Another day in London, another six games of Men's Olympics basketball to talk about. Somehow in the first two days it appeared like marquee matchups were not saved for the later games in this Group stage. France played the US team on Day 1, and then played a very strong Argentine squad on Day 2. Aside from France, though, you could argue that the "good teams" have only been playing against teams they are much better than. Day 3 put an end to that as France got to play against Lithuania, and Russia got to play Brazil. The contenders are rising, and the pretenders are falling. Find out what happened . . . after the jump.
I only watched one of these games, but hey, that doesn't mean I'm not going to stop writing about the other 5 ones I did not watch . . . this is, after all, the internet!
- Game 1: France 82 - Lithuania 74 -- France is sitting pretty nicely at 2-1 after three games, their one loss coming to the USA in Game 1. Tony Parker had 27 points (2 threes, 7-10 from the FT line), and 5 rebounds, while Nikki Batum added 21 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks, and 2 steals. The fulcrum of the French attack seemed to be Boris Diaw who finished with 10 points, 8 assists, and 6 rebounds. Wow. Aside from those three only 4 other people scored. Rony Turiaf had 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and scored 6 points. He would have had a double double if he did not go 2-8 from the FT line. Those NBA players can make a difference if they work well together. France had a 38 to 27 rebounding edge, while also finishing the game shooting 53.4 fg%. Wow. Lithuania did not get it done, and shot poorly from deep (6-21 -- 28.6%). Their passing attack seemed to be stiffled by the French, and only Linas Kleiza had a good game with 17 points, 7 rebounds, and going 7 for 8 from the stripe. I expected Sarunas Jasikevicius to take it to Tony Parker, maybe try to get him in foul trouble, but it did not happen. Sarunas did finish with 5 assists, but also had 4 turn overs, and only made one shot. Martynas Pocius and Simas Jasaitis both kept things interesting by going 3/5 from downtown -- but France was just too strong. They stand tall at 2-1 now, giving Lith their second loss, they are now 1-2.
- Game 2: Australia 81 - China 71 -- There just ain't no sunshine when Yao's gone. Yao Ming, I mean. The retired center used to make China a team that could, at the very least, have a focal point. Bereft of him, China did not stand much of a chance against a hungry Aussie team. Australia broke it open with a 28-11 second quarter, and finished strong with a 20-8 fourth quarter. Patrick Mills seems to have also broken out of his slump -- going for 20 points, and reassuringly 4-8 from downtown. He also had help from David Andersen (17, and 7, with some blocks, steals, and dimes thrown in for good measure), and Joe Ingles, who finished with 13, 7, and 7. On the other side of the ball, Yi Jianlian did have 13 and 12, but did so mainly on the strength of going to the free throw line 14 times. Wang Zhi-Zhi also had 12 rebounds, but went 0-8 in shooting, and finished with a single point. China was led by Wang Shipeng, who went bonkers from deep - 7 for 10, and finished with 21 points. China drops to 0-3, while Australia goes to 1-2.
- Game 3: Argentina 92 - Tunisia 69 -- I can't make this up . . . Tunisia was up after one quarter 28 to 14. Argentina responded by scoring 26, 31, and 21 points in the next three quarters, while allowing, at most, only 16 points in return. My "Main" man Salah Mejri had 19 points, 14 rebounds, and 7 God-damn blocks against a team that can effectively start an NBA lineup. Big bad Makrem Ben Romdhane only had 12 points in this game, but was looking for his team mates a bit more. Against the US squad he had 22 and 12. Mourad El Mabrouk picked up the slack with 16 points, mainly going 5-10 from down town. Point guard Marouan Laghnej helped out with 9 points (all threes) and 6 assists. But enough about those guys -- it's only just fun to type their names. Argentina is too well polished and were set out to demolish Tunisia after dropping a close game to France on Day 2. Manu Ginobili had 24 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 threes, 2 steals, and went 9/12 from the field. Luis Scola had 20 and 10, with 5 assists. Carlos Delfino had 21 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists, but has cooled off from three (only 1/5), but still managed to go 10/15 for the game. Andres Nocioni did not have to do anything. Argentina had a 23 to 15 assist margin. They are a way better team, and outside of guys who can hit threes or dunk, Tunisia is not quite a team yet. Argentina is now 2-1, and Tunisia is 0-3; however, they ARE getting better each game. It will be special if they actually win a game.
