Chris Mannix: Three thoughts on U.S.-Australia - Sports Illustrated

Three thoughts on U.S.-Australia

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1. Kobe Bryant delivers. Bryant was a trending topic on Twitter Wednesday, albeit for fluctuating reasons. He was horrendous in the first half, going scoreless, looking out of sync, making many 140-character pundits wonder if the Olympics were the beginning of the end of the 33-year old Bryant's career.

The second half? Different story. Bryant pumped in 20 points in the final 20 minutes, knocking down six of his nine three-point attempts, swelling the lead and putting the game out of reach before he headed to the bench in the fourth quarter. Bryant may have ceded leadership of this team to LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Co. but he is still the starting two-guard with a big role. The U.S. will need these type of performances, and possibly more, from Bryant as the competition tightens.

2. An win is a win. But man, this one wasn't always pretty. The U.S. is still the most offensively explosive team in this tournament (see above), which they demonstrated on several occasions. But once again the defense in the half court was mediocre. Once again they launched more threes (46) than twos (40). Once again (sensing a theme?) the offensive execution was sloppy. Australia was 3-2 in the qualifying round and has only two players -- Patty Mills and David Andersen -- with NBA experience yet was within an uncomfortable 12 in the fourth quarter.

The Aussies didn't have the firepower to play catch-up when the U.S. started flipping in threes in bunches, but Argentina or the winner of Spain/Russia in a potential gold medal game just might.

3. Third time is the... In the waning seconds of an 82-77 win over Brazil, Argentina's players hopped, clapped and hollered, looking nothing like a team dreading a third matchup with the United States. Granted, Argentina was blown out by 29-points on Monday but they were within one point at halftime and lost by just six in an exhibition game last month. There is plenty of bad blood between these teams; the cheap shots by Chris Paul and Facundo Campazzo in the last meeting made sure of that. The U.S. will again be favored but Argentina, with an NBA-heavy lineup, with a cold-blooded closer in Manu Ginobili, and with the understanding that this is probably the last go-round for the core of the team that has been among the world's best the last 10 years, is a dangerous opponent.