Argentina narrowly avoids disaster at the start of their title defense in men's basketball. ©Getty Images

After the women's competition concluded with Brazil's victory over Colombia ended on Sunday with Brazil beating Colombia in a really defensive final (40-50), behind 13 points and 12 rebounds from 41-year-old Erika de Souza, it's now the men's turn with Argentina defending its crown.

Unlike men's handball, the Pan American Games in basketball coincide with club competitions, and the Albiceleste are not the powerful team they were four years ago in Lima, with players like Facundo Campazzo (now with Real Madrid, Spain), the legendary and now retired Luis Scola, Nico Brussino (Gran Canaria, Spain), Nico Laprovittola (Barcelona, Spain), Gaby Deck (Real Madrid), or Luca Vildoza (Panathinaikos, Greece). The Albiceleste beat Puerto Rico 66-84 with a score of 66-84.

Coach Leandro Ramella's squad is made up of players from Argentine and Brazilian clubs, with the only exceptions being Juan Bocca (18, from Monbus Obradoiro, Spain) and Lucas Giovanetti (also 18, from Movistar Estudiantes, Spain). Perhaps their key player is Santiago Scala, who plays for Sesi Franca in Brazil.

Argentinians almost went down to Venezuela in their first game, leading comfortably 70-52 with 7:07 to play after two free throws scored by Agustín Pérez. The game was ultimately decided in overtime, marking the debut in a tournament in which, like the women's competition, the United States will not be fielding a team.

©Getty Images
©Getty Images

The 'Vinotinto' staged a thrilling comeback in the final seven minutes, taking the lead with 31 seconds left when José Ascanio (Guaros) hit a three-pointer to make it 75-76 after an impressive 5-for-24 run by the Venezuelans. Argentina won 95-88 in overtime, with Scala leading the way with 23 points (3/6 from three-point range) and six assists. He was followed by Javier Alejandro Saiz (Instituto, Argentina) with 10 points and 13 rebounds.

In the other Group A match, the Dominican Republic showed its strength with a convincing 81-53 win over Panama. The game was effectively sealed in the third quarter with a 28-8 run in the third quarter, after Panama led 30-34 at halftime. Dominican Jonathan Araujo (Broncos de Caracas, Venezuela) was the star performer with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Juan Guerrero (Cocodrilos de Caracas, Venezuela) added 16 points and five rebounds.

In Group B, Brazil confirmed their role as favourites with a resounding 54-74 win victory over in a game that was all but decided at halftime (23-42). The 'Verdeamarelha' excelled on the defensive end, preventing their opponents from scoring more than 10 points each. On the offensive end, Gabriel Jaú (Flamengo, Brazil) led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds, but the scoring was well distributed.

©Getty Images
©Getty Images

In Tuesday's final game, hosts Chile almost pulled off the biggest upset of the day, leading Puerto Rico by eight points (58-51) with 9:43 left. However, the Puerto Ricans rallied with an 8-19 run to secure their first win behind 14 points from Dimencio Vaughn (Doctor Rafael Barias, Dominican Republic) and 10 points and eight rebounds from Jorge Matos Nieves (who played last season for the Grises de Humacao, Puerto Rico).

The top two finishers in each group will meet in the semi-finals on Friday (first against second and second against first), with the winners playing for gold on Saturday after the bronze medal match.