After Team USA won a squeaker against Lithuania earlier today, the voices of gloom-and-doom can already be heard. So why am I predicting that the Americans will beat the No. 3 team in the world by 30 points?
First, Team USA came into the game not having practiced since the walk in the park that was the Nigeria game. They'll have a full practice on Sunday to prepare for the Argentina game on Monday.
Second, it was a "perfect storm" that made it the close game it was. Here are the following eight things that didn't go the United States' way against Lithuania:
- Team USA only shot 44 percent from the field.
- Team USA conceded 58 percent from the field.
- Team USA missed a dozen free throws, including five from Kevin Love alone.
- Team USA had a stretch of shooting 2-for-19 from three-point range.
- Team USA was outrebounded, including 36-24 on the defensive side end.
- Team USA was outdished 24-13.
- Team USA conceded 22 fouls, with two of their best defenders in Kobe Bryant and Andre Iguodala getting into foul trouble quickly.
- In addition to Bryant and Iggy, James Harden and Tyson Chandler were M.I.A., with the four combining for only ten points.
It's unlikely that most of those things will ever happen again in the tournament and even more unlikely they'll happen two games in a row.
Now I know the Argentinians are more talented than the Lithuanians, and that they certainly won't commit the 23 turnovers Lithuania did, but if the United States fixes all eight problems from the Lithuania game, you're looking at a 25-point victory at least.
How will the U.S. do against Argentina?
You also need to consider that Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili have been pouring in points in the first four games. They're about due to cool off. By contrast, LeBron James is only averaging 10 points a game and Kobe is only averaging nine a game. Each could, and probably will, explode for 25 or 30 sometime in this tournament.
The fact that Kobe and LeBron are Kobe and LeBron, with the rock-solid wills to win they each have, is where the final five points in my calculation come in. After this near humiliation, the team's two leaders will marshal the troops to make sure nothing close to this happens again.
A similar phenomenon occurred with the 1992 Dream Team after a team of college All-Stars played them closely in the first game of an exhibition series; the next game, Jordan and Co. went out and annihilated them at both ends of the floor.
Final score: United States 115, Argentina 85