USA vs. Argentina, and the Semis

Kurt —  August 21, 2008

I think my premise here is pretty simple:

Argentina may well give the USA their toughest test to date, but I don’t think Argentina can beat the USA unless the Americans help out.

A few thoughts to flesh that out. Argentina will try to slow the game down (the USA is at 81 possessions per game, fastest in the Olympics, while Argentina is at 69, the slowest) and because they have ball handlers like Manu that will not be coughing the ball up a lot they should be able to limit turnovers. That said they will give up some — sometimes against teams that bring high pressure and tempo it takes a while to adjust. The USA does that, with starters and off the bench. I think at some point in the first half the pressure is going to get to Argentina, maybe some subs, and the USA will go on a fast 10-0 run or so. Argentina will have to play catch-up from there, but I don’t think they can do it.

Argentina can score (their offensive rating through six games is 121 [points per 100 possessions], not bad but well behind the USA’s 129.1). They have good offensive talent, starting with Manu (Kobe on Manu is going to be fun to watch), but Delfino looked very good last game and they are a deep team (no, they are not, really). One thing the South Americans will have to do to win is hit threes — teams are shooting just 28.6% from three against the USA, to beat them you are going to have to shoot 40% or so.

But to win Argentina will need help — meaning the USA would have to be cold, particularly from the outside. The South Americans will have a hard time playing catch up on the USA, Argentina’s defense is not good enough to get a series of stops to make a counter run (they give up 107 points per 100 possessions, worst of the four teams left, compared to the USA’s 95).

That is to say, Argentina’s defense isn’t good enough unless the USA helps out. At times in the half court the USA just goes too much isolation and not enough ball movement (Kobe is one of the worst offenders). They get away with it because, well, Kobe and Wade and LeBron are very tough to stop in isolation. But Argentina has good defenders in Manu and Delfino, with Scola and Fabricio Oberto inside to help. If the USA’s offense stalls, if they shoot jumpers (especially early in the clock) and miss, it plays into Argentina’s hands. What will be key for the USA is less iso and more ball movement to get the ball into good position.

The thing to really watch is the tempo — if the USA gets turnovers and runs well, it could be another blowout. More likely, Argentina will keep it close for a while, but once the USA puts together one run Argentina will just not be able to catch up. I don’t think this version of team USA is going to help out opponents like past versions — they have been so focused on defense they will slow the Argentineans, and Argentina cannot slow them.

I’ll post some links to other previews here, starting with Basketball Prospectus. Now Fanhouse is in (from the amazing Ziller). Ball Don’t Lie links to a bunch of previews.

And one more link worth checking out — comparing Usain Bolt to Magic Johnson in a meaningful way.

to USA vs. Argentina, and the Semis

  1. Off Topic but WTF! What is up with all the Kobe hating going on in the internet today? The man has been playing basketball non stop since last summer’s qualifying games and some people are running around saying he is not playing well? So? i thought the aim of the competition was to win? Maybe i am missing something, every Lebron is great article must put down Kobe first, is Kobe the only other star on the team? Or Was Chris Paul not the second coming just a minute ago?


  2. “but Delfino looked very good last game and they are a deep team”

    I haven’t really seen too many of Argentina’s game, but is there anyone worth mentioning among their 7th-12th men?

    Also, I completely agree that in some sense it is the US’ to lose. If the US keep up the defensive intensity, that is, not ball watching and continuing to switch swiftly when needed, and can make some outside shots, the US is simply hard to defeat. Argentina also needs to shoot the three really well as the only times U.S. had problems would be during runs during which the opponents were hitting their 3s at a high rate thus increasing their point per possession as well as opening up some lanes (going all the way back to Greece in 06 when early 3s opened up a lot of lanes and back cut opportunities) and limiting the U.S.’ transition opportunities.


  3. Kobe is 2 wins away from a championship…..sound familiar anyone?


  4. 1) No, we don’t have any worth player among our 7th-12th men.

    That’s why only a miracle can make Argentina beat the US team.

    We loose Pepe Sanchez and Herrmann and our bench in the frontcourt is really poor (Scola, against Russia, a game with no sense played 40 minutes because Oberto was injured).

    So, if Prigioni, Scola or Oberto gets 2 fouls in the 1st quarter, we are out of the game.

    This is a much better US Team and the worst Argentine team since 2002 (but we keep our heart, that’s why we still play for a medal). Plus: Oberto (no FG attemps vs Greece) and Nocioni are injured (finished the game in one leg).


