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Durant Helps US Hold Off Argentina 86-80

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(credit: Getty Images)

(credit: Getty Images)

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Dressed up like the Dream Team, this U.S. Olympic basketball squad even played like one for 10 minutes.

It didn’t last, but the Americans never thought it would.

Argentina came nearly all the way back before the U.S. held on for an 86-80 victory Sunday in an exhibition game.

“We weren’t expecting to come out there and blow them out tonight,” U.S. forward Carmelo Anthony said. “We knew that they’re a team that doesn’t quit, despite what was going on or how much they get down or what’s the state of the game. We expected a game like this coming into it.”

The Americans held on to win it thanks to big 3-pointers from Kevin Durant and Chris Paul, insisting the close game serves them better than the type of blowouts the Dream Team always posted.

“I love it. You hate to breeze through exhibition games and then you get into London, and then you start getting competitive,” U.S. forward LeBron James said. “So we have a very good team. It doesn’t matter about how many points you win by, you just want to play well and get better that night, and I feel like we got better tonight.”

Durant scored 27 points for the Americans, who wore the throwback uniforms of the 1992 Dream Team for their return to Barcelona. They looked like the Hall of Fame squad during a superb opening quarter, but their lead was down to four with 2:50 left after Manu Ginobili’s three-point play.

The Americans won after being pushed for the second time in their four exhibition games. Kobe Bryant added 18 points and James had 15 for the U.S., which beat Brazil 80-69 in a similarly rugged game last week in Washington.

“It’s tough. Argentina’s a very good team, very tough-minded,” Bryant said. “They continue to play hard, and for us it was a big challenge to try to put the game away, we could just never do it.”

Ginobili scored 23 points, Carlos Delfino had 15 and Luis Scola 14 for Argentina.

Back in Barcelona, where the Dream Team won gold 20 years earlier in historic and overwhelmingly easy fashion, the U.S. players wore that team’s colors. The white uniforms with red and blue along the side and USA in the middle also had the letters “CD” in gold on the left shoulder in honor of Chuck Daly, the Dream Team coach who died in 2009.

“Those uniforms was nice,” said Anthony, wearing the No. 15 of Magic Johnson. “In the locker room, everybody was taking pictures with the uniforms. It just brings back so many memories from back then in `92.”

Otherwise, the Americans are more interested in building for London than reflecting too much on the past. Coach Mike Krzyzewski, a Dream Team assistant, made that clear Saturday at practice when he was asked about the old days.

“I’m not here to sightsee … this isn’t me doing a reminisce tour in my retirement,” he said.

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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