Day 2 of the Olympic Basketball Tournament saw a pickup in the action for a few teams, but there were some serious blowouts for the major powers of basketball. Team USA fans got to see a destruction of Tunisia, Spanish fans watched their team roll past the perimeter-heavy Australia, and Russian fans saw their team suffocate China's offense. In more interesting matchups, France returned from a terrible opening game to bounce the powerful Argentines, and Brazil came from behind to beat Great Britain in the fourth quarter. Lastly, Nigeria had a chance to upset Lithuania again, but came up far short.
Look below for a recap of two of today's games, and some quick thoughts on the others.
This was pretty much an obligatory matchup. The Tunisian coach had resigned to losing before the game began, and the talent level of the two teams just isn't that close. Tunisia has played a lot of games together over the years and know how to play well as a team, but they don't really have the athleticism that Team USA does.
That being said, Tunisia put up a hell of a fight in the first half. They led for most of the first quarter, and only a massive tactic change by Mike Krzyzewski put the US back in their usual place. In a bold move, he subbed out all five of his starters, who were making a few too many passes and shooting poorly. His backups came in and pressured the backcourt like crazy, making some key steals and running the break. This pushed the US to a double digit lead by half-time, after which all hell broke loose when Team USA actually started hitting jumpers. The game was quickly sealed, and devolved into a toothless exhibition.
On Tunisia's side of things, you had to be impressed with the play of Macram Ben Romdhane, who was pretty much the only efficient player for Tunisia offensively. He went toe to toe with Team USA in the paint, and moved the ball well on offense. He also stuck the ball against the rim while trying dunk and avoid LeBron James' arm at the same time. Marouam Kechrid also did well, hitting a miracle of a three in the second off of the glass, and trash talking the Team USA guards the entire game.
On Team USA's side, Durant and Westbrook were key components in the first half, scoring well when they took it to the rack. Durant had somewhat of a bad shooting night, but his 10 rebounds and 5 assists more than make up for it. Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony wowed the crowd with dead-eye shooting in the third, and Anthony Davis got a bunch of token dunks in the fourth. All in all, it was as close to a 1992 Dream Team game as you're gonna get in this tournament.
But, this game was a huge disappointment for me, because Radouhane Slimane hardly played and shaved his clearly full head of hair. What a tragedy!
In France's first ever win against the Argentine basketball team, their role players really stepped up. After a crushing loss to Team USA, the team could see that they had two problems. Joakim Noah wasn't there to provide rebounding or scoring help anymore, and Turiaf wasn't doing a good job of filling his role. Secondly, Tony Parker is looking somewhat limited with the goggles, hitting next to nothing but layups and free throws.
Solutions rose from France's new generation, and their old one. The young Kevin Seraphin stepped in and took Noah's old role, scoring 10 points, grabbing 6 boards, and blocking three shots in the span of 10 minutes. One of the team's older players, Mickael Gelabale, was able to step up and score an efficient 13 points, despite getting limited minutes in previous contests.
I wouldn't call France's win anything to do with xs and os. The game was back and forth for both teams, and they were pretty much tied in statistical categories. But Argentina did commit one fatal error in not trusting their bench. No bench player got more than 8 minutes tonight, and nobody on the bench was trusted with more than two shots. It's kind of a strange situation, because Argentina's bench is experienced and has played heavy minutes. They're just as much a part of the "golden generation" of Argentine basketball as the starters, yet they've been pretty much snubbed in this tournament.
But while Gelabale and Seraphin arguably fueled France during the game, you can't forget about the six straight points Parker scored to put France up by 8 with four minutes to go. While he was getting the points his team needed after a terrible performance, Pablo Prigioni looked lost, and nobody was giving the ball to Ginobili.
Below: Brazil and GB Clash, Russia, Spain, and Lithuania roll!
Australia's 4-24 mark from behind the three point line says it all. They did a good job of using rebounds to control the ball and get inside early, but Spain wouldn't shoot bricks from beyond the arc forever. They eventually dumped it down to their bigs (including Ibaka, who had 8) and had Fernandez burn Australia's weak perimeter D from three. Australia's rebounding quickly fell off as well, and they couldn't make a shot to save their lives.
Great Britain did a good job of keeping Brazil off the three point line. By doing so, they basically forced Britain to play their game and score only on the inside. This made for a extremely ugly game. There weren't too many free throws, so it wasn't slow in terms of time, but teams held onto the ball for long chunks of the shot clock, and not many attempts went down. Team GB's luck ran out when they panicked after Brazil hit a three to go up by four with 3:16 to go in the fourth. Britain tried to shoot threes of their own, failed miserably, and fell too far behind. Daniel Clark and Nate Reinking did a good job of getting involved, though.
Lithuania would traditionally be expected to win this game, but after their embarrassing start against Argentina and their loss to Nigeria in the Qualifying tournament made some reconsider the status quo. But from start to finish, Lithuania came out with fire in this game. Nigeria couldn't distribute the ball, they couldn't hit a three, and they'd leave players wide open on the perimeter on defense. Their offense chugged to an unceremonious halt, and while for the most part their defense on Lithuania was admirable from a pressure and post standpoint, the game was out of hand by the end of the third. Ike Diogu and Al-Faoruq Aminu led all Nigerian scorers with 12, and Linas Kleiza led Lithuania with 13.
This was another easy win for Russia. They do a good job of guarding the perimeter, so China's main matchup advantage (having their big men shoot) couldn't really help them much offensively. This led to a very slow game, in which Russia pretty much dominated the boards. The lead ever so slowly got bigger, until the coach of China actually went deep into his bench to use some of the younger player's we've never seen before. They actually managed to beat Russia in garbage time, but I don't know how much I'd read into that.