During the remainder of the Olympic men's basketball tournament, FanHouse will give you 5 Things to watch for in each game.
Where's the heart of Argentina? There has been little news regarding the health of Andres Nocioni. One Argentine report (via HoopsHype) said he will not play, but based on Nocioni's record to date it is clear we should not count him out until we see him in blue jeans or John Paxson's invisible dungeon. (Paradox!) Noces was actually a bit terrible Wednesday against Greece, as he limped around on a bum wheel which relegated him to spot-up shooter status. But he's a stud player, maybe Argentina's third most valuable. Any team which loses a top threat will suffer; against an opponent as virile as Team USA, it's almost a pre-emptive death blow. Nocioni needs to be at his best for Argentina to compete diligently.
Another defensive test. Team USA's slashing defense got a test against quick Patrick Mills and the solid backcourt of Australia. Through the first half, Australia kept ahold of the ball and didn't allow Dwyane Wade and the American point guards to get their klepto on. But it fell apart in the third quarter. Can Argentina's Pablo Prigioni, Manu Ginobili and Carlos Delfino keep it up the entire game? Prigioni has been a marvelous protector of the ball, with only four Olympic turnovers in almost 200 minutes (and through 27 assists). Manu will also bring the ball up some, and Delfino took over those duties briefly in the fourth against Greece. The Americans might be able to pressure Manu and Delfino, and certainly bat about at Luis Scola and Fabricio Oberto. But Prigioni should be a tough pastry to smash.
Speaking of the bigs... How much better than Scola and Oberto are Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh? The Americans are better, sure. But the benefit of Scola (who might begin being guarded by Carmelo Anthony) is his versatile game. Bosh has been good in his rotations and all, but Howard has been at his best as a traditional goalkeeper; having to chase the Argentines could be problematic. Andrew Bogut was no Great Shakes on Wednesday, but he did have a few spectacular screen-roll possessions which left Team USA confounded. Scola and Oberto -- and the whole Argentine team, really -- are so in sync and rhythmic that the American bigs could very well get caught with their pants down. (Watch out, Dominique!)
Isolationism. Kurt from Forum Blue & Gold has an excellent point about the American offense, a concern which sort of lords over all discussion of this U.S. team in various ways:
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).It seems worth noting that the Americans haven't had to watch themselves on offense. It has been, primarily, the feast of transition basketball and overmatched iso from LeBron and Wade. A close game sticks this reality under a magnifying glass and the sun.
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. [...] 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.
Depth perception. Argentina has impeccable talent at the top, but nearly no depth at key positions. Foul trouble for either starting big man would be famine for the frontline. Nocioni's potential loss or limitations force Delfino to be on, but also removes one more precious cannonball in Argentina's reserve. Foul trouble needs to be avoided like the plague.