Another morning, another live blog. Enjoy.
Argentina gets dubbed “not as deep” and “older” than in 2004. For a young, lithe, athletic U.S. team, that’s both sweet music and a siren song.
We start with a Kobe Bryant putback of a Dwight Howard shot inside, and a missed three by Manu Ginobili. Then, a missed three by the U.S., and an Argentina turnover.
Howard draws a foul inside. “Establish Howard early” seems like a talking point. Or a Secret Service code or something.
Luis Scola puts in two and gets Argentina their first lead; Jason Kidd answers back. It’s the 6:25 mark in the first quarter and Argentina’s just committed their third turnover.
Kobe’s half man, half acrobat. Pretty lay-up.
If you’re reading this and I’m going too slow for you, I’m sorry. It’s not been an exciting game: Argentina just committed its sixth turnover, and Kobe converted to make it a 16-4 American advantage.
Chris Paul hits a corner three to make it a fifteen-point margin, then gets a steal and goes the distance. Argentina looks awful, and the U.S. looks dominant.
Also: LeBron James just almost made a driving shot with Nocioni bear-hugging him. That’s some kind of strength on that kid.
It’s 27-9 with less than 20 seconds in the quarter; oh, and Chris Bosh adds another inside basket and gets fouled. This has been a great quarter for the U.S., and a terrible one for the Argentinians; even the three two Andres Nocioni puts in at the buzzer only makes it as respectable as a nineteen-point deficit can be.
After one, it’s the United States 30, Argentina 11.
Oh, and Manu’s hurt and in the locker room. Fun for the Patagonians.
Argentina’s slowly clawing back: it’s 37-21, the Argentinian zone is frustrating the cold-shooting U.S. perimeter players, and Luis Scola rejected a Kobe dunk. (It happened.)
It’s now just a twelve-point lead, and Doug Collins is calling on the U.S. to “regroup.” Yeah, it seems important in basketball to stop missing shots and driving indiscriminately to bad shot angles. But I’m no analyst.
It’s an eight-point game, with Argentina on a 16-3 run. There’s a lack of energy for the U.S. team. This quarter’s been about as bad for the U.S. as the first was good.
The earliest appearance of Michael Redd that I’ve seen comes as Carmelo Anthony shoots from the charity stripe.
Kobe hits a three from straightaway center and wags a finger as he goes back upcourt; he can’t quite get in rhythm, missing the next possession’s three.
It’s now an 11-point lead, and Nocioni picks up his third on an obstruction of Carmelo; Melo hits both and it’s a 13-point advantage.
The game is boxed on the side as I listen to a Seminole County EOC briefing. It’s back to an eight-point lead, at 44-36, and WESH decides to show the same Doppler radar of Fay we’ve seen for 96 hours, telling Volusia County residents there’s “potential” for a funnel cloud and that there “was a lightning strike.”
So a single lightning strike and the potential for a tornado is more important than Argentina cutting the U.S. lead to just six.
Apparently, the rotation of a tropical system around the coast of a landmass makes funnel clouds possible. So at every moment in the last week, we have had this potential, but now it becomes a huge deal?
Melo hits three from the line to make it a nine-point lead at the half, but Carlos Delfino catches iron from 70 feet and gets hearts acquainted with uvulas on the U.S. bench.
At the half, it’s the United States 49, Argentina 40.
A schizophrenic first half for a U.S. team that took 20 threes and hit just six while letting their typically unstoppable dribble-kick game get trammeled by the Argentina zone leaves them just nine up on the defending Olympic champions.
But the U.S. comes out with four straight and gets the lead back to double digits, and it seems like the game is more in the Americans’ hands, rather than the clear control Argentina had in the second quarter.
It’s 55-44, as a Howard move inside is answered by a Scola jumper on the other end; LeBron hits a three and make it 58-44 as another WESH weather break-in renders the feed video-only and a bit smaller.
We go back to full-screen coverage as we go to commercial, natch. At least it’s this cute one:
Howard gets hit, Melo gets agitated, and the entire U.S. team restrains him and walks him back to midcourt. Howard, then, misses the first free throw.
Great possession by the U.S., which turns four passes into an easy Howard dunk.
A trade of jumpers makes it 63-46; it’s a stealth run for the Americans, who don’t seem to have done too much in the third quarter, but have still opened the corner on a 14-6 run.
Of course, Delfino’s pretty three makes that a 14-9 run, which isn’t much of one.
