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USA basketball team escapes with win in Argentina warmup

Team USA beat Argentina 86-80 in Sunday's exhibition game. Argentina, which won the 2004 Olympic gold medal, kept it close.

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The two games here should certainly help them get ready. The Americans play Spain on Tuesday, a rematch of their 118-107 win in the gold-medal game four years ago.

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First was Argentina, which won the 2004 Olympic gold medal, beating the U.S. in the semifinals. The Americans returned the favor four years later in the same round before recapturing the gold.

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, Durant opening with two 3-pointers before Bryant's basket made it 8-0. Scola made a free throw before Bryant and Durant nailed 3s, and Bryant dunked to make it 16-1 not even three minutes into the game.

The lead grew to 19-3 on Bryant's 3-pointer, and Durant and Williams each hit one in the final minute as 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.

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 were 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.

"I think we competed, pretty much the whole game," Scola said. "We started bad, we've been starting bad this whole preparation. That's going to be a problem for us. We have to fix that and then they hit a lot of shots. Obviously they're capable of hitting shots."

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 they 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.

The teams will meet again in their final pool play matchup in London. The Americans believe contests like this one will have them ready when the real games begin.

"At the end of the day, as long as you win the basketball game. That's what we were talking about at halftime," Anthony said. "We try to come out and put teams away right away, and sometimes it's not going to be that way, like tonight. It just wasn't one of those games."

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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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