Today was the first really good day of action, with two games coming down to the wire. That being said, we also saw our share of blowouts, and Team USA got to exhibit how they could hit shots in an open gym! Look below for a recap of all of today's matchups.
Wow. That game was absolutely unbelievable. I knew that of all teams in the tournament, Nigeria probably stood the least chance against Team USA for strategical reasons. But the level of this blowout was just off the charts. And it's mostly because of Nigeria's terrible offensive start and constant offensive pressure that led to open threes and dunks for Team USA.
Other than that, I don't know what to say about this game. You could say that Nigeria's offensive performance overall was pretty par for the course for them overall, and you'd be right. But when all they have against a superior athletic team is pressure defense, then not much is going to work out for them in the final score.
Yes, Great Britain came THIS close to upsetting Spain. Again. Why? Well, Joel Freeland probably played the best game of his entire life. He was hitting tough threes that only guards are supposed to hit, and he knew exactly where to be in the paint. Alongside him was the tireless Luol Deng, who found success as the team's main distributor, driving and kicking as well as hitting jumpshots against the slower Spanish bigs.
Also, they pretty much weaseled their way into the game after a 12 point deficit heading into the fourth. They solidified their interior defense, with Ibaka missing a couple of shots in the lane (though he did have an essential tip-in later in the quarter). Meanwhile, Deng and Freeland went bananas on offense, scoring from all over the floor as a dynamic duo.
Team GB was within two with 1:25 to go, when their luck appeared to run out, as they committed two straight turnovers and fell in a 6 point hole. But their role players showed up again, with Daniel Clark hitting a three, and Nate Reinking hitting another three after two Spanish free throws. Problem was, nobody was in the backcourt to foul Juan Carlos Navarro, so he sped past Freeland, the only guy in the area, and managed to dribble out Spain's one point lead. Sometimes, good game management can pay huge dividends. With Deng laying on the floor in despair, you really had to feel for him and the effort he gave.
Below: Showdown Between Russia and Brazil, The Heroism of Aleksey Shved (Coming to Minnesota), and Other Games!
In the most exciting game of the tournament so far, Aleksey Shved proved why he'll belong in the NBA next year. After a game that ranged up and down, Russia had an 11 point lead with a minute to go in the third quarter. But Brazil wasn't ready to give up. They closed the quarter off with two great shots from Leandro Barbosa, narrowing the gap to 6 points at the start of the fourth. Initially, Russia was able to keep their lead, but Brazil started looking for steals and forcing turnovers. On top of that, Sergey Monya missed three straight shots and turned the ball over, destroying the Russian offense.
But the story of the game was Aleksey Shved. With Russia down by 5 with 2:27 to go, Shved took over the ball. He ran straight into the post, where he was being threatened by a looming Nene. Seeing the mismatch, he smartly passed it to an open Timofey Mozgov for an open dunk., Larry Taylor responded with a short jumper, but Shved responded on the next play by getting past his defender for a quick jumper.
The next two ensuing plays were badly missed free throws by Taylor and narrowly missed free throws by Shved. Brazil had the ball, and Marcelo Huertas managed to switch Shved off the ball and get the slower Kirilenko, but he traveled on the way to the basket. Shved responded by walking up and burying a three. Tie game. Huertas gets a pick, and succeeds in scoring a layup where he previously failed. Brazil is now up by two.
This leaves 6.1 seconds for Russia to respond. On the inbounds play, Shved is only single covered by Leandro Barbosa. Barbosa looks for the steal, but misses, and ends up tripping over Shved as they both head to the corner. Shved manages to release it before losing his balance and falling. The shot swishes in, and Russia is up by 1. Barbose attempts to fire back with a three of his own, but with no timeouts, he only has enough time to throw up a brick from inside the half court line. Game over, Russia triumphs.
To Brazil's credit, they did everything they could to beat the well-organized Russian team. They didn't rely too much on the three, and got to the line. They even competed with the bigger Russia on the boards, and forced a few good turnovers. But in the end, their bad perimeter defense got to them, and they couldn't pull off the upset.
Other Games: France 82, Lithuania 74. Again, in this game we see Lithuania's primary weakness: quick guards who can shoot. Tony Parker finally got out of his rut with 27 points on 9 of 14 shooting, and Nicholas Batum worked well on the break. Also, Lithuania got out-rebounded (they miss Javtokas) and had a bad third quarter. Australia 81, China 61. Australia can rebound better than China? I guess so. I guess having two seven footers in the same lineup means nothing. They can distribute the ball better, too. Argentina 92, Tunisia 69. In the past two games, Tunisia has gotten off to a really strong start, and then imploded. But, Argentina always gets off to bad starts, so there.