Olympic Hoops, Day 3
USA sets a new Olympic record, Russia and Spain win in thrillers.
by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor
USA 156, Nigeria 73
You can blame Tunisia for this, Nigeria. It’s their fault Team USA came out to send a message. Someone was going to get humiliated by this team—it was inevitable. You just happened to be on the receiving end.
In case you missed it, or turned off the TV after five minutes, Team USA scored 49 points in the first quarter. Seventy-eight points by the half (a new Olympic record). They finished with 156 (a new Olympic record).
This wasn’t a game, it was a NBA 2K exhibition played on rookie mode. These guys could have turned up at Rucker and got a tougher game. And that’s not to say that Nigeria can’t play, just that on this night, they didn’t have anything or anyone to stop the US.
Kobe got in on the act early, picking up 16 points in 11 minutes. Carmelo Anthony scored 37 in 14 minutes. Russell Westbrook finished with 21.
That’s pretty much all there is to say about the game. Team USA moves to 3-0. Next up: Lithuania.
France 82, Lithuania 74
In case it wasn’t clear already, Lithuania has the best fans on the entire planet. If they are handing out medals for making noise, then the Gold goes to the guys and girls in green. They were out in force again yesterday morning to see their team go toe-to-toe with France for second spot in Group A. A finish of second or higher in the group would mean avoiding a potential quarter final with Group B’s top teams—Spain and Russia—so there was plenty at stake.
It was high energy stuff, straight from the tip. France jumped to an early lead thanks to some great ball movement by Tony Parker and Co., but Lithuania wouldn’t lie down—sub Martynas Pocius penetrating and finishing well on multiple occasions to keep his team in the game.
Lithuania struggled to handle Parker, who finished with 27 points, and Nicolas Batum, who was huge on both ends—picking up 21 points and 6 rebounds. Pocius was hot for Lithuania, but wasn’t getting a lot of support from his teammates, and France pulled away to pick up the win. If Parker and Batum maintain this form, France could make a serious run for a medal.
Brazil 74, Russia 75
Two points down to Brazil, with single digits left on the clock, Russia’s Vitaliy Fridzon steps up to knock down a clutch three, winning the game and keeping Russia’s 100 percent record in the competition intact.
Until that shot, it looked like Brazil was set to pull off a special comeback, fighting their way back into the game from 11 points down, thanks to big plays from Marcelo Huertas and 16 points from Leandro Barbosa. It wasn’t to be. The dynamic duo of Alexey Shved and Andrei Kirilenko impressed again for Russia, backed up by a strong performance from Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 18 points. Hands up everyone who wants to see these guys play Team USA.
Spain 79, Great Britain 78
I’m going to try to write an objective view of this game, but, man, sports are horrible at times. Spain goes to 3-0 in Group B after beating Great Britain—a mix-up in the dying seconds of the game after Luol Deng hit a clutch three to bring Great Britain to within one, saw GB fail to foul Jose Calderon, who calmly ran the clock out to end what was a thriller of a contest.
It was a game that Spain should have won with ease, as Great Britain struggled to deal with Calderon, who finished with 19 points, and teammate Pau Gasol, who had a fun battle with Joel Freeland that saw the Laker finish with 17 points and 5 assists. For GB it was all Freeland and Luol Deng. Both played more than 30 minutes, and refused to let their team go down. Deng picked up 26 points, 9 boards and 7 assists, while Freeland had his best game of the tournament, finishing with 25 points and 7 rebounds. Spain looks set to top the group comfortably, while Great Britain faces an early exit despite their gutsy performances.
Australia 81, China 61
A solid all-round performance from Joe Ingles (13 points, 7 assists, 7 rebounds) helped Australia pick up their first win in London, keeping their hopes of progressing from Group B alive. After a tight first quarter, Australia broke away in the second, opening a 16-point lead at the half. It was too much for China to make up, despite 21 points from Shipeng Wang, and Australia now sits in fourth place in the group—enough to reach the quarter finals, where they could face Team USA.
Argentina 92, Tunisia 69
Another game with a far superior team, another incredible first quarter performance from Tunisia—if only they could keep it going to for 40 minutes. Like the USA earlier in the week, Manu Ginobli and Argentina were made to work for their win over the African champions, but a great all-round performance from the Spurs swingman, in which he scored 24 points on 75 percent shooting, saw them home comfortably. Argentina sits in second place in Group A heading into their game with Nigeria on Saturday.