USA advanced to the gold medal game on Sunday after they beat Argentina 109-83 at the North Greenwich Arena in the second semi-final.
So the stage is set; the final and gold medal game everyone expected, everyone hyped; USA vs Spain. A game which Carmelo Anthony admitted afterwards that, “it’s the match-up everyone wanted to see”. Argentina will now face Russia for bronze
Kevin Durant led the Americans with 19 points as they once again shot more three-pointers then twos, hitting five in the first half, they then improved their shooting from distance greatly, nailing 13 triples with three in a row from Anthony in a fourth quarter blitz which ballooned the score from 87-64 to 93-64.
The 13,282 inside the North Greenwich Arena knew it was over from then, but more importantly: So did the South Americans.
“We are very pleased with our performance tonight against a team we have great respect for” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said. “They’re just a championship calibre team and some of the greatest international players of all time so we had to play really well in order to win. I thought we had our best balance so farand Kobe [Bryant] got us off to a good start, LeBron really turned it on, it wasn’t just one guy, our point guards really did a masterful job, they had 13 assists and no turnovers and our offensive rebounding was excellent.
USA pulled down 15 offensive boards to Argentina’s eight.
“It’s the one common goal for us, we want to move the ball offensively and I feel we did that tonight,” James said, as he flirted with another triple-double but settled for 18 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.
“The weapons we have is a luxury but the best part is we have 12 unselfish guys on the team, we want to give our guys the ball and get it to a good shooter and when we do that, we are a really good team.”
Argentina hung with Team USA in the first half, they attacked the hoop and shot the ball well, shooting 6/14 in the first two quarters with Carlos Delfino who plays in the NBA with Milwaukee hitting three of them for 13 points.
USA clamped down on Delfino though in the third and fourth quarters and the Argentine shooter could only score one more field goal as he ended with 15 points. Manu Ginobili led Argentina with 18.
It was a fast start from the Americans as they raced to an early 15-4 lead which was in part to an 11-0 burst, highlighted by a steal and one-hand dunk from Durant. Bryant, who had 13 points was playing with a point to prove; winning every loose ball and shooting the ball well, but Argentina weathered the storm and countered with a 9-0 run as Ginobili and Luis Scola contributed to that surge.
USA looked to be running away with the game again as James scored seven points without reply to give his side a 37-27 lead and when Argentina looked to be reucing the deficit, Kevin Love hit to give the States its ten point lead back.
But Ginobili had other ideas, he drained a three at the buzzer to give his team hope as USA had a 47-40 lead but importantly for Argentina; a single-digit deficit.
The 2012 NBA Finals MVP though had one more run left in him. James’ three-point play – a thunderous one-hand dunk on Delfino was not only a highlight – but a play that knocked Argentina for six.
When asked if his dunk was inspiration for USA, James replied: “I hope so. I try to make plays that try to spark our team both offensively and defensively and I hope that play was the one that started the rally.”
Then when Anthony hit everything in sight in the fourth quarter, USA were pencilled in for Sunday’s finale.
“The Americans have tremendous potential as a team,” Argentina’s Pablo Prigioni said. “We played a good game, we made them feel uncomfortable but then they hit a streak of three-pointers. Carmelo Anthony scored freely and that’s what won them the game.”