Considering that USA Basketball went undefeated in the preliminary round of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad, you would think that things would go smooth in the knockout round? Wrong, considering that USA Basketball played three trap games in their final three prelim games, against Australia, Serbia, and France, there are doubts that USA Basketball is not going to leave Rio without the gold.
However, on Wednesday, USA Basketball had a statement win against Argentina by defeating them with a scoreline of 27 points. So after a dominant performance, should everyone just R-E-L-A-X? Well, not yet.
People all over the sports world have compared the 2016 USA Basketball team to the team that played in Athens, but I expect that this team will get their third straight gold medal. With that being said, I still think they have to prove themselves.
It should be no surprise that USA Basketball played well against a solid Argentine team where Kevin Durant had a big game. During this Olympic tournament, the leader of USA Basketball was passive, in which Carmello Anthony had to take the charge against Australia and late in the game against France. Durant had that statement game against Argentina was an absolute beast from the perimeter, shooting seven out of nine. It also didn't affect DeMarcus Cousins, who had his best game of the 2016 Olympics and the defense, which was inconsistent in this tournament, looked great.
A tournament in which momentum is helpful, and the importance of confidence is vital, Wednesday's game by USA Basketball was huge. And a dominant performance against Argentina, a team that isn't getting younger but could still be a threat, is important when USA Basketball has another tough contest against Spain today. It should also be noted that USA Women's Basketball team play Spain in the Gold Medal match on Saturday. But back to the subject here, there are still reasons that USA Basketball could still be vulnerable.
First, they are prone to playing one-on-one and trying to play hero mode. It's a move we've seen since the Barcelona games in 1992 with the Dream Team, but it feels like it has been used in these games considering that USA Basketball has too many dominant scorers and not enough shooters/guys that can create for other players. That is my main reason why USA Basketball is struggling offensively. It still works because USA Basketball still has star power for it to work.
With that being said, the defense remains a problem. The defense did have a big game with USA Basketball being down to ten guys. The lineup between Jimmy Butler, Cousins, Durant, George and Lowry was the reason why USA Basketball broke free, and I expect to see that happen in the game against Spain. Draymond Green, who has barely played in this tournament, also did decent work on the defense. But the slow start for USA Basketball allowed Argentina to get the lead early, and that is a concern for the defense against Spain that has been on an offensive tear as of late.
Again, I'd be shocked if USA Basketball didn't get the gold in the Rio Games. But while I may be confident, there is a chance that my confidence goes out the window.