USA vs. Argentina: Preview, Analysis and Predictions for Olympics Basketball

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterAugust 9, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06:  Kobe Bryant (L) of the United States jumps to the basket with Emanuel Ginobili of Argentina during the Men's Basketball Preliminary Round match between Argentina and USA on Day 10 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Basketball Arena on August 6, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Ralston - IOPP Pool /Getty Images)
Pool/Getty Images

Time, TV, Location: Friday 4pm EST, NBC Sports, London, England. 

Record of Teams in Group Play: USA (5-0), Argentina (3-2)
Team USA Starters: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler, Kobe Bryant, Chris Paul
Team Argentina Starters: Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Pablo Prigioni, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni 
Betting Line: Team USA is favored by 26

Key Storyline To Watch For: This is one final chance for Argentina's "golden generation" to beat an American team it bested en route to gold in 2004. This is also a chance for Team USA to "avenge" that loss. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony actually did play on that losing 2004 squad.
If you need a more recent source of intrigue, the two teams did fight in the exhibition round.

Key Matchup: Kobe Bryant vs. Manu Ginobili. Argentina needs Manu to be brilliant and the U.S. would prefer that Kobe be efficient. The combination of Manu brilliance and a high-volume, poor-shooting Bryant game could undo America here. Either way, it will be fun to watch two veteran, star shooting guards battle for (probably) the last time in international competition. 

The Game Will Be Close If ...
Luis Scola dominates his matchup against Carmelo Anthony. Melo has shown that he has difficulties containing the bulkier post player. The bad news for Argentina? Carmelo will probably score a copious amount of points against the slower Scola. 
While Argentina has a chance if this matchup swings its way, I see this leading to a points-fest for both Anthony and Scola. This will be a fun contrast in styles that results in the absence of defensive substance. 

Player the U.S. Has to Contain...
Between Scola and Ginobili, I would err on the side of containing Luis. He's shooting 56 percent in these Olympics and leading his team in scoring. He's also a bit younger than Manu, and has thus slowly transitioned into being the focal point of Argentina's offense. Manu may be the leader of this team, but he is no longer its best player. 
By the way, Argentina might want to contain Kevin Durant:


X Factor...

We haven't heard from Tyson Chandler in a while. Yes, he's tasked with doing the unsung, important things, but what if he breaks out? Chandler led all of the NBA in true shooting percentage last season; it isn't as though he's offensively inept. A big effort on offense from Tyson would likely end the game in America's favor.

Then again, most anything that goes well for Team USA effectively ends this one. 
For Argentina, the X-factor would be Carlos Delfino. Linas Kleiza did whatever he wanted against a disorganized Team USA defense. Delfino is a similarly large, scoring wing. Don't be surprised if he has success.
It Will Be a Team USA Blowout If ...
Scola has a bad game. The United States has a small front line and the opposition needs to press any possible advantage. If the Argentinians can't make hay out of Luis post-ups, they simply lack other options to keep them afloat.  
From what I have seen of the 35-year-old Pablo Prigioni, I doubt that he and Manu can carry an offense. Luis Scola had better show up. 

Team USA 100, Argentina 90. I see this game getting closer than the Vegas line would indicate, but not so close that American fans sweat.