Olympic Hoops, Day 2

by Ben Taylor / @benitaylor

USA 110, Tunisia 63

The final score says it all, right?

Tunisia was never going to beat Team USA—we all knew that—but none of us predicted a first half like we had in London, one in which the African champions actually ran with the superstars of the NBA.

It started straight from the tip—Tunisia’s intensity and hustle, combined with some slack passing and poor shot selection from the US, gave the underdogs an early lead. For the second game in a row we saw Team USA struggle from outside early on, and with their opponents fighting for every board and moving the ball nicely. It looked like—at least for a quarter or two—we might have had a contest on our hands.

Coach K’s decision to bench the entire starting five midway through the first quarter said it all.

The second unit came in, and the game changed instantly—Deron Williams and Russell Westbrook turned on the speed, running the ball straight at the heart of the Tunisian defense to pick up easy buckets.

Just when they appeared to be breaking away, Team USA took its foot off the gas again, spurring a Tunisian mini-comeback. Marouan Kechrid took advantage of the lack of pressure from the US defense, making back-to-back three pointers to cut the lead to six.

The response was quick and effective, with Team USA scoring 11 straight points to take the lead back to 16.

The US sent its second unit to finish the job in the third quarter. Nine unanswered points after halftime took the lead to 23. It was then just a question of how big the winning margin would be.

A shooting clinic from Carmelo Anthony saw him pick up 16 points in just 12 minutes, and we were treated to another Anthony Davis cameo. The Hornets big man kept his teammates on the bench entertained with some nice finishes around the rim on his way to 12 points. Kevin Love put in another impressive performance—finishing with 16 points and 6 rebounds.

So, what do you learn from a 47-point win? That, in this competition, you can’t afford to take a single quarter off, even against the so-called weaker teams. Team USA didn’t look ready to play in the first, almost as if they expected Tunisia to roll over from the tip. Take it that easy against Spain, Russia or Argentina, and they’ll make you pay.

China 54, Russia 73

Timberwolves duo Alexey Shved (14 points, 6 assists) and Andrei Kirilenko (16 points, 9 rebounds) impressed again for Russia, as they knocked off China in the first game of the day in London. Yi Jianlian’s 16 points led the way for China—now 0-2 in the competition.

Lithuania 72, Nigeria 53

Lithuania picked up its first win of the competition, a convincing 19-point win over Nigeria. Toronto Raptor Linas Kleiza paced Lithuania with 13 points.

France 71, Argentina 64

Watching Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli play together is fun, watching them go at each other is something else. The Spurs duo went head to head last night in London, with Parker’s 17 points and 5 assists helping France take their first Group A victory.

Great Britain 62, Brazil 67

Twenty-one points from Tiago Splitter, and another impressive game for Marcelinho Huertas (13 points, 8 assists), saw Brazil beat a hard-working Great Britain in their second Group B game to go 2-0 in the competition.

Australia 70, Spain 82

Spain survived a gutsy performance from Australia to pick up their second Group B win. Pau Gasol finished with 20 points, shooting 61 percent, while Rudy Fernandez picked up 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.

SLAMonline also caught up with Spanish big Serge Ibaka yesterday to talk about his time in London so far.

SLAM: How are you finding the whole Olympic experience?

Serge Ibaka: It’s going great. Enjoying it a lot. Just excited and very happy to be here.

SLAM: What did you think of the opening ceremony?

SI: It was amazing, man. Amazing. My first time at the Olympics, and it was beautiful.

SLAM: There were some great photos of you with the other Thunder guys from that night. What did you make of the KD and Russell’s berets?

SI: That was a real good look. That’s their style, you know. That’s their style. We had our own style too though [laughs].

SLAM: Are you planning on checking out any of the other events?

SI: The athletics, for sure. Hopefully the 100 Meters. I want to see Usain Bolt, he’s amazing.

SLAM: This is your second summer with the Spanish national team, what does it mean to you to represent Spain at the Olympics?

SI: It means a lot. I’m so happy to be representing Spain, playing for the whole country. I’m enjoying it a lot.

SLAM: How do you deal with the level of expectation around the team? Most people seem to be assuming that it’s going to be a Spain-USA final.

SI: We’re not even thinking about it. All we’re thinking about is winning all of our games, and if we do that, we’ll be in the final. We’re not thinking about playing the USA. We’re just focused on playing well, winning games, and making the final. And we know that’s not going to be easy.

SLAM: And Group B is a competitive group.

SI: The next game, Great Britain, it will be very hard. They are the home team, and will be hard to beat. China was tough. Today’s game (Australia) was a hard game.

SLAM: You’ve been tested at times in those first two games, but come through and picked up the wins. How are the team feeling about your chances at this stage?

SI: No game here is easy, you know. It’s the Olympics, man. Nobody wants to lose, everybody is playing hard. The most important thing right now is to get the win. We have a couple of tough games coming up next, so we need to try our best to get those wins if we want to make the final. That’s our only goal.