  5. I haven’t had a chance to watch the games since Macau. I have one question that might be of interest regarding Kobe. I’ve spent the last half decade or more arguing that Kobe plays team basketball. Watching him try and win with Smush and Kwame as fellow starters made it easy to argue that Kobe would be a team player if he had a team to play with. The Championships before that certainly indicated his willingness to subsume himself to a team concept when he had folks who would execute said concept. Now Kobe’s team has the talent that took him to the finals and won the MVP. People began to talk about Kobe finally learning to play team ball and as far as I could tell he was playing exactly the same on this latest Lakers team as he had two seasons previous, or even for the last half decade or more. I saw that Kobe’s teammates were the difference, not Kobe. The only time I thought Kobe lacked the ability to work within the team concept was during the finals this year and in 2004. Both opposing teams were known for their great D and maybe they presented Kobe with options he can’t capitalize on. From someone observing both failed championship series it looked like Kobe was trying to do too much, taking shots that Kobe makes more often then others but that even he struggles with. It looked like he was dribbling too much and forcing up shots. How does Kobe’s performance in those two series compare to what it is that Kurt brought up?

    “At times in the half court the USA just goes too much isolation and not enough ball movement (Kobe is one of the worst offenders).”

    Seems to me that is what we saw against Detroit and what we saw against Boston. Again, I’ve not watched the Olympics so I can’t compare with my own eyes. Seeing that there is no way this current team can be considered less talented then the competition, or playing a less team oriented concept then the other teams (one might argue that Detroit and Boston matched up well against the Lakers in those series as regards defensive concept and talent), are we being shown a weakness in Kobe’s game that up until now I had not been willing to concede. Some call it selfishness but it may be something else. So much of Kobe’s game is predicated on certain options, mostly based on dribble penetration and dribbling to spots he can shoot from. Very good teams take many of those options away. I for one would have liked to see Kobe develop more of a catch and shoot game to complement the rest of what is clearly built around ball handling. What say all of you?


  6. 5. I think Kobe is very much the team player, both in these Olympics and overall.

    First, in these games, he has taken on the role of stopper defender and given up some offense to do that — a real sign of being a team leader. Second, as to him overdribbling at times, it’s really a function of the free-wheeling offense the USA runs. This is not a highly structured half-court offense, it’s pretty much classic Duke “spread the floor and let our athletes beat your athletes.” It’s not that simple, but that’s the premise. So with that you at times get Kobe (and Wade and LeBron) trying to do a little to much on their own when a sharp pass would have gotten a teammate a better shot. That said, this is Kobe, Wade and LeBron — they still hit a lot of those shots.

    And, Kobe’s catch and shoot has been shown off some in these games. It’s pretty good, I’d love to see him get that chance more in LA (and he may with the offensive weapons around him this year).


  7. The American media decided to demonize Kobe in 2003. There has been absolutely NO change in this attitude since that time. They grudgingly conceded that Kobe was the centerpiece of this year’s Laker success and he got the MVP, as much because Kobe tossed back all the things the media was saying into their face this year. Even so people kept saying it was the people around Kobe who really make the Lakers a success – duhhhhhh! This is really a new thought? How about Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, Kareem Abdul Jabbar?

    I think what makes the American media so very, very mad at this time is that the Chinese and world media really could care less about the American media’s vendetta against Kobe. They love him and follow him everywhere. He actually has made a real effort over the years to visit China and it is now paying off in spades.

    Gee! I guess ESPN and the other members of the American media will just have to take their little vendetta and go home because nobody else wants to play their game. How sad.


  8. JOHN SALCHICHON August 21, 2008 at 3:38 pm

    Argentina wins because is a solid team and USA will be nervous about the game


  9. If you look closely enough, you can find the cracks in anyone’s game. Kobe, Lebron, Wade, Magic, Bird, Jordan, Kareem, Duncan, etc, etc.

    The ultimate point is: are these minor flaws the ultimate difference between wins and losses in the highest stakes games? For anyone that claims they have the answer to that question, please take your *enlightenment* somewhere else where people who don’t understand nuance live their lives.

    Team games are won and lost as teams. A single tipped ball by your 9th best player can be the difference on nights where the final margin is double digits if it takes place at the right time. During any single game, there are a hundred (more, even) variables that contribute to the final outcome. Now, sure, single players, and their usage rates or their utilization within the game plan can have a greater effect than other players, but as I said originally, we are still talking about a team game.


  10. PeanutButterSpread August 21, 2008 at 5:12 pm

    I agree with Craig W. here.

