With group play in men’s basketball coming to an end Monday night with Croatia’s win over Lithuania, the four quarterfinal matchups are now set. And for the U.S. men’s basketball team, that means an opponent they certainly have some familiarity with.
Thanks to the combination of their loss to Spain and Croatia’s victory, Argentina gets first crack at the Americans in the bracket rounds. Argentina’s got some players fans will certainly be familiar with, as Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola and Andres Nocioni are still mainstays on the roster. But there’s another player on Argentina’s roster, point guard Facundo Campazzo, who has the potential to give the U.S. trouble if they aren’t better defending the pick and roll than they were in their last three games in group play.
Campazzo scored 33 points and dished out 11 assists in Argentina’s double-overtime win over Brazil, and he averaged 16.4 points and 5.2 assists per game in group play. The U.S. did blow out Argentina in an exhibition leading into these Olympics, but Ginobili played just over 14 minutes with Scola and Nocioni playing a shade over 23 and 22 minutes, respectively.
Also on that side of the bracket are France and Spain, with the French finishing third in Group A and the Spaniards second in Group B. The U.S. beat France by three in their final game in group play, and they’ve defeated Spain in each of the last two gold medal games. On the other side of the bracket, Group B winner Croatia takes on Serbia in one quarterfinal, with Group A runner-up Australia drawing Lithuania in the other.
Wednesday’s Quarterfinal Schedule
Australia vs. Lithuania, 10 a.m. Eastern
Spain vs. France, 12:30 p.m.
U.S.A. vs. Argentina, 5:45 p.m.
Croatia vs. Serbia, 9:15 p.m.
France would not go away, but the United States simply rolled with the punches en route to another close win in the Rio Olympics on Sunday.
Klay Thompson scored 30 points as the United States built a 12-point fourth quarter lead that sank as low as three, but the Yanks held on to beat France 100-97.
Still, the U.S. finished 5-0 with a point differential of plus-204, and will face the fourth-placed team from Pool B in the quarterfinals. That could still be Croatia, Spain, Brazil, or Nigeria.
WATCH: Full game replay
Kyrie Irving didn’t need to shoot to be a star in the first half, dishing out five assists on 0-for-1 shooting as the Americans built their lead.
Kevin Durant added 17, and Irving finished with 12 assists.
Thomas Heurtel was excellent for France, dishing out 9 assists in addition his eight rebounds and 18 points. Nando De Colo also scored 18 in the loss.
While the U.S. men’s basketball team is 4-0 in Rio and has already locked up a spot in the quarterfinal round, they haven’t looked all that convincing in wins over Australia and Serbia. In those wins guards Matthew Dellavedova and Patty Mills (Australia), and Milos Teodosic (Serbia) gave the Americans fits working in ball screen situations. Sunday’s group finale brings another test for the Americans in this area, with point guard Tony Parker leading the way for France.
Since being blown out by Australia in their group opener the French have won three straight, blowing out China and Venezuela with a one-point win over Serbia in between. Parker’s a key for France, and his track record both internationally and with the San Antonio Spurs can’t be questioned. But to assume that France is a one-man outfit would be a mistake.
WATCH LIVE: United States vs. France — 1:15 p.m. Eastern
In the front court France can counter the American big men with the likes of Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) and Boris Diaw (traded from San Antonio to Utah), and wing Nicolas Batum of the Charlotte Bobcats can be a handful as well. The U.S. can put points on the board with anyone, but they have to be better defensively while also improving their offensive execution.
While they scored 98 against Australia and 94 against Serbia, the ball and player movement wasn’t at the level that they need it to be even if their raw talent allows them to get away with ball-watching on the offensive end. Kyrie Irving, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George have made key shots down the stretch in the last two wins, but the U.S. can be better on this end of the floor than they’ve been. Will that change Sunday? If not, they could be in for another nail biter.