The only undefeated men's basketball team in Rio must remain that way to win gold. That winning team must takedown plenty of NBAers in the process.
USA Basketball enters the knockout stage in the 2016 Summer Olympics as the top seed from Group A after a 5-0 start that ended with far closer games than expected. If Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony and crew can make it eight straight wins, the U.S. will return home as champion with the third straight best-of-the-best title.
That run begins against familiar faces. The U.S. and Argentina (3-2), led by NBA notables Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, meet Wednesday at 5:45 p.m. ET.
With a victory, Team USA would face Spain (3-2) or France (3-2) Friday. With Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio and a deep roster, Spain entered the tournament No. 2 in the world behind the U.S., but afterr an 0-2 start, they needed to win their final three games to advance. France lost to the U.S. 100-97 Sunday despite playing without San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker.
Ginobili is one of three Argentine players averaging at least 15 points per game, but 2004 Olympic gold medalists must be at ther most efficient offensively against a U.S. team that is averaging 16.6 more points per game. Former George Washington guard Patricio Garino is a stout perimeter defender, but hi skills will be pushed to the extreme against all of Team USA's perimeter firepower.
Durant, who leads the U.S. with 16.8 points per game in Brazil, scored 23 points during a winning 111-74 pre-Olympic tune-up over Argentina in Las Vegas last month. Don't expect a similar result Wednesday. This proud Argentine team won't go out that way. Don't expect the U.S. to lose ether considering their depth and advantages at every turn. That is, unless a "team" of players that have been together for a generation can undermine a far more talented group put together on the fly. Based on the troubles from the U.S. side over their last three games, with each contest coming down to the final minutes, that's possible. Unless of course the stateside NBAers turn up the defense and turn out the noise. If so, it's a golden three-peat.
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