    The American media is simply ruffled that the Chinese media and the Chinese people love Kobe more than Phelps, Lebron, etc and it kills them. Why? Because it means years of writing crap about Kobe goes down the drain and shows just exactly how petty ESPN and any other American media outlet has been to Kobe.

    I have my fair shares of qualms about Kobe sometimes, but the truth is, Kobe embodies a lot of good qualities as well, like hard work, dedication, sacrifice, perseverance, over coming failures and these are qualities the Chinese admire.

    American media likes to build up it’s heroes and then relishes when they fall. It’s twisted and just sad.


  11. Because TCO and Pato are right — upon a closer look Argentina is not a very deep team, they have plenty of names but the talent level drops off quickly — I made a change in the post where I said Argentina is a deep team.

    I think that helps my overall point — the USA bench is going to spark a run at some point, and Argentina will not be able to recover.


  12. Despite the ass-whooping they received in the last game, I still believe Spain has the best chance to compete with the US. Sure, there is a point to be made that the spanish more NBA-like style suits the americans better than say the greeks or even Argentina; but still, talentwise, Spain is by far the second best team in this tournament. If Spain has a great day and the US an awful one, there is a chance for an upset.

    I think one of the biggest keys will be wheter Pau will be able to hande the constant double-teams the US are throwing at him. He’s been on fire this tournament, dominating more or less every game apart from one: the one versus the US. Clearly handling double-teams have never been one of his greatest strenghts, but if the spanish team can shoot the ball well from outside they should be able to make the US guard Pau straight up and then he’ll be effective. I’m telling you; this is the best I’ve seen him in a long time (granted he always seems to play well internationally, but still).

    I realise this whole post may seem a little off-topic, but I would be amazingly surprised if we don’t see the US versus Spain in the final and thus allowed myself to look past Argentina and Lithuania;)


  13. I think if it is USA vs. Spain for the gold, Spain’s biggest advantage may be having played the USA already. They’ve seen the pressure, they got some ideas about what might work (although little did, Spain only looked good when the USA helped out). Plus, if they were smart, they kept a tactic they really liked in reserve. Both teams were moving on, no reason to pull out all the big guns at that point.


  14. There’s a bit of a one-sided debate on Blazer’s Edge w/r/t whether Portland’s bench is superior to the Laker one, if anyone’s interested.


  15. I can’t wait for this game to begin. Aside from Bryant, Ginobili is my favorite player in the league. In fact, he and Kobe share a lot of the same qualities. Both players are competitors in every sense of the word.

    And each player has been blessed to play with a dominant post player. Kobe has shown what he can do as the focal point of the Lakers. We’ll probably never know what Ginobili could have accomplished as ‘the man’ of his team, but I think he would excel in that role.

    If I’m not mistaken, Kobe and Manu have met one another three times in the NBA playoffs. And Kobe owns a 2-1 advantage.

    They don’t match up with one another often because of foul trouble and fatigue.

    But neither of those factors will be as important tomorrow. It’s one and done in the Olympics. Do or die.

    Knowing how competitive each player is and how much this experience means to them, I think we’re going to see some passionate exchanges.

    As Kurt alluded to above, it will take a perfect game for Argentina to win. But if they can rebound and take care of the basketball, they will keep it close until the end…where anything can happen when you have a player like Ginobili.



    Kobe reads comics! I mentioned this a couple weeks ago, that he stopped by my local comic shop, and here’s the news article about it. Cool! My two hobbies coming together! 100 Bullets is an excellent series, and something I can see recommending to the wanna-be gangsta’s that are todays superstar athletes. And Preacher is just good stuff.


  17. I’ve already stated that I think the gold is a lock. When the analysis can be summed up as “everything has to go perfectly for Argentina and wrong for the US” for them to win… it really says something.

    Another way to look at Team USA is that every player except Tayshaun Prince is a franchise player. Chris Paul… CHRIS PAUL is a backup. Team USA is almost the result of whittling down both All-Star teams into one unit. Take that same team and put them up against two decent and one excellent NBA players surrounded by scrubs…

    Watching Team USA is probably similar to watching a season of little league baseball where they let the Yankees compete.

    The world has caught up in some respects, but not when the US puts its best athletes forward.


  18. LeBron carries that team. Where LeBron goes, the team goes. Where LeBron doesn’t go…we will see. But USA will win all games by over 20…average of 30. Whoever doubted this team doesn’t know their basketball and will be taught very quickly. BEST BASTKETBALL TEAM IN THE WORLD SINCE 1992. RARE AIR…That will show how great they are. Second best team of all time. GOLD BY 24 points!


