Team USA steams past Argentina

This was supposed to be a U.S. team whose defensive tenacity was to carry them to a gold medal. This was a team that prided itself on its defense to suffocate the opposition. Turns out, the best defense might just be a good offense.

In the case of the U.S., it was another incredible offensive output. Led by Kevin Durant and a barrage of three-point shots, the Americans steamrolled past Argentina in the second half to take what ended up becoming a rather easy 126-97 victory Monday night.

Durant was unstoppable from beyond the arc, adding yet another lights-out performance to the list of great shooting spectacles accomplished by the U.S. team in these Games. The NBA’s reigning three-time scoring champion sunk nine of his 12 shots, going 8-10 from downtown, to finish with 28 for the game.

“Those are game breakers,” LeBron James said of the Durant show. “When you got a guy that can shoot the way he shoots, it opens the flow of the game up. It’s backbreakers for the opposing team and he caught fire and we needed it.”

It seemed like Team USA was going to need every one of those in the first half.

Both teams were off to a track meet as soon as the guns sounded and the U.S. started off struggling on the defensive end as Argentina converted 56 percent of their field goals, including 11 of their first 15 shots, to find themselves down just a point in a tight 60-59 first half.

The U.S., though, had no intentions of another close game after their narrow 99-94 scrape-through over Lithuania Saturday. Enter Kevin Durant. After James jump-started the run with the team’s first 7 points in the third period, there was no stopping the machine that is Durant as he went 5-6 from three-point land in the quarter.

“It sort of developed, but anybody in their right mind, when he gets shooting the ball like that, there’s only one thing to do: Get the ball to him,” Chris Paul said referring to Durant. “Luckily, we have a team that has the presence of mind to get it to him. He is unbelievable. We have to yell at him to shoot the ball and as you see, he usually makes it.”

The U.S. took over with a 42 point quarter as their lead ballooned to 26 points. Durant single-handedly matched the entire Argentina squad’s output of 17 points in the period.

“I think we did a great job of responding from last game,” Durant said. “It was a tough game and so was the first half tonight. Guys played together. That second half is how we want to play.”

The U.S. team collectively was not too shabby from three-point territory, unless you compare it to their historic performance against Nigeria. The Americans blew past the Argentines by hitting 20 of their 39 threes.

Next up on Team USA’s plate are the surprising Australians, the only team to beat Russia thus far in these Olympics, in the quarterfinal round. The U.S. might want to start playing better defense now that the elimination games have come around. Then again, another three-point extravaganza by the U.S. might be more than enough to take them one step closer to another gold.