In a possible preview of Saturday’s gold medal game, Team USA easily controlled Argentina, building another insurmountable first-half lead. The game was decided in the first quarter, when Kobe Bryant single-handedly outscored Argentina 15-13. Bryant finished with 27 points and four steals in 23 minutes.
Like LeBron James a day earlier, Bryant toyed with the opponent with a series of magnificent drives to the basket and smooth long-range shots. Similar to their trouncing of Brazil, Team USA put away Argentina with more ease than expected. It’s increasingly evident that an in-form Team USA is unbeatable. The final score isn’t indicative of their dominance, as the point spread never sunk to single digits after midway through the first quarter.
To Argentina’s credit, they did outscore the Americans in the second half. In nitpicking Team USA’s performance, they once again attempted too many careless, dangerous passes after accumulating a comfortable lead. They were vulnerable to Luis Scola, who scored 20 points in only 18 minutes. That could spell trouble when Scola is just another one of the stars alongside Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, and company next year. Scola couldn’t carry his team tonight, but with help, it’s obvious Argentina is still one of the main threats to Team USA. After one of their best quarters in the tournament in the first quarter, Team USA also wasn’t able to sustain the high level of play to truly demoralize their rival.
Michael Redd scored just three points on 1-5 shooting in 13 minutes. 20 Second Timeout crunched some numbers:
“In fact, Team USA was outscored 28-15 when Redd was in the game and outscored Argentina 76-48 when he was off the court.”After starting the tournament in such impressive fashion, Redd has struggled shooting the last few games. Thankfully, the beauty of this Team USA is that different players step up on different nights and they’ve been able to effectively ride the hot shooting hand of different players early in games, from Redd to James to Bryant last night. As long as it's detected early who in fact has the hot hand, it's a solid formula for success.
Redd is far too good of a shooter to continue in this funk much longer, especially with the short three-point line, so watch for him to break out in Saturday’s all-important semifinal game against Puerto Rico.