Team USA basketball vs. Argentina score, takeaways: Kevin Durant, United States bounce back with dominant win

Team USA bounced back in a big way on Tuesday night in a 108-80 victory over Argentina which was sorely needed following back-to-back losses to Nigeria and Australia earlier in the week. After getting off to a hot start, Team USA was able to build on their lead in the third quarter to really end any hopes that Argentina had of making things interesting down the stretch.

Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal, Bam Adebayo and Damian Lillard were fantastic for the United States as the All-Stars performed up to the level that fans have grown accustomed to seeing over the course of their respective careers. It will be imperative for Team USA that these four players continue to produce at a high level if the United States wants to achieve its goal of bringing home gold.

With the win, Team USA moves to 1-2 in their Olympic tune-up games with a second matchup against Australia on tap for Friday night at 6 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Network. For now, here are the three biggest takeaways from Team USA's win.

1. Not out of the woods just yet

It would be tempting to assume that Team USA fully righted the ship with this impressive victory. There's even some poetry in the opponent. Argentina is the team that cost Team USA the gold medal in 2004. It seems fitting that it should be the opponent that helps them get back on track now. It's a nice narrative, but it's not necessarily a fair one. 

Remember, the same Nigeria team that beat Team USA on Saturday also blew Argentina out, 94-71. This isn't the same team that gave Team USA so much trouble in 2004. Manu Ginobili is retired. Andres Nocioni is retired. Fabricio Oberto is retired. Carlos Delfino is retired. Luis Scola is the last major figure from that group remaining, and he's 41 years old. 

Team USA jumped out to a quick 28-12 lead over Argentina, overwhelming them with their superior athleticism and shotmaking. From that point on, though, the two sides played fairly evenly until the fourth quarter as Team USA led by 19 after three. The Americans started 7-for-10 from 3… and then went 6-of-19 thereafter. All five Team USA starters were plus-21 or better in the plus-minus column. The reserves were somewhat mixed. Darius Garland, Kevin Love and Keldon Johnson were all negative. 

The point is that as lopsided as this score looks, it hardly represents the all-around domination Team USA was probably hoping for. Argentina is not a particularly daunting opponent, and after a rocky start, they settled down and played reasonably competitively for most of the game. The Americans took a step on Tuesday. They still have a ways to go. 

2. How do you defend Team USA's pick-and-roll?

Damian Lillard is used to opponents throwing every defensive resource at their disposal at him. He is routinely blitzed off of screens in a desperate effort to force the ball out of his hands. Opponents can't do that on the international stage. His teammates are too good. So too often, they went under screens against him in the pick-and-roll. 

That's the single worst way to defend a Lillard pick-and-roll. He walked into eight 3-point attempts in 26 minutes, most of them easy pull-ups. He nailed three of them. That is going to be par for the course in the Olympics because there just isn't a viable alternative. Blitz Lillard? You're giving an All-Star team a 4-on-3. Switch the screen? He's one-on-one against an overmatched big man that probably isn't NBA-quality. There are maybe a half-dozen big men on Earth that are comfortable defending Lillard on the perimeter. Two of them, Draymond Green and Bam Adebayo, play for Team USA. 

Your best bet is probably chasing Lillard over screens. Very few guards are strong enough to get over and quick enough to catch up to him. Most of those guards are American. You can replace Lillard in this scenario with Bradley Beal, Zach Lavine or Devin Booker, who hasn't yet arrived as he's still playing in the NBA Finals. This is the fundamental issue that any team hoping to defend Team USA has to solve: their guards have such remarkable shooting range and are so obscenely athletic that there's really no good way of defending them. You just have to pick a method and hope they miss shots. 

3. Team USA's defensive vulnerabilities

Scola is 41. He's still a valuable player on the international stage, but at this point in his career, he really shouldn't be causing problems for a team as talented as this American roster. Yet he scored 16 points in under 19 minutes. He did so in part by exploiting mismatches that he was freely given. Team USA has three real big men on the roster right now. Kevin Love is a defensive minus. Green and Adabeyo are best used in switching schemes, so the Americans are switching quite a bit. 

