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.
This “friendly” — Scola and Kevin Love even appeared together at midcourt before the game to address the crowd, after Love was suspended two games during the NBA season for stepping on him — didn't stay that way. Paul fouled guard Facundo Campazzo, who fell to the court after Paul appeared to hold onto him too long, with 5:33 left in the half and the U.S. up 14. Some words and light pushes were exchanged, Scola and Andres Nocioni involved along with Anthony and Durant.
Argentina kept fighting, cutting it all the way to 45-40 in the last minute of the half before going into the break down by seven.
A contender for a podium spot for nearly a decade, Argentina is hoping the run isn't over for its “Golden Generation.” The Argentines didn't medal in the 2010 worlds — though Ginobili didn't play — and were beaten by Spain by 20 on Friday. Ginobili is 34, Scola and Andres Nocioni are 32, Knicks-bound guard Pablo Prigioni is 35, Fabricio Oberto no longer plays, and the Argentines haven't found younger talent like they had in this group, which also won silver in the 2002 world basketball championship.
But they don't go down easily, even when the game doesn't count. After James threw down two dunks to open the fourth quarter and push the U.S. lead to 15, the Argentines got it back to 10 midway through the period after Ginobili scored five straight points, and had one more burst in them.
But Durant followed Ginobili's three-point play with a 3-pointer, and Paul's 3 with 2:08 remaining made it an eight-point game, plenty of cushion for the last 2 minutes.