The United States men’s basketball team, following three consecutive narrow victories to close out the group stage and standing as the only undefeated team at the 2016 Rio Games, enter the quarterfinals and knockout stage when it meets rival Argentina late Wednesday afternoon at Carioca Arena.
The U.S. is seeking its third straight and 15th overall gold medal, while the Argentineans reach the elimination round for the third consecutive Games and hope to medal for the first time since 2008 in Beijing. Argentina was the last to beat the U.S. and claim the gold medal in 2004 in Athens.
Outrebounded for the first time in the tournament, Team USA survived a hot-shooting France behind guard Klay Thompson’s 30 points and seven three-pointers for a 100-97 victory on Sunday to close out pool play and secured the top overall seed in Group A.
Team leading scorer Kevin Durant chipped in 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists, while point guard Kyrie Irving dropped a record 12 assists to go along with 12 points.
Reaching or surpassing the 100-point barrier for the fourth time, the U.S. is averaging 104.8 points a game and beating opponents by 23.4 points a contest but offense has not been the problem.
Thus far, as the competition has intensified, Team USA’s struggled to couple its complete offensive game with a solid defensive effort. Opponents have averaged only 81.4 points but are shooting 46.1 percent overall from the field and are moving the ball nearly as well as the U.S. with 21.0 assists a game. Team USA’s averaging 26.4 assists through five games.
“We’re really pleased to finish pool play 5-0. Offensively we made up some big strides this afternoon,” head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after beating France. “When we had leads, our defense let up. So, we have to keep working on the defense, but I think a lot of positive things on the offensive end today and going forward.
“Now we’re into a time when everybody’s going to be 0-0. It’s been a very interesting tournament because of pool play. The pool play on the other side [Group B] is incredible.
Argentina, which opened the tournament with three wins in its first four games, slipped out of second-place in Group B after a blowout loss to Spain 92-73 on Monday. Forward Nicolas Laprovittola netted a team-high 21 points and San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili fired off 16 points, but Argentina was plagued by 35.9 percent shooting and couldn’t overcome the 10-point lead Spain built in the first quarter.
Argentina's Leading scorer for the tournament and CB Murcia point guard Facundo Campazzo scored 10 points but went 1-for-4 from three-point range after making 13 threes in the previous four games.
Overall, Argentina has somewhat labored on the offensive end like the U.S. has on defense. Littered with a number of present and former NBA players like Ginobili, Luis Scola, and ex-Chicago Bull Andres Nocioni, the Argentines have limited opponents to 44.2 percent shooting and have protected the three-point line especially well. Opponents have averaged only 29.7 percent from deep and 7.6 made a game compared to Argentina’s 12.0 threes a contest.
The winner moves on to the semifinals where it will face either France or Spain, who will tip-off before the U.S. and Argentina take the floor, for a place in the finals. The semifinals will take place Friday and the gold medal game is Sunday.
Tip-off: Coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. ET and the game begins at 5:45 p.m.
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: NBCOlympics.com