That allowed Argentina to hunt smaller Team USA defenders for Scola to exploit. Australia had similar success in their exhibition matchup with Team USA. There isn't a traditional rim-protecting big man on this roster. Team USA probably could get away with some degree of drop coverage with Adebayo, but it doesn't play to his strengths. This is a flaw in roster construction that opponents are going to take advantage of.

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And that'll do it. Team USA takes the win in dominant fashion, 108-80. They now move to 1-2 in exhibition games after their two opening losses to Nigeria and Australia.

July 14, 2021, 12:01 AM

Cam Reynolds taking advantage of this opportunity. That's five quick points.

July 13, 2021, 11:59 PM

Nice little pass from Love to a cutting Reynolds there. You forget this because of how little he's handled the ball in recent years, but Love is a fantastic passer.

July 13, 2021, 11:58 PM

Magette for 3! That's a nice treat for the fans.

July 13, 2021, 11:55 PM

The deep bench reserves are flooding in here. John Jenkins, a former first-round pick of the Hawks, just checked in.

July 13, 2021, 11:54 PM

In comes Josh Magette, a G-Leaguer. It's gotta be a cool experience for him to share the floor with four high-level NBA players.

July 13, 2021, 11:53 PM

LaVine's filling it up in these closing minutes. The lead is back up to 22 at 92-70.

July 13, 2021, 11:51 PM

Gotta love the intensity with only four minutes remaining. Team USA leads by 20, but Bam Adebayo is still going for highlight blocks. He got called for the foul there, but it's refreshing to see this level of intensity in a blowout.

July 13, 2021, 11:50 PM

Another nice hustle play by Grant to bat that offensive rebound back to Lillard.

July 13, 2021, 11:45 PM

Jerami Grant with the block! He shined as a scorer for the Pistons, but he's on this team for his defense and hustle. They've been on display here.

July 13, 2021, 11:44 PM

Nice cut by Kevin Love. That's going to be something to watch in the Olympics: how well does he move? It won't matter much on a team as loaded as the American roster, but it will affect his NBA future quite a bit.

July 13, 2021, 11:43 PM

Kevin Love is on this team almost entirely to space the floor. If he's not making 3's that are that open, it's unclear what his value is going to be.

July 13, 2021, 11:39 PM

Lillard is walking into these pull-up 3's so easily. There's basically no way of preventing them aside from switching, which Argentina doesn't have the personnel to do, or blitzing, which isn't feasible against an All-Star roster.

July 13, 2021, 11:38 PM

Zach LaVine! Wow! What an athlete.

July 13, 2021, 11:37 PM

Draymond Green's excellent defense helps Team USA draw that 24-second violation. Argentina is saying that ball hit the rim, but it doesn't look like it did.

July 13, 2021, 11:36 PM

Campazzo misses at the buzzer. It's 81-62 Team USA after three quarters.

July 13, 2021, 11:30 PM

More transition excellence from Team USA here. American teams are always athletic, but it's really on display against Argentina.

July 13, 2021, 11:30 PM

Luca Vildoza is scorching. The 18-point lead is almost certainly safe, but it's still nice to see a young player look so confident in a matchup like this.

July 13, 2021, 11:28 PM

Luca Vildoza has impressed for Argentina thus far. He's a Knick and will fight for playing time next season.

July 13, 2021, 11:27 PM

We're getting the whole Keldon Johnson experience thus far. Incredibly talented, can do everything, somewhat maddening at times.

July 13, 2021, 11:27 PM

Garland for 3 and the lead is back up to 25. He continues to impress as a Select Team promotion.

July 13, 2021, 11:25 PM

It's pretty rare to see Kevin Durant make contact on a screen like that. He's far more comfortable slipping in pick-and-roll situations.

July 13, 2021, 11:24 PM

This game isn't close enough for it to matter, but Lillard doesn't need to take contested shots like that. He's still adjusting to playing with star-level talent.

July 13, 2021, 11:23 PM
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