Join us at 3:45 p.m. ET for a Fourth-Place Medal live chat during Team USA's Friday afternoon matchup with Argentina in the semifinals of the men's basketball tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics. We'll be cracking jokes, sharing observations, taking questions and talking about the game with fans like you.
For all his gifts, talents and wisdom, Manu Ginobili remains a realist. The Argentina basketball legend and San Antonio Spurs star knows that his national team enters its Friday afternoon matchup with the United States in the semifinals of the men's basketball tournament at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London as a massive underdog — a 24-point dog, to be exact, according to Bovada — after the U.S. blew its doors off in the second half of a 29-point group-stage win on Monday.
Ginobili's aware that Argentina's chances of defeating Team USA when the nations square off in the semifinals for the third straight Olympic Games are slim. How slim? He put a number on it for Reuters' Patrick Graham:
"The odds are against us. We have a 10 percent or even a five percent chance of winning but we are going to fight for this," San Antonio Spurs guard Manu Ginobili said after driving his team past Brazil and into the semi-finals. [...]
"We are going to try and turn the ball over less. Make a few shots in the second half and don't let them run. Then if they get inspired and LeBron [James] or Kobe Bryant or someone get hot and hit 20 threes like they did in the last game, then there's nothing you can do."
Ginobili's evaluation was echoed by his coach, Argentina's Julio Lamas.
"If you play five minutes badly, they can kill you, they'll score 20 points," Lamas said. "We need to play the perfect game, for 40 minutes."
To some degree, that's true — you watch scoring outbursts like the record-setting barrage that Carmelo Anthony ripped off against Nigeria, or the too-easy 17-point third quarter that Kevin Durant dropped on Argentina on Monday, or the 20-point second half that Kobe Bryant tossed up against Australia on Wednesday, and you think, "Well, if they can just get any one of their all-world scorers to do this whenever he wants, then how do you deal with it?" Especially, as Ginobili said, if they hit a stretch where they're forcing turnovers, as they did in that 42-17 third quarter on Monday, when they pressured Argentina into coughing the ball up six times in 10 minutes.
The U.S. doesn't have to play the perfect game; it doesn't even necessarily have to play particularly well. Such is the gulf in talent, the disparity in depth, the difference in firepower, even against a team that starts five NBA players and a surefire Hall of Famer in Ginobili.
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But as Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press notes, history suggests that we shouldn't just pen the U.S. in for the title game just yet:
... the Americans remember beating Spain by 37 in pool play four years ago, only to find themselves in a four-point game in the final three minutes a few days later in the gold-medal game. So don't go assuming this will be another laugher.
"It's never a sure thing," U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski said.
Especially against Argentina.
The Argentines are proud champions, with a core of beloved veterans fighting to go out in glory, a team whose accomplishments are almost on par with the Americans over the last decade. [...]
"We already know what to expect as far as the intensity of this game tomorrow night. They're going to bring it," U.S. forward Carmelo Anthony said.
Plus, as everybody reading this likely knows by now, Argentina's one of the few teams in the world with experience in actually beating the U.S. in international play, having shocked them at the 2002 FIBA World Championships and again in the semifinal round of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Unfortunately for Argentina, those losses led to the total revamping of the USA Basketball program, including a roster reshaping that means the days of U.S. teams reliant on the likes of Raef LaFrentz, Antonio Davis, Shawn Marion and Richard Jefferson.
As Dan McCarney noted at the San Antonio Express-News, the U.S. men's national team is 60-1 since losing to Argentina at the 2004 Games. The lone loss was a 101-95 defeat at the hands of Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship, which the U.S. followed by defeating Argentina, 96-81, in the third-place game. Team USA has rolled up 15 consecutive Olympic wins, including a 20-point win over Argentina in the semifinals en route to gold in Beijing in 2008 and the 29-point win earlier this week in London.
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