The United States won the game, but it was all about the end of Argentina’s Golden Age as the game wound to a close.
In what is expected to be the final game for Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino – the last remaining members of the 2004 gold medal-winning squad – a largely pro-Argentina crowd gave them the farewell they deserved.
As Argentina jumped out to a 10 points lead just past the midway point of the first quarter, it appeared that they may have one more medal run left in the tank. The United States played the spoiler though, rattling off a 27-2 run that Argentina would never recover from, going on to win 105-78.
The run was sparked in part by a U.S. substitution that saw Paul George, Kyle Lowry, DeMarcus Cousins and Jimmy Butler replace all but Kevin Durant of the U.S. starters. The bench unit, plus Durant, helped to stymie the offensive attack, bringing a defensive intensity to the floor that the United States have rarely exhibited thus far in Rio.
Durant, the leading U.S. scorer in the London Olympics and a four-time NBA scoring champion, finally looked the part, tallying 27 points on 9-for-13 shooting, to go along with seven rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Cousins took advantage of his size disparity down low and bullied his way to 15 points and two blocks.
The Americans were buoyed by a dynamic performance from George who enforced his will on both ends of the court. He finished with 17 points, nine rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
Twelve years after winning gold in Athens, Argentina was still paced by the Ginobili/Nocioni/Scola trio as they combined for 41 points. Scola was the leading scorer with 15, Ginobili with 14 and Nocioni with 12.
The scene on the court after the loss was filled with hugs and tears on the Argentine side, while the U.S. breathed a sigh of relief that they weren’t, once again, knocked off by Ginobili and co.