Team USA, pushed to the limit in their previous three preliminary games by Australia, Serbia and France, will face old foes Argentina in Wednesday’s quarterfinals match at the Rio Olympics.
Even though Coach Mike Krzyzewski’s team has maintained a winning record, several critics are wondering if the team is on the brink of an upset defeat.
Argentina will be led by San Antonio Spurs stalwart Manu Ginobili, a player who many of the current American players grew up admiring and competing against in the NBA.
Team USA must remember 2004
The Argentinians know a thing or two about upsetting the Americans at the Olympics stage. During the 2004 Athens Games, a team led by Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino defeated Team USA and forced the Americans to settle for a rare bronze medal.
That 2004 American team featured a 20-year-old Carmelo Anthony, who 12 years later is the greatest scorer in the country’s Olympics history.
The Americans, playing without superstars Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook, are billed as heavy favorites going into Wednesday’s tie. But Klay Thompson is in no mood to take the Argentinians lightly.
“We’ll be ready for these last three (games), I’m telling you right now,” said Thompson, who scored a game-high 30 points during Sunday’s 100-97 win over the French.
“Everyone we see now is going to be explosive. We’re happy to be 5-0, and we control our own destiny. We just have to trust ourselves on both sides of the ball, and if we do that and play hard, I don’t think we’ll lose,” added Thompson, during an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter.
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Coach K addresses chemistry issue
Several critics have opined that Team USA hasn’t gelled as a cohesive unit. Coach Krzyzewski defended the team’s inability to dominate opponents. “Well, I do think they trust each other. They’re just not accustomed to playing with one another. When you’re together for one month, it’s not as instinctive.
“But don’t confuse it with not getting along, pulling for each other, things like that. It’s just not as instinctive as it would be for an international team that’s played together for years. That’s always something that we have to fight in putting a team together for these international competitions. But we’re getting there.”
The winner of the USA-Argentina quarterfinal will square off against the winner of the Spain-France match-up in Friday’s semifinals. On the other side of the bracket, the Australians face Lithuania while the Croatians face rival Serbia in the other quarterfinals.
Team USA won the gold medal in the previous two Olympic Games at Beijing (2008) and London (2012). Would they complete the hat-trick?