Day 5 of Olympic Basketball was like one big tease. There were premiere matchups to be seen, and some nice moments, but none of the results really changed anything expected. Australia beat Russia, but they're still in fourth. Brazil beat Spain, but Spain tanked. Tunisia and Nigeria nearly pulled off upsets, but couldn't keep their momentum going in the fourth quarter. The other two games were blowouts. But the stage is set for an excellent tournament, with nearly every team having a shot at winning it all, and Team USA not looking as invincible as they once were.
This game was really intense, until the second half. To be honest, Team USA should have blown it open in the second quarter, with Argentina's bench playing heavy minute and knocking down some lucky threes. But for Team USA, it's really all a question of pace. If they can keep the game on the open court and get a rhythm going, they're nearly unstoppable, especially when the shots start falling. But in the half-court game, they're hopelessly average, usually settling for isolation sets and rarely using their point guard well. Argentina did a good job early on of getting Scola and Ginobili involved in the passing game, and they were rewarded with a solid percentage from beyond the arc. They also were pretty much flopping all over the court for easy points, but hay, it was working. Still, once Team USA opened up the game and started forcing turnovers, it was pretty much over.
Spain pretty much tanked this one, giving no one more than 27 minutes. The Gasols didn't come in until late in the fourth, after Spain had already given up a significant lead. Brazil basically tanked too, totally sitting out Nene. But Barbosa carried the team for them, giving Brazil an insurmountable lead that Spain couldn't recover from. Either way, it wasn't as bad as the Badminton fixing.
Patty Mills won the game on an amazing last second three point jumper, but ultimately, it meant nothing. Russia was locked into first, and Australia was locked into fourth. Shved, Mozgov, and Fridzon all got limited minutes, and nobody but Khryapa scratched the 30 minute mark. It wasn't as obvious of a tank as Spain executed, but with the high amount of shots Russia was hitting compared to Australia, there's no way Russia put out their full effort for this game. It was obvious the Russian offense was suffering without Shved and Fridzon to run it, as the team committed a ton of turnovers and let Australia run with it.
Believe it or not, this was a close game until about 5 minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Tunisia was actually up by 12 about halfway through the third. It just collapsed when Tunisia's main scorers, Macram Ben Romdhane and Salah Mejri, got into foul trouble late. Tunisia also couldn't sustain a half-court offense really well, especially when Lithuania realized that they actually had the athleticism to pressure them.
Another case of the underdog running out of gas late in the game. France needed to win the game to secure second place in Group A, but they sat out Turiaf as they knew they had the upper hand against Nigeria. But the Olympic Qualifying Tournament darlings couldn't pull off another upset. Ade Dagunduro and Tony Skinn, two players who have been the bane of Nigeria so far this tournament, were sat for the duration of the game while Chamberlain Oguchi and Derrick Obasohan had the games of their lives in their place. But Nigeria couldn't get Diogu or Aminu going against France's ferocious paint defense, and that'll kill you in a game like this.
And the Brits come away with a win. Congratulations to them. It was a good team effort, with a lot of lesser known guys getting to shine. I doubt things will ever get much better than this for basketball starved Britain, but I'd definitely watch out for China in years to come.
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Check back in tomorrow for a full tournament preview!
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