While Argentina isn’t an international juggernaut; they shouldn’t be disregarded as a medal contender either. Their main deterrent isn’t a lack of talent per se but rather they face the imminent threat of Father Time meticulously whittling down their ability.
Spain has overtaken Argentina as the inarguable world power not named Team USA with their NBA caliber core and youth; the latter facet plaguing the former gold medalist from playing to their 2004 level again.
Today the two teams pitted forces in a Pre-Olympic match. Spain quickly dismissed Argentina by scoring 33 points in the first quarter on 13-of-20 shooting. The Spanish defense forced a flurry of difficult shots as Argentina converted on a mere four shots on 15 attempts.
Spain stretched the margin after Manu Ginobili, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola were maligned with foul trouble early in the second period. They finished the half with an insurmountable 25-point lead on the strength of their 66% shooting from the field. Jose Calderon paced the Spanish with 14 points. Andres Nocioni scored 10 points but was offset by Luis Scola’s scoring output at the half — a resounding two points.
The tides turned in the third frame when Scola took advantage of Serge Ibaka and others on the interior with the occasional mid-range shot thrown in for good measure. Manu Ginobili also ratcheted up his level of play, finishing with a team-high 19 points, including a critical 3-pointer in the fourth quarter that cut the margin to seven points.
The momentum was undeniable. Spain’s second unit couldn’t deter Argentina any longer. It seemed inevitable that the victor would be the team who didn’t relent in the waning minutes. In short: That was not the case. Argentina never got within less than seven points.
Pau Gasol led the team with 17 points and seven rebounds though they didn’t win solely because of their imposing frontcourt advantage. Spain converted on 14 3-pointers which, while likely an unsustainable amount of 3-pointers, nearly ensures a victory. The final margin — 20 points — won’t give credence to Argentina’s fruitless second half rally.
But it happened. Maybe the former international power can stave off Father Time for the time being.