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Olympic basketball scores 2016: The United States has found a lineup that’s good on both ends

A new lineup has emerged as the United States’ most successful yet.

It was symbolic that an underwhelming version of Team USA headed into a 2016 Olympic quarterfinal match-up against the same group of Argentinians who scored a signature victory over the Americans 14 years ago in Athens.

But instead of a repeat upset, the United States dispelled any sense of deja vu, routing Argentina 105-78 to advance to the semifinals. In doing so, the U.S. seems to have found its rotation going forward.

Head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s first lineup adjustment attempt of the day, starting DeAndre Jordan over DeMarcus Cousins, bore mixed results. Jordan is a better defender than Cousins, but his insertion wasn’t enough to cover for the mistakes of his teammates. Kyrie Irving was the main culprit, with 5’11 waterbug Facundo Campazzo led Argentina on a 19-9 run to open the game, continuing the trend of opposing point guards abusing the United States.

Enter Paul George and Kyle Lowry. Coach K inserted the pair with Jimmy Butler and DeMarcus Cousins to play alongside Kevin Durant. That group’s relentlessness kick-started an extended 28-2 run for the U.S., and the defense looking better with George and Lowry shouldn’t really be a surprise:

Lowry stayed attached to Campazzo to make things more difficult on him, and George’s energy transformed the United State’s defense into a sea of arms that drowned Argentina’s offense. Even when George went to the bench, the activity he inspired continued for the rest of the game.

Getting stops and turnovers allowed the United States to get out and run quicker than when they were taking the ball out of the net, and the team’s dynamism in transition took care of the rest.

George, Durant, and Butler are all more than capable of filling lanes or running a break, and Cousins can serve as an effective cleanup crew or dump-off target. Durant’s 27-point explosion also served as a reminder he’s an offense unto himself when things get bogged down. That five-man lineup might be the best closing one going forward if things get tight again.

Another addition to the rotation was Draymond Green, who played 13 minutes with most, if not all, coming at center. The results were mixed. Green missed all five shots he took, but he helped the United States’ defense. Argentina was the most prolific three-point shooting team in Rio with 32.4 game in group play, but Green’s ability to switch any screen forced the Argentinians to attempt to make plays one-on-one, fueling more stops and steals.

The U.S. needed to improve on defense after a horrid showing on that end in group play. They might have found some solutions against Argentina, and it will be interesting to see how they divvy up minutes against Spain on Friday.

-Harrison Faigen

3 other things we learned in the quarterfinals:

Serbia doesn’t care they don’t have NBA pedigree

Possibly the two least heralded (at least in the U.S.) teams left in the Olympics faced off in Wednesday’s final game. Serbia beat Croatia 86-83, and in the process showed they can threaten the more well-known teams of the tournament.

That revelation shouldn’t be much of one after they pushed the United States in a three-point loss, but it probably stems from the team’s lack of NBA pedigree. Miroslav Raduljica had a few cups of coffee in the league, Nikola Jokic is coming off of a promising rookie season, and Milos Teodosic has had interest in the past, but overall the team isn’t well known stateside.

Like a mid-major going on a Cinderella run during March Madness, the Serbians play like they want to make people say their name. Raduljica dunks on teams and screams in their faces. Teodosic makes crazy passes most players wouldn’t attempt. The whole team moves the ball and plays tough, physical, and well-planned defense.

Serbia’s hot and cold tendencies are the main concern for them going forward in the tournament. The team is capable of getting as hot as anyone, like when they went on a 26-8 run in the third quarter. They are just as susceptible to inexplicable cold streaks, like their 4-12 shooting in the fourth quarter that allowed Croatia to almost come all the way back.

That could come back to bite them against Australia, but if they lose it won’t be because they rolled over.

-Harrison Faigen

Australia isn’t messing around

Having already proved their worth in the group stage, Australia’s quarterfinal blowout should signal their intent in Rio. They might not have the overall talent of the Americans, but they are a serious threat to challenge Team USA for the gold medal.

Australia stomped on Lithuania in the opening game of the quarterfinals, showcasing the two-way efficiency observers have come to respect. The Boomers don’t have a ton of weaknesses; Patty Mills and Matthew Dellavedova are giving opponents fits on the perimeter, creating open looks for teammates and capitalizing on spot-up opportunities.

Andrew Bogut is the lynchpin of Australia’s success on both ends, and he continued a strong Olympics with another brilliant two-way performance against Lithuania. Bogut isn’t exactly lighting up the box score — he only scored six points against Lithuania — but he’s providing exactly what his team needs at any given time.

At this point, a USA-Australia final feels all but inevitable. Both teams have work left to do in order to make that reality, but few credible threats exist that would derail a rematch.

-Kyle Neubeck

We overreacted to Spain’s early struggles

Following Spain’s consecutive losses to begin the Rio Olympics, you would have been forgiven for questioning if they were over the hill. After a string of four consecutive victories, they look closer to a gold medal opportunity than they do to retirement.

The Spanish are blending their golden generation’s talents with some help from a couple of young guns. Nikola Mirotic put on a spectacular offensive display against France in the quarterfinals, and Spain’s balanced attack is likely to give any opponent fits now that they’ve settled into a rhythm in Brazil.

Lithuania’s crumbling against Australia helps emphasize how tough it is to draw conclusions from the early games in group play. As the Spanish shrugged off early losses and sit one game away from another Olympic final, a Lithuanian team that started 3-0 goes home.

And if you thought Spain’s players were too busy hooping to listen to people throwing dirt on them, think again:

-Kyle Neubeck

Final Scores

Men’s Basketball

Australia 90, Lithuania 64

Spain 92, France 67

United States 103, Argentina 78

Serbia 86, Croatia 83