Wednesday began with six San Antonio Spurs players participating in the 2012 London Olympics. Once Wednesday was over, only one lone Spur remained in the Olympics, Manu Ginobili and Team Argentina.
Ginobili and Argentina defeated fellow Spur Tiago Splitter and Brazil in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals, were they will be pitted against the team that eliminated Patty Mills and Australia, the juggernaut United States on Friday.
Argentina recently lost to the U.S. without starting point guard Pablo Prigioni on Monday, so the two squads have already become familiar with each other. In that loss, Argentina only trailed the U.S. by one point at halftime, but in the second half, Kevin Durant and LeBron James blew the game open in an eventual rout.
One thing to note in Monday’s loss for Argentina was how it ended. Backup point guard Facundo Campazzo threw a cheap shot at Carmelo Anthony, and the two squads started jarring at each other, most noticeably Luis Scola.
This is likely the last game between the “Gold Generation” of Argentina and the United States, let’s get to the scouting report.
Point per game indicator
The U.S. averages 118 points per game, while Argentina averages 88.3 points per game. The U.S. defense is holding teams to 80.7 points per game, while the Argentines hold opponents to 83.5 points per game. So, when you average out all the numbers, the U.S. is expected to defeat Argentina 100.8 to 84.5. Then again, those are just numbers built off data from scoreboards.
Prigioni, Campazzo (ARG) vs. Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook (USA) – Prigioni and Paul are the starters for each team. Paul has the advantage with his ability to play full court defense on possessions, while also being a streaky shooter who can easily knock down shots from the outside. Prigioni is a guy who runs and sets up the offense for Argentina with 6.5 assists per game, while he too is a streaky shooter from the outside.
On the bench is where the U.S. has a major advantage. Campazzo can make plays by either penetrating and kicking out to his teammates, or hitting shots from the outside, but Williams can easily come in off the bench and take over the offense with his shooting and driving ability. As for Westbrook, he too provides another athletic player for the U.S. who can get to the basket. Also, Argentina might want to hide Juan Gutierrez when Westbrook is on the floor, as Westbrook dunked on him on Monday.
Ginobili (ARG) vs. Kobe Bryant, James Harden (USA) – Ginobili is the playmaker for Argentina averaging 19.5 PPG and 4.5 assists per game. He’s the player who runs the offense for Argentina, has the ability to get others involved, and earns trips consistently to the free throw line. Before Wednesday, one could have said Bryant has been struggling in the Olympics, however, against Australia, he was the key in the blowout as he got hot in the second half where he scored all 20 of his points. Though Bryant will initially start the game defending Ginobili, the U.S. has so much versatility that at times you’ll see Williams, Westbrook, Anthony, and Durant defend Ginobili.
Carlos Delfino (ARG) vs. Kevin Durant, Andre Iguodala (USA) – At this point in his international tenure, Delfino (15.3 PPG) has become a 3-point shooting marksman. Against elite opponents, he’s not a guy who drives or gets to the free throw line, as he’s already taken and made 14-of-38 (37%) 3-pointers. His ability to knock down his shots from the outside will be key as Durant (17.8 PPG) also does that for USA, making 24-of-42 (57%) of his 3-pointers in the Olympics thus far.
Delfino will be key in this matchup, because Durant is going to score 15-18 points regardless, so Argentina will need Delfino’s outside shooting to keep pace with Durant’s scoring. If Delfino struggles or has a quiet game, all the pressure will be put on Ginobili and Scola.
Andres Nocioni, Juan Gutierrez (ARG) vs. LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony (USA) – In the Olympics, Nocioni has scored in double figures in 4-of-6 games. He’s a guy who gives you 10-13 points a game, but does all the little things that go unnoticed, such as setting screens, grabbing key rebounds, or taking charges. The problem is he’s facing James (11.5 PPG, 5.2 RPG, 5.7 APG), who is more of USA’s point guard than Paul, as James is coming off the United States’ first triple-double in their Olympic history. Even when James goes to the bench, Anthony comes in and is USA’s biggest threat off of the bench as he’s averaging 17.3 points per game. Nocioni will have a tough time on defense, but the biggest thing he can do is try to keep the ball out of James’ hands, as James is the player on the U.S. roster who can have a huge impact with his passing ability.
Luis Scola, Leo Gutierrez (ARG) vs. Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love (USA) – Scola comes in averaging the most points for Argentina, 19.7. But against the USA on Monday, he had his worst game of just 11 points. The U.S. is the one team that can really limit Scola’s production because of their speed and ability to gamble on defense. If his teammates can penetrate and set him up for his 15-foot jumper, then he could be effective. But he can rarely have a good possession in the post because even though he has a height advantage outside of Chandler, the U.S. guards and forwards constantly are trying to rip the ball from his hands with their help defense. When Scola passes out to his teammates, they’ll have to be ready to knock down the outside shots, as that’s where Scola can make a lot happen on the court, drawing the defense in and kicking out to the shooters. Gutierrez is also a streaky player, as he provided Argentina with nine points in the second quarter, all from the outside, on Monday, yet never scored again in the game.
Argentina has the ability to play four quarters with the U.S but they have to play close to a perfect game to do so. There can’t be any quarters with scoring droughts, and their defense and tempo will be the key. Ginobili knows this American defense isn’t hard to breakdown, but it’s the American offense that is tough to stop. Argentina has to continue to play half court basketball, but on defense, they must live with the one-on-one matchups and try not to double-team as much as possible. Double-teams are what open wide-open shots for the Americans.
I see Argentina staying close in this one, but in the end, the U.S. just has too much talent and firepower, I predict they will defeat Argentina by 11 points or more.
Game time is at 3:00 PM CST.