Americans survive another test, outlast Argentina

BARCELONA, Spain – Dressed like the Dream Team, tested like its predecessor never was.

The U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team held on for an 86-80 exhibition victory over Argentina on Sunday, insisting it didn’t expect an easy game and not believing there’s benefit to one, anyway.

“I love it. You hate to breeze through exhibition games and then you get into London, and then you start getting competitive,” U.S. forward LeBron James said. “So we have a very good team. It doesn’t matter about how many points you win by, you just want to play well and get better that night, and I feel like we got better tonight.”

Kevin Durant scored 27 points for the Americans, who wore the throwback uniforms of the 1992 Dream Team for their return to Barcelona. They looked like the Hall of Fame squad during a superb opening 10 minutes, but their lead was down to four with 2:50 left after Manu Ginobili’s three-point play.

Durant and Chris Paul then hit big 3-pointers as the Americans won after being pushed for the second time in their four exhibition games. Kobe Bryant added 18 points and James had 15 for the U.S., which beat Brazil 80-69 last week in Washington.

“It’s tough. Argentina’s a very good team, very tough-minded,” Bryant said. “They continue to play hard, and for us it was a big challenge to try to put the game away, we could just never do it.”

Ginobili scored 23 points, Carlos Delfino had 15 and Luis Scola 14 for Argentina.

Back in Barcelona, where the Dream Team won gold 20 years earlier in historic fashion, the U.S. players wore that team’s throwback uniforms. The white uniforms with red and blue along the side and USA in the middle also had the letters “CD” in gold on the left shoulder in honor of Chuck Daly, the Dream Team coach who died in 2009.

“Those uniforms was nice,” Carmelo Anthony said. “In the locker room, everybody was taking pictures with the uniforms. It just brings back so many memories from back then in ’92.”

Otherwise, the Americans are more interested in building for London than reflecting on the past. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a Dream Team assistant, made that clear Saturday at practice when he was asked about the old days.

“I’m not here to sightsee. … This isn’t me doing a reminisce tour in my retirement,” he said.

The Americans play Spain on Tuesday, a rematch of their 118-107 victory in the gold-medal game four years ago.

Krzyzewski unveiled another starting lineup, with James, Durant, Bryant, Paul and Tyson Chandler. He has alternated the Durant-Anthony and Paul-Deron Williams combination, with the other three spots set.

The first group got off to a sensational start as Durant opened with two 3-pointers before the lead grew to 19-3 on Bryant’s 3-pointer. The Americans led 31-16 on the strength of seven 3-pointers.

“They’re immensely talented,” Scola said. “They’ve got a lot of players in every position. They’re too athletic, they’re too talented. I think they’re going to be OK.”

The Americans led by 20 early in the second, but like in their 101-81 victory in the Beijing semifinals, they began fouling too much and let Argentina get back into it with its feisty, physical play.

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