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Thursday, August 9, 2012
American men need 3s to fall in London

By ESPN Stats & Information


Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LeBron James' triple-double helped lead the United States to victory over Australia, but if the U.S. is to move on to the gold-medal game, it will need the 3-pointers to fall against Argentina.
After a scare against Lithuania, the United States men’s basketball team has cruised to victories over Argentina and Australia, and continues a quest for its 14th gold medal in the 17 Olympics in which the United States has played men’s basketball.

The U.S. improved to 14-0 against Australia in FIBA tournaments, but the competition will take a step up in the semifinals against Argentina, the third-ranked team in the FIBA rankings.

Argentina has two of the three leading scorers in the tournament, with Luis Scola averaging 19.7 points a game, and Manu Ginobili 19.3, a combined 39 a contest. But in the group play game between these teams, the United States held those two to 27 points.

In that contest, the U.S. led by only one point at halftime, but pulled away by outscoring Argentina 42-17 in the third quarter. The key, as it has been throughout the tournament for the Americans, was 3-point shooting.

The U.S. went 19-46 on 3-point shooting in that game, and through its first six games, has made 96 3-pointers, 44 more than any other team. The Americans are shooting nearly 45 percent from 3-point range in the tournament, also best of any team.

When the 3s aren’t falling, the Americans have struggled. In the close call against Lithuania, the U.S. went just 10-33 on 3-pointers. It’s also led to some tight scores early in games. The U.S. went 8-25 against France in its opener, and only led by one at the end of the first quarter. Against Tunisia, the Americans were 10-25 on 3-point shooting, and led by six at the end of the first quarter.

But 3-point shooting hasn’t been the Americans’ only strength. The U.S. has had 114 second-chance points, no other team has more than 75. Team USA also has 159 fast-break points, with no other team having more than 98. However, potential finals opponent Russia has allowed 43 fast-break points, fewest in the tournament.

The Americans are also performing defensively, leading all teams with 71 steals, fueling their fast-break offense. However, Argentina has allowed just 26 steals, the third-lowest mark of the tournament.

An area of concern could be offensive rebounding. In the near-loss to Lithuania, the Americans were outrebounded 36-24 on the offensive glass.

LeBron James has already made his mark on these Olympics, with a triple-double against Australia, the first by an American man in the Olympics. With the potential for two more games, James could keep writing his name in the record book. He enters the semifinal game against Argentina with 236 career points in Olympic play, third-most all-time by a USA player, trailing only David Robinson and Michael Jordan.

With a gold medal, James could also become the third player to win an NBA Championship and a gold medal in the same year, joining Jordan and Scottie Pippen.