Here we ago again, America. Team USA Basketball will face its international arch-nemesis Argentina in the semifinal round of the Olympic basketball tournament Friday after another lopsided win, 119-86 over Australia in the quarterfinals.
The two teams have a notorious rivalry in FIBA play, highlighted by Argentina’s upset of Team USA in the 2004 games in Athens, en route to the nation’s first gold medal in the sport.
And last week’s preliminary-round match between the two countries is still fresh in the minds of fans and players alike—especially after Facundo Campazzo’s cheap shot on Carmelo Anthony during the third quarter.
This should be another high-stakes, high-tension contest between the two squads.
Kevin Durant had the most success against the Argentines last week, going 9-for-12 from the field and putting up a game- and personal tournament-high 28 points. He burned opposing forward Andres Nocioni moving off-ball for open three-pointers last week, and it appeared over the course of the game that no Argentine could match feet with the NBA superstar.
Manu Ginobili will lead the attack for Team Argentina against the Americans. The San Antonio Spurs shooting guard has emerged as an international superstar over his 11 years of FIBA play and fared well against team USA in the preliminary game, with 16 points. Ginobili is averaging 19.3 points per contest in the tournament.
Kobe Bryant will again match up against Ginobili defensively, and it became apparent last week that Bryant, despite having NBA All-Defensive first-team honors on his resume, was struggling to keep the Ginobili in front of him.
Ginobili was able to put up all 16 of his points last week against the Americans in the first half, largely due to Bryant’s declining foot speed.
However, Kobe is coming off his biggest game of the tournament so far, dropping 20 points on Australia and shooting an impeccable 6-for-10 from three-point range.
It’ll be interesting if Bryant can repeat his herculean effort against the Argentines.
Another key matchup to watch will be the tournament’s second-leading scorer, Luis Scola of Argentina, against Team USA’s paint enforcer, Tyson Chandler. Both have impressive NBA resumes—though Chandler’s stands out a bit more as the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year and the winner of the Larry O’Brien in 2011 as a member of the Dallas Mavericks—and have played aggressively throughout the tournament.
In the first game between the two countries, Chandler limited Scola to 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting, Scola’s lowest-scoring total of the tournament. If Argentina wants to pull off the upset here, Scola will need to near double his efforts from the first bout with Team USA.
Regardless of the intricacies, Friday's semifinal will definitely be one of the highlights of the tournament. It will be exhilarating watching these two international basketball powerhouses duel on the biggest of stages in London.
As the two teams play more and more games and become better acquainted with each other, the matches can only get more intense.
It’s easy for fans at home watching to get sense of tension between the two teams, and it makes for excellent competition and thrilling basketball.