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- The long ball looks to be falling early, as Durant and Paul both connect from downtown. The USA will need a better performance from beyond the stripe if they want to avoid another nail-biter like the Lithuania game.
- LeBron gets in the post for a nice and-one. It’s easy to wonder why we haven’t seen more of this so far in the tournament, although it could be being saved for the vital games. Ginobili responds with a three-point play of his own on the other end in typical Manu fashion – the Argentines look ready for a dogfight today.
- I’m not generally Carmelo’s biggest fan, but this whole no-commentators thing is bringing me around. Melo insists on yelling profanity on every rebound or paint situation, and the microphones pick it up easily. It’s becoming my favorite part of watching USA games. He’s not playing too bad, either, in case you hadn’t noticed.
- Argentina, like Lithuania, can’t really match up on defense but is staying close by hitting a high percentage of jumpers. Lithuania kept it up all game and gave USA fans a scare; let’s see if Manu and friends can do the same.
- As I figured he might, Coach K is mixing up the lineup a little more rather than going with the first unit, second unit approach he was taking in the first few prelims. My favorite part of this is that he has Westbrook playing almost exclusively off the ball, where I think he’s far more effective.
- Someone needs to remind Deron Williams who his teammates are. He seems to think he’s still in Utah or New Jersey. Like Kobe, he’s developed a nasty habit of launching pull-up threes with 15 seconds left on the shot clock. This team is too good for that kind of thing.
- Melo hits the bench with two early fouls, much to my dismay. This could impact far more than my laughter, though. Anthony has been the most consistent USA player for many stretches of the tournament, finding some buckets when the offense stagnates. Meanwhile, this is a close game, as Argentina has kept up the hot shooting – a graphic shows them shooting 65% for the game and 75% (albeit just 3-4) from long range. 34-32 USA at the end of one.
- These on-court microphones are just awesome. The communication among US players on defense is nonstop and impressive. It’s easy to see how they are so effective on that end, and whether it’s because they are quieter about it or maybe because they simply aren’t talking as much, I don’t hear it to nearly the same degree from Argentina. Chandler and Love are particularly vocal as the anchoring big men, shouting out picks and help on every swing of the ball.
- Andre Iguodala should play more, if you ask me. He follows up a sneaky steal with a put-back dunk off a Westbrook miss, and is a constant presence on the defensive end. Team USA is playing great defense but continues to lead by single digits as Argentina has hit several long contested shots.
- Speaking of Iguodala, he just dunked the ball so hard that it bounced off his chest and right back up out of the basket. I don’t even know if they counted the points or not. I would be all for a rule where you get four points if it bounces out and then back in – it would be the height of hilarious to see guys consciously try for the four-point dunk.
- If I didn’t know any better, I’d say Stan Van Gundy devised Argentina’s game plan. They are jacking up threes at every possible opportunity, and it’s proving effective for now while they continue to make nearly half of them.
- I shouldn’t be laughing with the game this close, but I can’t help it. Chandler appears to have the ball stripped out of bounds from him off an Argentina player, but the ref calls it off Chandler. The ensuing sound bite was like three cavemen attempting to sing a cappella, with Chandler (deep baritone), LeBron (higher baritone) and Chris Paul (tenor) all screaming at the poor ref simultaneously. This is gold, people, I’m telling you.
- Speaking of CP3, he’s been the USA’s best player so far. That’s the third triple he’s made by my count, and he’s keeping command of an offense that looks out of sorts so far tonight.
- Kobe gets in on the vocal action, missing yet another turnaround but imploring the still-on-the-rim basketball with a poignant, “Get in there, bitch!”
- Amidst all this comedy is a really tight basketball game. The US is stalling on offense frequently, and no one besides Paul and Durant is contributing a whole lot. They continue to play solid defense, but Argentina is on fire from distance. USA leads by just one at the half, 60-59. The on-screen graphic of 43.5% shooting for the Americans won’t cut it, especially not with their opponents shooting 55%. They need LeBron to step up and start imposing himself more, and Melo needs to stay out of foul trouble and contribute more as well.
