Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Team USA attempts to advance to the gold medal game tomorrow, as they face Argentina in one of the semifinal contests. (Spain and Lithuania play in Friday's other game.) Of course, we'll be here, live blogging the USA-Visa action at 10:15 a.m. EST. But until then here's a few Olympic link appetizers to hold you over.

The Painted Area: "Luis Scola is a handful in the painted area and is having a superb tourney so far. He does damage in a variety of ways: very effective playing off Prigioni in the high post and he can drill mid-range jumpers off the screen action; he can take you down on the block; he has a knack for drawing fouls; and he will utilize the baseline picks/cuts of the offense to free himself for high-quality looks. Carlos Delfino is their other main option. 'Los has had a pretty solid if somewhat inconsistent tourney so far. His scoring has come in spurts, but his rebounding, defense, & passing have been consistently good thru-out." "The USA have actually beaten the Argentinians three times since that semi-final four years ago. The United States won their bronze-medal game at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and defeated Sergio Hernandez’s men twice last year at the FIBA Americas Championship, although Argentina did not have Manu Ginobili, Walter Herrmann, Pep Sanchez or Fabricio Oberto. This year at the Olympics, Argentina do have Ginobili and Oberto, though Herrmann and Sanchez have decided to retire."

Forum Blue & Gold: "Argentina will try to slow the game down (the USA is at 81 possessions per game, fastest in the Olympics, while Argentina is at 69, the slowest) and because they have ball handlers like Manu that will not be coughing the ball up a lot they should be able to limit turnovers. That said they will give up some — sometimes against teams that bring high pressure and tempo it takes a while to adjust. The USA does that, with starters and off the bench. I think at some point in the first half the pressure is going to get to Argentina, maybe some subs, and the USA will go on a fast 10-0 run or so. Argentina will have to play catch-up from there, but I don’t think they can do it."

20 Second Timeout: "The numbers and the history all point to the same conclusion: if Team USA plays solid defense and limits Argentina's three point shooting then Team USA should win by at least 15-20 points. The game will likely stay close for a while in the first half but Team USA's defensive pressure and superior depth will wear Argentina down eventually. The recipe for a Team USA loss is to revert to bad defensive habits, not force turnovers/missed shots and allow Argentina to hang around long enough to be able to steal the game at the end."

Doc's Head Games, via TrueHoop: "D-Wade has performed like the Energizer bunny on Red Bull, and the ratings demonstrate his versatile play. He has been absolutely everywhere, offensively and defensively and, to the average fan, a heck of a player to be coming off the bench. As many coaches say, though, it’s not who starts – it’s who finishes the game. And in Wade’s case, it’s also what he does every minute he is on the floor."

New York Times: "It is hard to criticize the play of the national team. It has won its six games here by an average of 32 points. But when the offense has stagnated — as it did in the first quarter Wednesday, when Australia trailed by just 25-24 — it has typically been with Bryant forcing shots. Is that trying to find pimples on the Mona Lisa? Perhaps. But the numbers will show just how much better and more consistent James has played."

Bill Livingston, The Plains Dealer, via CavsBoard: "What has happened at the Beijing Olympics is the beginning of James’ Most Valuable Player campaign for 2008-09. He always could pass. He always could attack the basket more relentlessly than anyone. The Cavaliers forward’s emergence as a devastating defender completes the picture. Kobe Bryant is still the top lockdown defender on what seems to be an unbeatable American team. But Bryant’s forced shots on offense and poor 3-point shooting keep him from being more than the third-best player on the team so far, behind James and Dwyane Wade."

The Dream Shake: Next up? Argentina. A team Kobe Bryant not-so-secretly wished the U.S. would play. So, you wanna face Argentina, huh? Well ... now's your chance. Just remember one thing: Luis Scola is a badass!

Andrew Bagnato, AP: "The U.S. hasn’t won a major semifinal since the 2000 Olympics — and that was a tense 85-83 victory against Lithuania in Sydney. U.S. guard Jason Kidd played in that game, and he remembers that it had the intensity of a final. 'It came down to the last shot of the semifinals, which felt like it was the gold medal game,' Kidd said. 'You kind of forgot that we played France for the gold medal.'"

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