Saturday, August 23, 2008

Don't cry for Argentina...

...because the moment Manu Ginobili, Argentina's leading scorer, went down with an injured ankle in the first quarter, hardly anyone thought they stood a chance anymore against the talent-laden line-up of the Redeem Team, particularly when Kobe Bryant and co. were romping their way to a 21-point lead when that happened.

And then things took a turn for the worst.

If Team USA's play in the first half of their game against the Aussies were "sloppy," the first half against Argentina was even sloppier as they managed to cut the Redeem Team's lead down to just 9 points at the half, thanks to Team USA suddenly looking lost on the offense, and if such a thing is possible, even more lost on the defense. Also, with Ginobili out for the game, Argentina had no choice but to kick their game up a notch by employing a highly stifling zone defense and getting physical against Team USA, the kind of physical defense that would rile Carmelo Anthony.

"Keep it cool now, 'Melo baby. But admit it, you'll never be as good as me."

And much like the game against Australia, the second half was a different story, with a refreshed and reinvigorated Redeem Team taking the game back courtesy of Jason Kidd who, other than giving some of the players a pep talk in the locker room during the halftime break, also orchestrated their offense as he moved the team and ball against the zone. And move them he did because Argentina never got closer than 13 from then on as Team USA struck down the Ginobili-less Argentina in their most competitive game so far, 101-81.

But if there's a true winner here, it has to be Spain's coach, Aito Garcia Reneses. Because by watching the game, he has a more thorough understanding of what needs to be done to make the Spanish team work effectively against Team USA on Sunday's gold-medal game, and that's 40 minutes of non-stop zone defense, a very physical gameplay, and a commitment to protect the ball as often as possible.

Because even if the Redeem Team trounced Spain 119-82 in their Group B division, a gold medal in the world's biggest sports stage and the chance to call yourself an Olympic champion puts everything on a different level.

So it's just one more game to go before everyone finds out if the Redeem Team truly deserve to be called as such.

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