The Torch
3:00 pm
Mon July 23, 2012

Before Olympics, U.S. Basketball Gives Itself Hard Tests; Spain Awaits

The U.S. Olympic basketball team narrowly beat Argentina late Sunday, 86-80, as the two teams prepare for the start of the London Games Friday. The tight score came despite a fast start for the U.S. squad, who were dressed in throwback uniforms inspired by the 1992 Dream Team.

The Americans raced to a 31-16 lead early on, but they were only 4 points ahead late in the game, and pulled away thanks to three-pointers by Kevin Durant and Chris Paul — who posted a photo of his uniform on Instagram.

The Dream Team uniforms referred to a time when basketball was firmly America's sport — and to the 1992 Summer Olympics, which were hosted by Barcelona, site of Sunday's game. The score — and the bout of handwringing it set off — proved that a roster of U.S. NBA stars such as Durant, Paul, Kobe Bryant, and LeBron James no longer guarantees an easy win.

Argentina was led by Manu Ginobili, who had 23 points, and NBA veterans Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola.

The game, which followed an 80-69 win over Brazil, prompted some to point out the U.S. team's problems. Bleacher Report says the team's weakness is its lack of size — and the possibility that big men such as Tyson Chandler might get into foul trouble.

Others say that with its famed "seven starters," the squad struggles to be a true team, while facing national teams whose players have developed a battle-tested chemistry.

I'm not sure what the U.S. team will wear Tuesday, when it faces Spain in a final warmup before heading to London. But the game, which will be played in Barcelona, pits them against world-class talent, including Pau Gasol and his brother Marc, along with Serge Ibaka of the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Many are predicting that the two teams will meet again — in the Olympics final. The Americans beat Spain to win gold in Beijing, 118-107.

As USA Basketball announced on its Facebook page, "The game, a match-up of FIBA's #1 and #2 world powers, is sold-out and will be televised 4:30 p.m. EDT live on ESPN2. Could this be a preview of the Olympic gold medal game?"

ESPN says the U.S.-Spain game will also be available on ESPN2, ESPN3, WatchESPN, and ESPN Mobile TV — which might come off as a random list of acronyms, or a nice surprise for you, if you happen to subscribe to one of those outlets.

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