Dwyane Wade comes back into the game after being in for a cup of coffee and couple of fouls in the first half; hopefully, his speed helps turn up the U.S. defense, especially with no Manu on the court and Nocioni both hobbled and with four fouls after drawing a technical.
Melo has now hit four straight technical free throws and is 11-for-11 from the line; the U.S. also gets possession and now has an 18-point lead, by the way.
But three straight turnovers (bad Melo pass, bad Kidd pass, awful LeBron pass after a great Kidd pass) and another Scola jumper threaten to stifle the American run; the play of Wade, getting underneath and drawing a foul, and Chris Bosh, who hustles into the corner to save a ball, makes it clear this lead will be defended.
Scola keeps hitting jumpers, but a Deron Williams sighting comes on a three from the corner, and the lead stays in the upper teens, at 73-55.
Wade draws another foul, by my count the fourth or fifth on him since he’s come in. But he misses both free throws; that’s not exactly the best result.
Breen and Collins digress on Wade’s preseason: Breen says he’ll be like an NFL quarterback, and Collins compares him to LaDainian Tomlinson.
Paul makes like Usain Bolt in zipping downcourt, but he can’t get it to go and has to settle for a free throw. Nice roar from the crowd for the flashy play, though.
Somehow, Melo’s at the line again, and he hits both; he’s 13-for-13 from the stripe, and those points are more than any other American has in total. He leads all scorers with 21, and Scola leads Argentina with 20.
It’s 78-61, and, as I type that, Delfino hits what seems like his fifth three (it’s only his third) to make it 78-64. Breen and Collins speculate on the possibility of a comeback with the closer three-point line, but despite a Paul travel and a couple of decent Delfino looks that don’t go in, it’ll stay a fourteen-point lead entering the final quarter.
As we begin the fourth, it’s the United States 78, Argentina 64.
Another offensive foul for the U.S. to lead off the quarter, but LeBron hits back-to-back threes around a Argentina possession that ends up in Scola’s hands for two; that’s the kind of shooting that might be helpful, yeah.
Alfredo Paolo Quinteros hits a three, has a fun name.
Two inside buckets for the U.S., the products of ball movement, extend the lead to 88-69. Clutch play right now from the Americans, and in comes the Dobermamba to the cheers of the Kobe-loving crowd.
Scola swats away a Howard dunk; he’s all over for Argentina, and has been fantastic. At the other end, a Quinteros jumper and Delfino blowing by Howard for a lay-up again cut the lead to 15.
And, yes, the WESH break-in was inevitable; it’s noon, after all.
Another Scola two. Sloppy possession by the U.S. rescued by Bosh, who slams home a putback to stop a 6-0 Argentina run. Kobe jaws with Delfino as the teams go back upcourt.
It’s just 90-77 with about four minutes left; Wade converts a steal to two at the other end, but Delfino answers at the other end and the lead seems destined to stay around 13.
LeBron hits two at the line; a Paul steal and a good feed nets another two and pushes the lead to 17. At this point, no matter how heroic Luis Scola, who hits again as I type this, and Carlos Delfino are, it would take an epic collapse for the U.S. to lose.
The U.S., pushing, gets the lead to 20 on a nifty pas by Paul and a shifty head-fake-to-lay-up bit by Wade. There’s no danger here, and the tenor of the game is much more relaxed on both ends. Breen and Collins are rehashing the U.S. throttling of Spain, and it’s important: the Spaniards await in the gold medal game.
As Michael Redd dribbles it out, the buzzer sounds.
The final: the United States 101, Argentina 81.
It’s the closest margin of victory the U.S. has had this entire tournament, and it was much closer than the score would indicate; this could easily have been a five-point game, or a U.S. loss, if the second quarter was indicative of the whole game, and could have been a fifty-point romp if the first quarter were extrapolated.
Somewhere in between was the second half that produced a twenty-point margin, the middle of the spectrum of play for U.S. that features solid defense, some timely shooting, and frequent trips to the line.
That’s the golden formula, and we saw it perfected in the first quarter, compounded by bad play by the opponent. In the second, we saw it perverted into a blase approach to offense that results in jacked-up threes against a zone, and alternating lack of and overaggression on defense that leaves shooters open and racks up fouls quickly.
But both the magnificent first quarter and the odious second were aberrations; the second half was much more the norm for the U.S., and we saw what the U.S. knows it will have to do win gold then, as it tailored the formula to what it could get against a feisty Argentina team and its frustrating zone.
I’ll be blogging the gold medal game. Until then, I hope you enjoyed this.