Trail Blazers

Beal, Durant lead Team USA to win over Argentina

Trail Blazers

The United States beat Argentina 108-80 in their Olympic exhibition matchup on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. Here are five observations from what went down...

Beal got them going

After losing two straight games to open exhibition play, the United States needed someone to step up and that someone was Bradley Beal. The Wizards star went off for 10 points in the first quarter on a perfect 4-for-4 from the field, as Team USA built a 12-point lead by the end of the frame, easily their best start so far through their three warmup games.

Beal got going with a pull-up midrange jumper and added two threes soon after; one on an extra swing pass by Damian Lillard and another from the corner where a pass fake left him wide open. Beal also stood out defensively with active hands, looking like he made an adjustment to the more contact allowed by referees in international play. During one sequence in the second quarter, Beal had a strip, then saved the ball from out of bounds, then had a deflection that led to a steal moments later.

Beal was scoring like usual and doing the dirty work. He tied Kevin Durant with a game-high 17 points to go along with six rebounds, three assists and a steal.

Durant lit it up

 

Beal got hot early and so did Durant, who made two quick threes to open the game and had 12 points by halftime. He had moments against Nigeria and Australia, but this was the first game where Durant looked like the impossible-to-stop scorer we know him to be. It was one of those games where Durant was casually dropping in shots with defenders all over him. He couldn't miss.

Durant accrued 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting and 3-for-5 from three. He played the role many expected of him going in, as the steady veteran and all-time great on a team full of younger stars. If he can score like he did against Argentina in the Olympics, the United States will be tough to beat.

Three-point defense

Defending the three-point line has been a serious problem for the United States so far in exhibition play. They allowed Nigeria to shoot an insanely good 20-of-22 from three then Australia to shoot 10-of-24, which was an improvement but still not good enough. Team USA, though, bounced back in a big way by holding Argentina to just 9-for-29 from long range. 

The U.S. played a lot of switch defense like they did in the first two games, but did a better job of respecting their opponents' range and closing out on shooters. Beal and others seemed to make the most of the extra contact allowed by referees by reaching on dribblers much more often and more aggressively. Beal was constantly swiping at the ball and it seemed to keep Argentina's guards uncomfortable.

Scola is still playing

Luis Scola has not played in the NBA since 2017, after a decade in the league, and is now 41 years old with a full head of grey hair. But he's still getting it done for Argentina and played well in this game with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists. He was a standout for Team Argentina, which also features Nuggets guard Facu Campazzo and some other recognizable names like former Magic player Patricio Garino.

Argentina, though, isn't what they used to be. They don't have Manu Ginobili or Andres Nocioni, who helped the country win the gold medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. There has evidently been a drop-off in talent from that generation of players.

Tatum sat out

The U.S. won without one of their best scorers, as Jayson Tatum missed the game due to right knee soreness. According to USA Basketball, he is considered day-to-day. With Tatum out, they started Zach LaVine at the three, though Tatum had technically already been replaced in the starting lineup on Monday by Jerami Grant. Bam Adebayo also started over Draymond Green, who was in his place for Monday's loss.

LaVine made the most of his extra playing time with 15 points, including the play of the game, an and-one poster dunk:

 

It was a bit interesting that Tatum was the only player to miss this game, given it was a back-to-back and one with less than a 24-hour turnaround. A back-to-back in what is essentially the preseason would normally include some guys resting, at least in the NBA. But clearly coach Gregg Popovich is valuing these games to build chemistry for his team in what is a sprint to the Olympics. Also, the fact they were 0-2 may have added some urgency, of course.