking Kevin Love’s place and they throw him an oop immediately. 107-83.
8:41: “USA” chants kick up after Westbrook is called for a technical foul for glaring at J.P. Gutierrez after a dunk. Not sure why you’d call a technical foul for that and not half the stuff we saw in the third quarter.
9:42: D. Will doesn’t waste any time lining up another 3. 105-76. This is getting silly. And Argentina seems like the rattled bunch.
— THIRD QUARTER —
0.0: Melo drains a 3 in transition at the buzzer for a 102-76 lead. Took a shot from someone at the end of the play. Entire U.S. bench gets up and Argentina players ready for some yapping, too. Technical fouls called on players from each team but we’re not sure who. Argentina just got bitten by the Durantula folks. He scored 17 points in the third to blow this game open.
29.7: Love at the line, makes one of two.
1:25: Durant finally misses a 3, after a kickout from a Love missed free throw, but Love finishes it off with a dunk. 96-74.
1:51: Durant with a 3 from damn near half court … seriously, he was almost to half court. 93-74. Ludacris in the crowd draped in a U.S. flag. 93-74 U.S. and Argentina is getting a bit frustrated at the way they are getting shot out of here right now. Scola and Melo trading elbows and it’s getting nasty under the rim.
2:19: Durant for 3. He can go off in ways that no other player on the planet can. 90-74.
2:43: Love with the tip in of a D. Will miss. 87-74.
3:02: Scola goes coast to coast for a layup. 85-74.
3:16: Nocioni for 3. 85-71.
4:23: LeBron gets the block on Scola at the rim and is called for the foul. He did the Usain Bolt up the sideline and to the bench where he takes a seat and tucks his mouthpiece into his compression shorts. Work has been done.
4:34: Durant for 3 … again. 85-68.
5:01: Durant for 3. 82-68. Bench rises in unison as he rises for rises for the shot. U.S. is cranked up right now. Showing off what they can do.
5:24: Manu with a classic flop.
5:28: Scola with a layup. 79-68.
5:34: Lots of flopping, shoving, pushing and complaining going on both ways. The officials better get control of this thing.
5:51: Two free throws for Kobe. 79-66.
6:13: Durant gets the steal and starts the break and LeBron finds him for the finish and dunk. 77-66. Loving the LeBron on Manu defensive assignment from Coach K. Makes things much tougher on Manu.
6:33: LeBron takes a rebound of another Kobe missed 3 from Nocioni and Delfino and lays it in for a 75-66 U.S. lead.
6:45: Nocioni scores on another runner. He’s cranking it up a bit. And with LeBron going at him on the other end, he better. 73-66 U.S.
7:03: Chandler gets the putback and foul on a LeBron drive and miss. 73-64 U.S.
7:22: Scola layup. 70-64.
7:47: Durant corner 3 from CP#. 70-62.
8:26: LeBron for the layup. 67-62.
8:48: LeBron goes back to the turnaround jumper but misses. Chandler keeps it alive. Ball swings to LeBron for the corner 3. 65-62.
9:24: Nocioni answers with a deep 3. 62-62.
9;41: The U.S. goes right to Lebron for a back down and turnaround jumper over Nocioni. 62-59.
— HALFTIME —
Kobe shooting 3-for-9 at the break and struggling to keep his feet on defense several times. Look for him to play with a bit of an edge in the next 20 minutes. CP3 has been remarkable — 14 points on 5-for-6 shooting, including a 4-for-5 effort from deep, three rebounds and two steals and running the show. Love was great off the bench with seven point and five rebounds.
Emanuel Ginobili (gov’t name) has been his usual stellar self. Made all seven of his free throws, and has four rebounds and three assists to go along with his team-high 16 points. Leonardo Gutierrez has been the man, though, stroking three of his shots from long-range and exposing the U.S.’s penchant for giving up on their defensive rotations. Give a big man an open 3 in international ball and he’ll make you pay for it.
The U.S. has their hands full tonight, as expected, against a good and motivated Argentina team that is playing without its usual point guard. For anyone that wanted to see the U.S. tested after that record-setting mauling of Nigeria … well, they are being tested in every way imaginable.
You have to wonder what the U.S. would look like if they played under more control and limited the number of 3-pointers they take (9-for-22 in the first 20 minutes) … probably a lot like Argentina did in the first half, but with even better athletes.
— SECOND QUARTER —
0.3: Manu drains two free throws. 60-59 U.S. LeBron picked up his second foul on the play. Picked up both of his fouls in the final 45 seconds of the half.
3.9: LeBron scores on a sweet feed from CP3. 60-57.
32.3: Love with a layup. 58-57 U.S.
45: J.P. Gutierrez sinks two free throws. 57-56 Argentina. Great game.
59: LeBron makes up for it with a drive and finish. 56-55 U.S.
1:15: LeBron goaltends Delfino’s layup. 55-54 Argentina.
1:37: Manu for 3. 54-53 U.S.
1:52: Kobe with a layup off a feed from LeBron. 54-50
2:23: Delfino with a corner jumper. 52-50.
