LAS VEGAS – Seeing them lose is a rarity most years, and dropping back-to-back games is almost unheard of.
That’s been the dominance of the United States men’s basketball team through the years and especially when it comes to the time surrounding the Olympic games. Since NBA players were allowed to take part in 1992, Team USA has only failed to win the gold at the Summer Games once.
So what happened over the past week to the group was quite surprising, and to some, even a bit shocking.
In their first two exhibition games, the team lost to Nigeria on Saturday then Australia on Monday after entering each as heavy favorites. While a number of exhibition games remained before the start of the Tokyo games, there were some wondering if this group could get it together in time.
A Chicago Bull star helped the team get things back on track on Tuesday night.
Entering the starting lineup for the first time as Jayson Tatum rested a sore knee, Zach LaVine made an impact against Argentina at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
In 24 minutes, the 2021 All-Star scored 15 points, grabbed five rebounds, while also dishing out three assists as Team USA picked up a 108-80 on Tuesday in a contest that looked more typical of a national team performance.
LaVine was 5-of-8 from the field and 1-of-2 from behind the three-point line and delivered arguably the moment of the game.
In the fourth quarter, LaVine drove to the hoop, avoided Argentina defender Juan Pablo Vaulet in the air then put down a forceful slam while also drawing the foul.
“Just bringing energy,” said LaVine of his goals on Tuesday as he got the start. “We’re all a bunch of scorers out here. We got to be able to play off each of other and complement each other well. When the ball comes, I’ll obviously be ready and still do my thing and score the ball, but bring energy push the pace, pick up full court and turn these guys, try to cause some commotion.”
LaVine did just that on a night that felt a little more normal for Team USA.