SENDAI (FIBA World Championship) - Carlos Delfino led a fourth quarter rally by Argentina as they recovered from a five point deficit at the end of the third period to take a 83-79 win over Serbia & Montenegro.
With the victory, the Olympic champions finished the group with a perfect 5-0 record.
Delfino had 11 of Argentina's 22 fourth quarter points. He scored 11 of their first 15 points in the final period and set up the other two baskets.
"I guess it was just my turn today," Delfino said after the game. "It was Walter (Herrmann) against Venezuela and Andres (Nocioni) against Nigeria. I just had my opportunities today and I made the best of them."
The back up guard's deep three-pointer at the start of the final period beat the shot clock to cut Argentina's deficit to four, 68-64.
But Serbia & Montenegro kept their composure and were able to stretch their lead back to six on two free throws by Darko Milicic, 74-68.
However Delfino wasn't done just yet and made consecutive three-pointers to tie the game at 74-74 to cap off a 13-6 run by Argentina.
He then used the pick-and-roll to perfection, faking a shot and finding Scola for an easy lay up to go ahead 76-74, their first lead since the second quarter.
Bojan Popovic then made a huge three-pointer to put Dragan Sakota's men back in front, 77-76, but that would be their last lead as Scola made two free-throws and Ginobili, Pepe Sanchez and Ruben Wolkowyski combined to convert five of six attempts from the charity to hold off Serbia & Montenegro.
Sergio Hernandez's men came out strong - as they had done in the past three games - but found out that Serbia & Montenegro was willing to match them stroke for stroke.
Luis Scola had a quick start with eight points in the opening frame as Argentina took a 19-13 lead on the forward's last points of the period.
Darko Milicic responded with a long jumper and a quick lay up by Igor Rakocevic followed by a three-pointer in the closing seconds of the quarter by Branko Rokovic brought the defending champions within one, 22-21.
For the first time in three games, Hernandez kept four of his starters on the floor to start the second quarter, with Fabricio Oberto the only to get a breather.
Serbia & Montenegro took the lead on a Milicic put-back and kept it for the rest of the first half but the lead never exceeded four points and Herrmann's three brought Argentina within one at the break, 41-40.
Dragan Sakota's side was able to pull away in the third quarter, pushing their lead up to eight, 57-49 on two free throws by Rakocevic.
But Argentina responded with a Ginobili lay up and a pair of timely three-pointers by his backcourt partner Sanchez prevented Serbia & Montenegro from ever getting ahead by double digits.
The South American nation trailed by five points at the start of the final period, 66-61, when Delfino began his one-man show.
Scola finished with 22 points and Delfino added 14.
Rakocevic led the way for Serbia & Montenegro with 25 points while Milicic had 24 and 12 rebounds.
After the game, Hernandez was proud of his players for playing hard until the end, despite having already secured top honours in the group before the game.
"Our guys have a lot of pride and played really hard in the final quarter to come back and win this game. It was a really important game for us as we had never trailed going into the final quarter in our past four games and we needed to experience that to get ready for the next round," he said.
Sakota was happy with his team's performance but not quite so with the officiating.
"It was very important for us to try and improve our place in the group standings. We had a chance to do that but Argentina finished strong. Our players played very well and have looked better and better in each game. But I wasn't happy with the referees' calls. I'm not sure if the criteria wasn't who is the team that can win by being the dirtiest," he said.
"Overall this is a great experience for our young players and they will learn from it for the second round. We don't know yet who we are playing but we will be ready."
By Simon Wilkinson