LONDON – No Rubén Magnano, no problem for Argentina.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalists trailed early but used a strong defensive performance in the second and third quarters to beat Brazil and Magnano, their former coach, 82-77 in the quarterfinals on Aug. 8.
Magnano orchestrated Argentina’s upsets of the United States in 2002 at the World Championships and the Athens Games in 2004, but couldn’t find a way to guide his new squad to the semifinals.
“We hung in there in the end and got an awesome win,” Argentine guard Manu Ginóbili told reporters. “It’s very, very hard to make an Olympics semifinal and against Brazil for us it's maybe even more special.”
Brazil raced to a three-point lead after one quarter and appeared poised to extend its advantage. But Argentina answered with a flurry of three-pointers and defensive pressure to take a 64-54 lead into the final quarter.
From there, veteran center Luis Scola pounded the ball down low and helped Argentina secure the win.
Scola finished with 17 points while Ginóbili chipped in 16. Brazilian guards Marcelinho Huertas and Leandro Barbosa each had 22.
“We are going to play the Olympic semifinal for the third time in a row,” Scola, who helped guide Argentina to a bronze medal at the Beijing Games in 2008, told reporters. “That’s pretty big for our country. I know some countries have done that in the past, but you’ve got to put it in perspective. This is Argentina. We’ve never done that before and this is the same group that did it the two other times, so it’s emotional for us.”
Argentina advanced to the semifinals against the United States on Aug. 10. The heavily-favored Americans reached the semis by dismantling Australia, 119-86. The United States also defeated Argentina earlier in the week, 126-97, during pool play.
Spain and Russia meet in the other semifinal.
“We’re going try to do the same approach, try to turn the ball over less, make a few shots in the second half hopefully, and not let them run,” Ginóbili said. “Then, if they get inspired and LeBron starts to make 20 3-pointers, there’s little you can do. We have maybe a five-percent chance of winning, but we are going to fight for that.”