LONDON: Defending champions United States will play 2004 gold medallists Argentina and reigning European kings Spain will meet Russia in the Olympic men’s basketball semi-finals after triumphs on Wednesday.
The NBA ‘Dream Team’ advanced by beating Australia 119-86 while Argentina, who upset the Americans in the 2004 Olympics semi-finals but lost to them in the 2008 semis, reached the final four by beating arch-rival Brazil 82-77.
“If we have a one percent chance to beat them, we will give our best to make it happen,” said Argentine NBA sharpshooter Carlos Delfino. Australia scored the first 11 points of the second half against the US stars to pull within 56-53 but Kobe Bryant, who led the US with 20 points, hit three three-pointers in a row in 31 final-quarter seconds to seal the triumph.
Spain ousted France 66-59 and Russia downed Lithuania 83-74 to book their spots in today’s other semi-final matchup. Russia could claim an Olympic medal under their own flag for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
“This is a big step for our country and our basketball,” said Russia captain Sergey Monya. “I think we deserve this.”
Both semi-finals will be rematches of earlier round-robin matches. The US multi-millionaire lineup ripped Argentina 126-97 but the South American side will not make major changes in strategy, just try to implement it better.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2012.