It was not so long ago that Team USA blew Nigeria out of the water by 83 points and were lazily being hailed as better than the '92 Dream Team—but a revealing near-loss against Lithuania put those comparisons to bed.
The youthful Team USA roster was exposed as weak in the paint, and also brought up questions about the maturity of the roster in the face of adversity.
Now a matchup with Argentina looms ever closer. A loss will not prevent the USA from fighting for the gold medal, but LeBron James and company would be wise to look for a blowout win.
A win similar to the Nigeria game is not going to happen for Team USA. Argentina is arguably one of the best teams in the Olympic games outside of the United States.
With NBA talent such as Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola, the Argentina squad has enough talent to make a run at upsetting Team USA. If the under-manned Lithuania team could almost pull it off, it is not unreasonable to think Argentina could do the same.
The problem for Team USA came down low. Tyson Chandler has yet to be effective, and his backups Kevin Love and Anthony Davis were put to the test against Lithuania.
Luis Scola is one of the better big men in all of the NBA, which means he could have his way down low with Chandler and company if defensive adjustments are not made. The combination of Scola and Nocioni down low also mean that the driving lanes for Team USA are not going to be as wide open as they have been thus far in the Olympics.
To overcome the lowly Lithuania squad, James had to save his team by scoring nine points in the final four minuets. It is doubtful that a talented and disciplined squad such as Argentina would allow that to happen.
The maturity of Team USA undoubtedly has to be questioned at this point. Now that the team has had a scare, perhaps they will not let up against an opponent like Argentina. Kevin Love appears to be preparing his team in the correct manner:
"They are more than just Ginobili and Scola," said Love. "Manu might be the heart and soul of their team. But they have tons of talent, they are well-coached and they get up into you in ways that teams that haven't been together as long and haven't had as much success cannot. They know exactly who they are and what they want to do every time they take the floor."
Love would be correct, but the more important factor is that Team USA walks away with an impressive victory. Considering the game does not matter, if Love and his teammates come out flat and lose a meaningless game, it could be a bad sign of things to come.
If USA comes out firing on all cylinders and takes care of business, it will show the maturity of the team and give them some momentum heading into medal play.
In all actuality, the near-loss against Lithuania was most likely a fluke. A drop-off was to be expected after the clobbering of Nigerian, just not that significant of a drop-off.
Bouncing back against Argentina will go a long way toward solidifying Team USA's chances for a gold medal, and possibly even justify some of the ludicrous comparisons to the '92 Dream Team. Maybe.