Team USA Basketball: Breaking Down Likely Path to Another Gold Medal
After receiving a scare from Lithuania over the weekend, the United States bounced back with a huge victory over Argentina to reach the knockout rounds undefeated. The Americans remain the heavy favorites to win gold in London.
They are still three wins away from winning a second consecutive gold medal, though. Let's take a look at the likely path the team will have to travel in order to assert American basketball dominance once again on the international stage.
The United States will begin its knockout journey against Australia. The Aussies finished group play with a 3-2 record and are led by point guard Patty Mills. He exploded for 39 points against Great Britain in one of the group-stage victories.
Even though Australia kept its games against Brazil and Spain reasonably close, the Boomers shouldn't pose a threat to Team USA. The Americans should be in firm control of the game by halftime, allowing the stars to take a breather in the second half.
Rest is going to loom large during the final two games of the tournament given the condensed schedule that all the teams will have faced by that point. The United States don't want to let Australia hang around, so look for a focused, unrelenting performance.
With a victory over Australia, the Americans would play the winner of the most evenly-matched quarterfinal matchup between Argentina and Brazil. The South American rivals will likely play a very physical game, which will benefit Team USA.
Ultimately, look for Argentina's star power to win out. Manu Ginobili has plenty of big-game experience thanks to all of his years with the San Antonio Spurs. Andres Nocioni and Luis Scola should provide enough support to pull out the victory.
Although the final score would say the United States blew out Argentina the first time around, it was actually a close game at the half. The trio of LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony will have to be on target to cruise to another win.
Will the United States win gold?
Before the Games began, there was a strong sense that a rematch between Spain and the United States was likely after the two teams played in the gold-medal match four years ago. That outlook hasn't changed.
Spain has the one element with the potential to cause the Americans trouble: size. The Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka give La Roja a chance to really control the paint against a United States squad that relies on quickness and shooting.
That said, if the Americans play up to their usual high standard, no team can beat them. It would take a poor performance from Team USA and a good one from Spain for an upset to occur. As of now, it's looking like another gold medal for the United States.
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