Team USA faces rematch with Argentina in basketball"/>
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Team USA faces rematch with Argentina in basketball

Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012

Updated: Thursday, August 9, 2012 15:08

 

LONDON - Manu Ginobili is a balding 35-year-old father of twins, and the rest
of Argentina's "Generacion Dorada'' (Golden Generation) is getting up there in
basketball years, as well. Their average age is 32. Despite the receding
hairlines, they still play and celebrate with the same youthful exuberance
they showed back in 2002, when they toppled Team USA at the world
championships, and again in 2004, when they upset the NBA-led Americans in the
Athens Olympics semifinal.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were on that U.S. team.

After Argentina beat Brazil Wednesday night to advance to Friday's semifinal
against Team USA, the aging players linked arms, formed a circle and jumped up
and down like schoolboys. Pablo Prigioni, a 35-year-old forward, punted the
basketball into the stands as Argentine fans serenaded the team with the same
patriotic songs they sing at soccer matches.

"We just accomplished a huge goal to make it to semifinals," Ginobili said.

"We know we are in a situation where thousands _ if not millions of basketball
players _ want to be in."

Friday's semifinal is a rematch of Monday's final group-stage game, which the
U.S. won 126-97 after leading by just one at halftime. Last month in an
exhibition in Barcelona, the U.S. nearly blew a 15-point lead before hanging
on for an 86-80 win. Both games were very physical, and players nearly came to
blows.

The U.S. players are familiar with Ginobli, Luis Scola and Carlos Delfino from
the NBA, and they expect another highly competitive game.

"We have to change the defense that we played last week, but I'm not telling
you the strategies,'' Kobe Bryant said. "This is the third time we have faced
them, and every time we play them it is more and more interesting.''

Added U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski: "They are a better team together than they
are individually, and individually they have two of the best players of
international basketball which are (Luis) Scola and (Manu) Ginobili. We played
two tough games against them and we expect this one to be the toughest. Pablo
Prigioni will be playing this game and he didn't play the last game."

Ginobili conceded that Team USA is the heavy favorite. Still, he believes
Argentina's experience and team spirit can compensate for what they may lack
in athleticism. He and Scola have been playing side-by-side since 1996, and
most of the players have been together for much of the past decade.

"We are gonna try to do the same approach, try to turn the ball over less,
make a few shots in the second half hopefully, and not let the Americans
run,'' Ginobili said. "Then, if they get inspired and LeBron or Kobe (Bryant)
starts to make 20 three-pointers, there's little you can do. We have maybe a
10 percent or even a 5-percent chance of winning, but we are going to fight
for this."

Andres Nocioni said the Argentines are "like 12 brothers playing together.''

Though Argentina is known more for its soccer tradition, the Golden Generation
has raised the national basketball profile. In fact, the basketball team has
won more big titles than the soccer team in the past decade. Argentina won
silver at the 2002 World Championship, gold at the 2004 Olympics, and bronze
at the 2008 Olympics. The soccer team hasn't won a World Cup since 1986, and
the under-23 team failed to qualify for these Olympics after winning
back-to-back gold medals.

Ginobili had a poster of Michael Jordan in his bedroom as a kid. He chose to
pursue basketball rather than soccer, and emulated NBA stars in his
neighborhood gym. All over the country, other young boys made the same choice.

This generation will forever be remembered as the one which put Argentine
basketball on the map.

"We are getting older," said Scola, 32. "We know we don't have two more
Olympics. We may not have one more. This is a special chance for us. We are
going to play the Olympic semifinal for the third time in a row. That's pretty
big for our country. This is Argentina. We've never done that before and this
is the same group that did it the two other times, so it's emotional for us."

In other words, watch out Team USA.

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