With Scola unable to reproduce the turn-back-the-clock form that had carried a squad uncharacteristically lacking a single current N.B.A. player all the way to the final, Argentina was led by Gabriel Deck’s 24 points.
“Now people are having fun and disrespecting them — I don’t agree at all,” Scariolo said of the United States and its seventh-place finish. “Let’s show respect. It’s an honor to be above them in the final standings, and I’m expecting them to be so strong next year” at the Olympics in Tokyo.
The current Spain and Argentina teams, in truth, are lacking the depth and dynamism of their best teams, which gave some loaded United States rosters major scares, or worse, as far back as Argentina’s surprise run to the gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Greece.
Scola is the last active player left from Argentina’s so-called Golden Generation, which was headlined by Manu Ginóbili, one of Sunday’s celebrity attendees at courtside, alongside his former San Antonio Spurs teammate Tony Parker and Kobe Bryant.
Spain is also regarded as much weaker overall than it was in 2008 and 2012, when it had legitimate chances to beat the Americans in consecutive Olympic gold medal games. Pau Gasol is recovering from a long-term foot injury and could not play, while the longtime Spanish backcourt standout Juan Carlos Navarro retired in 2018.
The 2019 editions of both teams, though, still oozed chemistry, toughness and know-how. Those are the characteristics United States Coach Gregg Popovich has openly envied in interviews since he began trying to build a cohesive unit out of a potluck group of players that came together in early August.
After helping France defeat Australia, 67-59, in the third-place game earlier Sunday, Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic said: “When you look at the rosters and stuff, do I really feel like the best two teams are Spain and Argentina? No. But they played better. They won. So they deserve everything they have.”