Tue, Jul 24, 2012 - Page 18 News List

LONDON 2012 OLYMPICS: US hold off feisty Argentina in Spain

AP, BARCELONA, Spain

Carmelo Anthony of the US goes up for a basket against Argentina in an exhibition game at Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain, on Sunday, a warmup ahead of the London Olympics.

Photo: Reuters

The US Olympic men’s basketball team wore the throwback uniforms of the 1992 “Dream Team” on Sunday. The Americans’ play was much different.

Kevin Durant scored 27 points and the US held on for a narrow 86-80 victory over Argentina in an exhibition game.

The US got off to a hot start, but their lead was down to four with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left after Manu Ginobili’s three-point play. However, Durant and Chris Paul then hit big three-pointers as the US won after being pushed for the second time in their four exhibition games.

Kobe Bryant added 18 points and LeBron James 15 for the US, who beat Brazil 80-69 in a similarly rugged game last week in Washington.

Ginobili scored 23 points, Carlos Delfino had 15 and Luis Scola 14 for Argentina.

Back in Barcelona, where the Dream Team won gold 20 years earlier, the US players wore that team’s throwback uniforms. The white uniforms with red and blue along the side and USA in the middle also had the letters “CD” in gold on the left shoulder in honor of coach Chuck Daly, the Dream Team coach who died in 2009.

Otherwise, the US are more interested in building for London than reflecting too much on the past. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a Dream Team assistant, made that clear on Saturday at practice when he was asked about the old days.

“I’m not here to sightsee ... this isn’t me doing a reminisce tour in my retirement,” he said.

The two games in Barcelona should certainly help them get ready. The US play Spain today, a rematch of their 118-107 win in the gold-medal game four years ago.

First was Argentina, who won the 2004 Olympic gold medal, beating the US in the semi-finals. The US returned the favor four years later in the same round, before recapturing the gold.

Krzyzewski unveiled another starting lineup, with James, Durant, Bryant, Paul and Tyson Chandler. He has alternated the Durant-Carmelo Anthony and Paul-Deron Williams combination, with the other three spots set.

The first group got off to a sensational start, Durant opening with two three-pointers, before Bryant’s basket made it 8-0. Scola made a free throw, before Bryant and Durant nailed threes and Bryant dunked to make it 16-1 not even three minutes into the game.

The lead grew to 19-3 on Bryant’s three-pointer, before Durant and Williams each hit one in the final minute as the US led 31-16 on the strength of seven three-pointers.

The US led by 20 points early in the second, but like in their 101-81 victory in the Beijing semi-finals, they began fouling too much and let Argentina get back into it with their feisty, physical play.

This “friendly” — Scola and Kevin Love even appeared together at mid-court before the game to address the crowd, after Love was suspended for two games during the NBA season for stepping on him — did not stay that way.

Paul fouled guard Facundo Campazzo, who fell to the court after Paul appeared to hold onto him too long with 5:33 left in the half and the US up 14. Some words and light pushes were exchanged, Scola and Andres Nocioni involved, along with Anthony and Durant.

Argentina kept fighting, cutting it all the way to 45-40 in the last minute of the half, before going into the break down by seven.

Contenders for a podium spot for nearly a decade, Argentina are hoping the run is not over for their “Golden Generation.”

Argentina did not medal in the 2010 worlds — though Ginobili did not play — and they were beaten by Spain by 20 points on Friday. Ginobili is 34, Scola and Andres Nocioni are 32, Knicks-bound guard Pablo Prigioni is 35, Fabricio Oberto no longer plays and Argentina have not found younger talent like they had in this group, which also won silver in the 2002 world basketball championships.

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