  19. Before the games began, I told you that this specific version of Team USA was a 100% lock to win the Gold Medal on account of Kobe Bryant and J-Kidd, when supported by players the calibre of Lebron James, D-Wade and Deron Williams.

    This squad is not going to lose in this tournament and if you bet on them to capture Gold prior to the start of the event you had a chance to get them at relatively healthy odds of 1:3.5 … which is outstanding value for a FAVOURITE as strong as this team is.

    Hopefully this Argentina team is capable of keeping the score close until the game’s final minute … for, as someone else has already said, this is in fact their weakest team in several years, i.e. without Pepe Sanchez (PG) … but there is NO WAY this Team USA is going to lose this tournament.

    Kobe Bryant … not Lebron James or D-Wade or D-Will, etc. … is just too good when he gets a chance to play with a PG like J-Kidd, in an international basketball event.


  20. Is it just me or has any else noticed the alarming number of slips and falls during the olympic basketball tournament? Jesus christ, China. Can we send two guys with mops out there, instead of hand towels? Thanks.


  21. This Argentina team is playing with a great deal of heart & character.

    Luis Scola is having a major effect on the game right now, at the 4-spot for the reigning Olympic champs.

    At some point, it would behoove the USA to go with a 3 out/2 in line-up vs the zone their seeing:


    1 D-Will
    2 Redd/Kobe
    3 Kobe/Lebron
    4 Boozer/Bosh
    5 Bosh/Howard

    It’s always more interesting to see a game decided in the final minute of play instead of being a blowout.


  22. 18. Let me be blunt — anyone who thought the USA would cakewalk to gold in this tournament doesn’t know basketball. Or history.

    The final score today was 20, but that was not indicative of a close game.


  23. Actually, Kurt, the only serious run was when Argentina got the game down to 6 – and that was followed by an almost immediate jump back up to 12.

    The problem was that the U.S. was not in serious trouble. They tend not to deal with zones well and now the coaches have some film to prove this point. When the number of 3pt attempts exceeds the number of 2pt attempts you have issues. I think when teams go to the zone the U.S. must put in Chris Bosh. With he, Labron and perhaps Anthony cutting down low we should be able to dice up any zone.


  24. Craig, I saw only the first quarter at home, following the rest online from the office. So maybe it was closer when I peeked in than it actually was.

    That said, my point to #18, was that to say going into the games this would be easy was naive at best.


  25. When everyone can shoot and most are more familiar with the nuances of international basketball than you are, saying anything is easy is not the most astute observation – naive is the kindest way to put it.


  26. Could be a close game. Remember, if Argentina played a perfect game and US Team playing bad… But, we lost Ginóbili in the first quarter.

    Altough, we played with our heart in our hands, that was great.

    We could do what Spain did against US and start to think in the bronze medal game, but we have proud.

    In Athens we had Sanchez, Ginóbili, Nocioni, Scola & Oberto + Montecchia, Delfino, Herrmann, Sconochini, Wolkowyski & Fernández.

    Now: Prigioni, Ginóbili, Nocioni, Scola & Oberto + Delfino, all near the 30 minutes by game.

    Congratulations to the US Team, please beat Spain (sorry Xavier). I hope we can won one more… It would be a great finish for this generation.


  27. Way, way off topic, but I’m starting to work with my tech people on a little redesign of the site, to be up before the season. I’m always open to ideas and suggestions, so post them in the comments or send me an email. (This may come up in another post as well.)


  28. Kurt, in echoing your point, here is an article from Sheridan where he quotes both Coach K and Jim Boehim saying the exact same things:



    TrueHoop’s liveblog today was poking fun at Kobe and Melo. I actually felt like Kobe did the right thing on the fast break layup. The USA team often times tries to get too fancy. He had the wide open slam and he took it. one more pass is one more chance to mess things up. In a statement game, you don’t mess around like that.

    Can we have more use of video/graphics on the website?


  30. 27.

    Design recommendations:
    1. Nested comments
    2. Different color scheme (does the whole site need to be purple & gold?)
    3. Banner should link to main page.
    4. Link to knickerblogger stat page shouldn’t be for 2006 season.



  31. I am hoping that the USA beats Spain. Not for patriotic reasons or because I dislike Spain, but for the following 2 reasons:

    1) Kobe reminds himself of what it’s like to be on a championship team. He brings that attitude and desire into training camp and spreads championship fever to his teammates.

