Croatia put together a spirited comeback throughout the fourth quarter, but it could never shrink the gap to anything fewer than four points. In the end, Argentina staved off the charge and finished with a 90-82 victory over its tough competition, thereby ending Croatia’s hopes of following up an Olympic-opening win over Spain with another success story.
Argentina is now 2-0, and each of the outings was rather impressive.
First came the 28-point blowout of a Nigeria squad that showed how tough it could be on Tuesday night. Now comes a dominant performance through three quarters, one that somehow also showcased just how tough the Argentines could be when faced with adversity in the final period.
Not too shabby for a roster featuring so few faces from the country’s Golden Generation.
Reality now has Argentina not only in the Olympic field, but undefeated with three group-stage games remaining against Lithuania (Thursday), Brazil (Saturday) and Brazil (Monday).
It has Luis Scola turning back the clocks to record 23 points, nine rebounds and two blocks against the Croatians. It has Manu Ginobili remaining effective on a night with relatively limited involvement by constantly working his way to the charity stripe. It has Andres Nocioni nailing a pair of triples as his country began to pull away.
Of course, it’s still too soon to say Argentina has suddenly vaulted into the medal discussion. Impressive as it’s been, the United States, Australia and Lithuania are still undefeated, and we can’t count out France (1-1) or Spain (0-2).
But it would be just as foolish to look past this squad in the wake of its opening victories, especially as the young players continue to gain experience on the international stage.