- I need a bathroom break so I don’t piss myself laughing in the second half. This way of watching basketball is seriously so much fun. If it weren’t for the crowd noise in NBA games, I would demand a television package which offered this same setup – no commentary, no ads, just microphones on the court so we can hear these guys. If they could find a way to keep the players audible over NBA crowds, I think it would be even better than this in America when you think about all the shit-talking that we miss in the Olympics due to language barriers.
- As the second half starts, a graphic shows Manu shooting 4-5 with 16 points. Sounds about right. He’s a microcosm for the whole Argentina team so far.
- Another early LeBron post-up for a bucket, followed by the same play for a miss but an offensive rebound leading to James hitting a three. Coach K clearly made some changes in the locker room at the half, and LeBron is doing what he needs to do and getting more involved. In fact, as I finish this he gets another lay-in and has scored all seven USA points so far.
- The defense has also picked up, allowing Team USA to open up a nine-point advantage. Chandler just took his fourth foul, though, so we will see if that continues.
- Boom, Coach K is on the airwaves! In a timeout, he can be clearly heard mid sentence stating “…he’s not gonna give the fuckin ball up!” I’d pay $30 a month for this service for NBA games without batting an eye.
- LeBron and Durant are fully engaged now, and the score is reflecting it. King James flies in for an acrobatic offensive board and a put-back, then Durant hits consecutive triples. USA has jumped to a 17-point lead, 85-68.
- F-bombs are plentiful so far today, as Melo cements his place atop the unintentional comedy mountain with an incredibly loud “Get the fuck outta here!” after another defensive rebound in traffic.
- Durant is going nuts right now. That’s his fourth three of the quarter, from about seven feet behind the line with a hand in his face. The ball isn’t even touching the rim. A graphic shows him with 28 points on an unbelievable 8-9 three-point shooting. Like I said in the last installment of Internet-less Diaries, he could go 60% from distance for the tournament and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Meanwhile, this game has gotten out of hand for Argentina, who now trail by 22.
- Down 26 you had to expect Luis Scola to do something ridiculous, and he doesn’t disappoint, trying to start something by the US bench after another made three by Carmelo. He’s out of the game to start the fourth quarter afterwards, but the tussle has energized the US bench (which now contains LeBron, Kobe, Melo and Durant), who are celebrating vocally as the US continues to extend their lead.
- Westbrook brings them to a fever pitch with a vicious dunk, but the refs can sense the Americans trying to rub it in and give him a technical foul for the ensuing braggadocio. Still nearly a 30-point US lead.
- With the game well in hand, it’s Unibrow time. You can sense all the other guys on the court consciously looking for the alley-oop to Davis every time he’s on the floor. They know he’s the new kid on the block and want to make him feel included. That, along with the bench camaraderie that’s captured in such high quality by this television format, just furthers the notion that this is a real team and not just a collection of talent and egos.
- Davis finally gets his lob…and misses the dunk. I’m a sad panda. Unibrow alley-oops are an expected part of every USA blowout. I’ll be upset if he can’t convert one in the final 2:30.
- Just to add a little insult to injury, Harden sinks a three at the buzzer to end the game, 126-97 USA. Even without a Unibrow dunk, I’d still have to call this the most entertaining game I’ve seen so far for the Americans. The Lithuania game was obviously closer, but this one really showcased the ability these guys have to turn on the jets and obliterate anyone in their path. It went from a one-point game at half to a 20-point massacre in no more than five minutes of real time during the third. When they commit to defense and run the inside-out game with LeBron and Durant on offense, the only way to stop this team is to pray the shots don’t go down. Combine that with hilarious outbursts from players and coaches alike, and I can’t wait for the medal round to start. Until then, enjoy the discus throw and whatnot.
By Ben Dowsett (@ben_dowsett)
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