    2) Pau loses a championship… again. He now craves what he can’t have and has his best season and focuses on winning the NBA crown.


  32. Interesting day for the Spurs. Ginobli is out hurt again, and Luis Scola, (who the spurs leg go for a bag of peanuts) has an extremely solid outing. Not a good day to be Popovich.


  33. Here is a vote against nested comments. I find that putting users in charge of organizing comments really reduces my ability to follow the flow of the thread. I would rather scroll through everything in chronological order and be sure I have read it all than to jump around a site with multiple different nestings and not know if I have read it all. I tend to remember about where I left off on my last visit and simply scroll down to that point and start reading/scanning again.


  34. I don’t care how close the game was at one point. The game was over in the first quarter at 30-9.

    Argentina picked up the intensity after that, but it is a lot easier to play with the pressure off. There is no way USA lets this team come back from that deficit. It was just a bad 2nd quarter with everyone settling for long jumpers that were not falling.

    I don’t know why coach K kept going with super small line ups, which kept getting pounded inside by Scola.

    I can’t wait for Kobe Vs. Pau!


  35. Looks like Portland may lose some cap room:

    Boston picked up Darius Miles


  36. Nested comments are the WORST.


  37. And Khandor masters the art of hyperbole 😉 I think you guys are right. At first I would’ve liked threaded comments, but it’s too hard to follow.


  38. Somehow the Celtics’ acquisition of Darius Miles bothers me. I know the guy hasn’t played for two seasons already, but I just can’t stop remembering the time he kept torching teams for 30+ a night.


  39. The Dude Abides August 22, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    I believe the USA lost some intensity after getting out to a big lead and realizing that Manu wasn’t coming back. Luckily they were able to turn it on again after Argentina made their comeback. I will say that was a sweet block on Kobe by Nocioni. Didn’t see that coming (and Kobe didn’t either).


  40. There’s one announcer who’s been saying since the beginning of the Olympic tournament that Spain’s Raul Lopez is 20 years old. Isn’t that the same guy who played for the Jazz a while back? He looks exactly like him. There’s no way he’s only 20. Am I off or has no one bothered to correct the announcer?


  41. Lane:

    No you’re right. He’s actually 28 and indeed the same guy who played for the Jazz. Too bad his career took a turn for the worse with all the injuries; he used to be a great talent. I remember him shooting lights out (.52 if I’m not mistaken) from three in Euroleague before he got to the NBA.

    He actually had a few decent games for the Jazz as well, but then the injuries got the better of him. He’s still a capable guard though, only not the star I hoped that he would turn into. We’ll just have to leave that to Ricky instead;)


  42. Thanks, Andreas G. I never saw him in Euroleague, but I remember him being a good player in the NBA. That’s why I was surprised the announcer didn’t have accurate info on him.


  43. better visibility on a mobile device. currently i have to scroll through page after page of headers before getting to the article.


  44. Kurt,

    No nested comments, I like your site the way the comments are now. I just scoll through them from 1 – 100? and everyone references a previous one if they want to by number or name.

    I like your ‘Affiliates’ section, I can go there and come right back to FB&G very easily.

    The ‘Search’ feature does not seem to work.

    The overall look and feel of this site is fine.

    GO TEAM USA (GOLD baby)…


  45. Site redesign suggestion: I visit FBG on my Blackberry. The page loads with the Right Hand Column (Comment tips/Links) first so that I have to scroll down A LOT to read the latest article. Resolving this would be GREAT. Thank you.


  46. Kurt,

    A link back to your home page in the header would also be appreciated. 🙂


  47. Kurt,

    In case any of your readers might be interested …

    Thanks, in advance. 🙂


  48. For Lakers’ fans … the most important aspect of tomorrow’s game is that Kobe & Pau come out from this tournament injury-free.

    70+ Wins and the 2008-2009 NBA championship await.


  49. If your website designers are using CSS it is very important which parts of the page appear first in the design of the page, as that is how they will come up on mobile devices. If you list the right side of the page first and ‘float’ it to the right, then it will appear first on devices that aren’t 800 pixels wide. If you list your main column first (not the normal practice) it will appear first to your mobile viewers.


  50. Craig, thanks for that. All of you, keep the suggestions coming. Some I had thought of, some I hadn’t. But I have put thought into it. I hope to have it up and running by the start of the season, but my designers are busy. We’ll see.


  51. Also, Gold Medal game post up.