Below are five things to take from Team USA's 126-97 victory over Argentina in the final preliminary game on Monday. Team USA faces Australia on Wednesday in a quarterfinal.
1. Team USA put the game away with a strong second half. For the second consecutive game, Team USA began with an uninspiring performance. Argentinian guard Manu Ginobili needed only five field-goal attempts to score 16 points in the first half. Team USA had only a 60-59 halftime lead despite Argentina power forward Luis Scola sitting out of the second quarter and resting starting point guard Pablo Prigioni entirely. Team USA's defensive execution looked so lethargic that guard Chris Paul reportedly lit into his teammates at halftime.
It appears Team USA received the message.
Kevin Durant scored17 of his 28 points in the third quarter, including a eight-of-10 shooting clip from three-point range. LeBron James scored nine quick third-quarter points. And Team USA's defense held Ginobili scoreless. It was clear Team USA would walk off the court in the same fashion it has always done, with a double-digit victory with questions on whether anything can take down its talent and depth.
2. The game became chippy. Even with the outcome no longer in question, the game still stayed entertaining partly because the two teams couldn't stand each other. The animosity simmered just before the end of the third quarter. Facundo Campazzo punched Carmelo Anthony in the groin after he shot a three-pointer. That prompted Team USA center Tyson Chandler to approach Argentina's bench. Team USA Coach Mike Krzyzewski angrily confronted Scola. And Kobe Bryant talked with Campazzo at mid-court once the game ended. No matter how physical or embarrassing the U.S. made Argentina feel, there's absolutely no justification for the cheap shot.