The arguments surrounding whether the current iteration of Team USA could beat the original 1992 Dream Team may never be settled to anyone's satisfaction, but we can still conclude one thing with some measure of confidence.
This is the most explosive basketball team ever assembled in the Summer Olympics. It may be the most explosive team assembled at any level.
After a close tune-up in Barcelona and a one-point first half margin in the final game of preliminary play, Argentina looked to have a somewhat decent chance at doing the impossible against the United States when it mattered most.
We should have known better.
Led by Kevin Durant's 19 points and 18 apiece from LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony, Team USA put on yet another show with a 109-83 victory against the stubborn Argentinians. Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola kept things relatively close through the first half, but it didn't last long.
It never has in these Olympics. Team USA's hot perimeter shooting and pesky pressure defense have consistently turned tight contests into blowouts in the blink of an eye. Argentina was outscored by 19 in the second half, succumbing to the United States' unyielding sklll and depth.
FOX Sports' Chris Tomasson puts this club's scoring ability into perspective:
If Team USA were playing 48-minute games, it would be on pace to be averaging 141.6 points per game (averaging 118.0 in 6 40-minute games).— Chris Tomasson (@christomasson) August 10, 2012
So much of that damage has happened from behind the arc in unstoppable barrages of three-point makes that redefine "streaky."
Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Kobe Bryant have combined to make 64 out of 124 three-point attempts in their seven Olympic games. As a whole, the United States have made just under 45 percent of its attempts from range. When these shooters get on a role, they're unstoppable.
Though the original Dream Team had its share of shooters like Chris Mullin, Clyde Drexler and Larry Bird, it didn't have these kind of long-range assassins.
This is the kind of firepower than renders whatever happens in the painted area all but irrelevant. No, this team doesn't have guys like David Robinson and Patrick Ewing setting up in the post, but it hasn't mattered one bit.
Nor will it against Spain, even with All-Star seven-footers Pau and Marc Gasol attempting to exploit a size advantage in the painted area. There's little doubt the Gasols have an edge against Tyson Chandler, but they won't have nearly enough of one. After all, Chandler can defend with the best of big men, and that's all he'll be asked to do.
This roster's bevy of perimeter shooters will handle the rest.
Still, this team isn't a one-trick pony, to be sure. Those open three-point looks have a lot to do with the Team USA's athleticism and ability to slash to the paint, either finishing in style or kicking to spot-up shooters.
You can certainly appreciate the passing ability guys like John Stockton and Magic Johnson brought to the table in their day, but they simply didn't have the physical tools at that stage of their careers to do the things LeBron James, Chris Paul and Deron Williams are doing.
They also didn't exhibit the same kind of dominance on the defensive end of the floor.
Paul has accrued 17 steals in seven games, and Kevin Durant has tacked on another 12. Kobe Bryant and Russell Westbrook have similarly used relentless pressure to force turnovers and disrupt offensive sets before they have a chance to get off the ground.
And, when teams do get into their half-court offense, LeBron James has become a one-man wrecking crew. An observation from ESPN's Jalen Rose:
Since LBJ is playing PF it really helps Team USA to switch plus deny pick rolls & down screens involving Manu/Nocioni or Delfino #Olympics— JALEN ROSE (@JalenRose) August 10, 2012
That will also pay dividends against Spain's pick-and-roll game, limiting the damage point guard Jose Calderon can do with the Gasol brothers setting picks and looking to roll to the rim or pop out for jumpers.
Just when you thought Team USA might have a vulnerability the Spanish could exploit, unkind reality reminds you the United States is nothing short of dominant on both ends of the floor. Its weaknesses are an afterthought at best.
At this point, Spain has little more than wishful thinking going for it, as HoopsHype recalls:
Spanish players on Team USA. bit.ly/MjNCCQ Including Marc Gasol saying the '92 team would beat this American squad pretty bad.— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) August 10, 2012
Marc Gasol may have won a friend in Michael Jordan, but you better believe the 2012 Dream Team will be on a warpath to prove him wrong. The U.S. is simply too quick, strong and talented for mere mortals. It's blowing out balanced and formidable teams that the Dream Team would never have had to face in '92.
Global competition has improved exponentially, and Team USA has more than kept pace. Jordan's Dream Team will always stand out as the first of its kind and one of the greatest teams ever assembled. Its legacy isn't going anywhere.
But, neither is this Team USA. Its 83-point annihilation of Nigeria was the first sign that this team was scarier than all the rest on a historic scale, and its golden medal on Sunday will be the last. There have indeed been historically great teams, but none quite like this.