USA vs. Argentina: Breaking Down the Blueprint for Beating Team USA Basketball
With a 119-86 win over Australia, Team USA became the last Olympic semifinalists and now look to continue their undefeated run against Argentina in a rematch of their preliminary-round contest.
The United States came away with a 126-97 victory in a hotly contested matchup, which became marred when Argentinian Facundo Campazzo punched Carmelo Anthony in the groin at the end of the third quarter.
Though there will (hopefully) be no groin punching this time around, the folks at Bovada.lv's 26.5-point spread seems to indicate another blowout in store for the Argentinians.
But, as we've seen in each of Team USA's past three games, the U.S. squad is not invulnerable. If Argentinian stars Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino play their top-notch game and follow a blueprint to success, the world's third-ranked team could pull the ultimate upset.
And for that blueprint, here are three keys for Argentina beating Team USA.
Allow Team USA to Fall in Love With the Three-Pointer
While Team USA's 29 three-pointer performance against Nigeria in the preliminary round was one of the more astounding shooting performances in basketball history, it could turn out as the worst possible thing for the Americans.
In the three games since that record-setting performance, the United States has become increasingly reliant on the three-ball. After averaging just 25.0 three-pointers before the Nigerian destruction, Team USA has averaged 39.3 shots from beyond the arc in its past three games.
And while the overall numbers look pretty good (the team is shooting 41.5 percent from beyond the arc in those three games), Team USA's three-point percentage has been mostly contingent on a couple of individual performances propping up the whole.
In Wednesday's 119-86 victory over Australia in the Olympic quarterfinals, 46 of the United States' 86 shots came from beyond the arc. And without Kobe Bryant's 6-for-10 performance, the team shot only 36.1 percent.
With the United States' exorbitant athleticism and talent advantage over its competition in London, these numbers are asinine. It would be like Kentucky starting to jack up threes like Cornell in the NCAA tournament.
Eventually, there will be a game where no individual performance props up the mediocrity of the team. So long as long as Team USA is content jacking up threes, Argentina should allow them and wait for the regression.
Limit Turnovers Against Small Ball USA as Much as Humanly Possible
The first matchup between Team USA and Argentina saw U.S. center Tyson Chandler play just 12 minutes as U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski chose using his small-ball lineup over the seven-foot center.
As we've seen consistently through these Olympics, running LeBron James at the center spot opens up the Americans to myriad defensive weaknesses.
Because Team USA is comically undersized when using the smaller lineup, the team relies on aggressively playing the passing lanes to cause turnovers.
Which team will win?
But when that over-aggression is taken advantage of to set up great shots in half-court sets, Team USA is instantly in trouble. Argentina curbed its turnovers in the other three quarters, and the scoring margin shrank to just four points.
Argentina will need to avoid turnover-heavy quarters to have any shot at pulling off the upset.
Knock Down Open Shots
It's the most simple basketball strategy of all-time—knock down your shots.
Regardless, in Team USA's closest matchup so far, a 99-94 victory over Lithuania in the preliminary round, the Lithuanians shot 58.5 percent from the field.
Argentina will need that level of efficiency to even have a chance of avoiding the bronze-medal game.
In the teams' first go-around, Argentina shot a respectable 50.8 percent as role players stepped up their games. But the team's three-headed monster seemingly choked against Team USA, combining for just 40 points on 13-for-27 shooting.
If Argentina can combine elite games from Ginobili, Scola and Delfino along with another solid bench performance, then the team should be able to keep up with Team USA scoring-wise.
But if Argentina can knock down their shots while limiting turnovers and forcing the United States to take bad outside shots, it won't just come close. Argentina will beat Team USA and pull off one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.
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