2:41: CP3 pulls up for the stop and pop 3-pointer. He’s been the most unstoppable force on the floor for the U.S. 52-48. The U.S. is one of the few teams here that doesn’t play exclusively through their point guard. But when they do, you see how devastating Paul can be. He can shoot, direct, defend and he’s got a nasty streak, too.
3:00: CP3 with the long rebound and coast to coast for the layup. 49-48.
3:37: Sweet feed from Manu to Juan Gutierrez who cashes in on the old fashioned 3-point play. 48-47 Argentina.
4:24: LeBron breaks the tie with two free throws. But I love Argentina’s work here. They have slowed the game down to their preferred pace and are working their stuff. Kobe is struggling right now, too.
5:13: Gutierrez drains another deep jumper. 45-45. Argentina doing all of this with their second unit. Take that U.S. bench mob.
5:43: Gutierrez with another 3. Caught the U.S. napping on their rotations. 45-42.
5:53: Iguodala gets out on the break and finishes with a flush. 45-39.
6:16: Kammerich outworks Chandler for a rebound and put back. 43-39.
6:58: Iguodala keeps a a Kobe miss alive and CP3 makes Argentina pay with a deep 3. 43-37.
7:23: Gutierrez sinks two free throws. 40-37.
7:41: Argentina does not have a big man who can root Love out of the paint. He was controlling the boards for a nice stretch there. Chandler just came back in for him. Still 40-35 after Durant misses to free throws and Iguodala’s put back goes awry.
8:22: Igoudala goes baseline and finishes with the two-handed jam. The U.S. second unit (if we’re going to call them that) is so much more explosive than what anyone else can trot out on the floor. 40-35.
8:33: Campazzo with another 3. D. Will is disrespecting him and paying for it. 38-35.
9:13: Iguodala gets the steal on one end and finishes with a put back jam of a Westbrook miss on the other. Love is doing LeBron’s defensive barking now. The U.S. is playing defense at a completely different level tonight compared to what we saw against Lithuania. 38-32.
— FIRST QUARTER —
0.0: Durant came back in for Melo and drains the 3 for the 34-32 U.S. lead to end the quarter. Excellent stuff from both sides. Red Foxes (Ukranian dance team) on the floor now doing their hula hoop routine.
7.4: Melo picks up his second foul on a shove in the back on Manu. 32-31 Argentina.
47.9: Melo drains two free throws to take it back. 31-30. But the Argentina crowd is amped up.
1:01: Gutierrez for 3 and another Argentina lead. 30-29.
1:21: Scola comes back a layup. 29-27.
1:37: Love pops from 3. 29-25.
1:55: Manu gets D. Will up in the air and draws the foul. 26-25.
2:08: Scola flops and K. Love pops the 17-footer from the wing. 26-23.
2:34: Durant at the line. It’s LeBron who was barking out those defensive signals loud enough for everyone to hear, even in the upper deck of the arena. 24-21.
3:04: Manu drains a step-back jumper. 22-21 U.S.
3:23: Campazzo blows past D. Will for a layup where no one protects the rim.
4:17: CP3 drains another 3-pointer. 22-17.
4:25: Campazzo finds Nocioni underneath for a layup. 19-17.
4:49: Durant for 3. U.S. leads 19-14.
5:31: Kobe drains two free throws. A fair fight is always more fun than a blowout to me, and I don’t care how many 3s the U.S. makes.
5:53: Manu with a nasty fake on the drive for a layup. 15-14.
6:14: Delfino drains a jumper over Durant. 14-13.
6:44: Manu beats Kobe to the bucket for a layup and the foul with just six seconds on the shot-clock. 14-11.
6:53: You can hear the U.S. shouting on defense. Much different defensive focus to start this game compared to Lithuania.
7:22: Kobe still at it, knocks down a 3 anyway. 14-8.
7:36: Campazzo drains the 3. 11-8.
7:51: LeBron says no thanks on the 3s and posts Nocioni up on the baseline. Scores on the jumper of Nocioni and Scola, gets the foul and makes the free throw. 11-5.
8:22: CP3 drops in his first 3. 8-5.
8:38: Delfino for 3. 5-5.
8:54: Kobe makes his second attempt.
9:24: Just to shut us foolish reporters up, the U.S. starts the game with two straight 3-point attempts. Kobe misses his. Durant doesn’t.
Game time folks. Prigioni is not in uniform tonight for Argentina. Campazzo gets the start at point guard.
— PREGAME —
Condoleeza Rice in the stands for U.S.-Argentina game rocking a smooth London Fog trench. Is it raining outside?
Don’t expect any controversy from the previous game. Spain had their big dogs on the floor at the end and Brazil just flat outplayed them. There are some badminton stars somewhere screaming as the read this, since they were shown to the exit after insulting the Olympic spirit while trying to manipulate potential future matchups.
Spain will be accused of doing the same, since their loss to Brazil delays any potential meeting with the U.S. But anyone thinking they are good enough to manipulate these matchups better be careful what they wish for.