- Game 4: Russia 75 - Brazil 74 -- Wow. Brazil was up by 5 after one quarter, and Russia's defense and team play was on the verge of putting this game out of reach a few times -- but a great come back by Brazil made this the game of the day. By far. Brazil even WON this game with a crazy layup with 6 seconds left that somehow avoided all kinds of Russian defends . . . but Russia some how drew up a play for a dude who had only taken 2 shots previously all game . . . and he drilled a corner three pointer after two time outs, WHILE being fouled. No foul called. Russia wins and goes 3-0, and Brazil loses their first match and falls to 2-1. Russia had previously won their matches by 19 and 20 points, and Brazil has now been in three barn burners. All of that favored Brazil as they had more experience in close matches. Russia got out of their sets, were turning over the ball, and bricking their free throws. Yet they found a way to win. Or more reasonably, re-found how to win. And that's with team play and defense. It seems like Russia goes through long stretches of forgetting that Andrei Kirilenko is on their team. He finished with 19 points (14 in the second quarter after 0 in the first), but should have gotten the ball more. He also played poorly on defense, getting burned twice when it would have been nice to have stops. He is a different player for this Russian squad, a more aggressive one on offense. He got to the free throw line 13 times, but only had 4 rebounds, and 1 assist, 1 steal, and 1 block. This is not the same AK we remember. Alexey Shved is a young player with a lot of promise, but is prone to making mistakes. He made some great plays (including a crazy three with the clock ticking to set up a tie game), finished with 17 points, and 6 assists. He also had 6 turn overs. He seems to excel getting screens at the top of the key and making a play, either a pull up, or he'll draw in defenders to dump it to a big. The main recipient this game was Timofey Mozgov who finished with 18 points and 7 rebounds off the bench. Mozgov finished the game going 8-9 but got hurt. He was scoring in opportunistic ways, but also had a few nice solo post ups and scores against Tiago Splitter. Splitter had 8 points and 5 rebounds for Brazil, but their main man was Leandro Barbosa who finally woke up for 16 points, and 50 fg%. Partly the reason for this was foul trouble and possible injuries to Marcelinho Huertas -- who did have the potential game winner, but only 8 points and 5 assists. Nene Hilario had 8 and 10, Anderson Varajao had 4 and 4, but it was the play of American born Larry Taylor who played inspired D and finished with 12 points (5/7 shooting as a penetrating PG) who made this a game. Great come back story by Brazil. They showed a lot of heart, and my hat goes off to them. Russia was up high, got out of their offense, and nearly lost a game they should have won by 15. Brazil got Russia to turn the ball over 15 times and miss 11 free throws. If Russia wants to beat Spain on Saturday -- they'll have to fix that.
- Game 5: Spain 79 - Great Britain 78 -- Spain started off strong by finishing the first quarter up by 9 points. The UK squad mucked things up in the second, and played Spain to a very respectable 14 to 13 point quarter; actually cutting into the near double digit margin. *record scratch sound effect* Wow, I just looked at the play by play after seeing the final score of this game. Before the record scratch is what I wrote at halftime. How the heck was this almost as crazy as the Russia/Brazil game? Well, with 5 minutes to go Spain was up by 7, but Great Britain went to work from downtown. Luol Deng, Joel Freeland, Daniel Clark, and Nate Reinking all made three point bombs at a crazy rate while Spain kept leaving the door open. Missed three throws. Missed jumpers. The British team cut the 7 point lead down to 2 after a Deng to Freeland drive and kick with 1.31 left to play. Spain's Jose Calderon made a layup to put them up by 4 with 0:43 left. Deng turned it over, Calderon made two free throws. Clark hit a three, now a three point game with 0:27 seconds left. Calderon made two free throws, then Reinking his a three, now a two point game with 0:22 seconds. Calderon then made two more free throws, and Deng hits a three with 0:10 seconds left. ONE POINT GAME! And then somehow that's the game. Time runs out. Waaaaaaaat? They couldn't foul? I guess not. Deng had 26 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, and 1 steal. Joel had 25 points, 7 rebounds, and made 3 threes. Over all their team shot 37.5 3pt%, and broke even on turn overs with Spain. Spain had a much more balanced attack, where Jose had 19 points, and 4 rebounds, and 2 assists and 2 steals. Pau Gasol had 17 points, and 5 assists. Mac Gasol punched in 12. Spain is now 3-0, and the guys from the UK are now 0-3.
- Game 6: United States 156 - Nigeria 73 -- Well. Ike Diogu had 27 points and 7 rebounds. That's . . . that's a good starting point . . . this game only counts for one win, or one loss. So USA is now 3-0 and at the top of their Group. Nigeria drops to 1-2*. The Americans went 29 for 46 from downtown. They had 38 assists. Nigeria 14. They had 12 steals. Nigeria 2. They forced 24 turn overs. Nigeria only 7. Both teams shot 14 free throws. For the game Nigeria went 41.2 fg%, 22.2 3pt%, and 78.6 ft%. USA went 71.1 fg%, 63.0 3pt%, and 64.3 ft%. So, yeah, wow. Amazing performance for Carmelo Anthony who had 37 points off of 10/12 shooting from three. He also finished shooting 13 for 16 overall. He came off the bench and played 14 minutes, and had almost more points than the other team's starters. The other teams really want to avoid the United States for as long as possible.
Next batch of games to be played on Saturday. See you then!
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