Another day of Olympic basketball has passed and it's time to check on the Spurs' players. Updates on the five Spurs taking part of the event plus recaps for Russia - Brazil and Argentina - Tunisia after the jump.
In what easily qualifies as the best game of the Olympics so far, Russia beat Brazil in a nail-biter, 75 – 74 on a ridiculous, leaning buzzer-beating 3 by Vitaly Fridzon.
The game was close throughout, with Brazil starting the game a little better. Tiago Splitter scored 6 of his 8 points in the first and the Brazilian defense looked sharper than Russia’s. In the second quarter, Russia took over thanks to great performances by Alexei Shved and Andrei Kirilenko. Both teams were trying to push the pace early on, but Brazil couldn't keep up. With Varejao and Splitter on the bench, Nene struggled mightily to provide quality help defense both on the pick and roll and from the weak side. After leading by 5 at the beginning of the second, Brazil went to the break down 8, 40 – 32.
Both teams exchanged buckets during the 3rd, with Russia relying on a surprising offensive output from Timofey Mozgov and Brazil getting buckets from Taylor, Nene and Barbosa. Going into the 4th, Brazil managed to shave two points off the lead, trailing by 6, 59 – 53.
The Russian offense couldn't get going to start the 4th, with both Kirilenko and Shved struggling to get quality looks and turning the ball over. Good Leandrinho showed up and, with Nene by his side, led Brazil to a comeback. Ruben Magnano stuck with the players that brought the team close and Brazil seemed on their way to stealing the game after Taylor and Barbosa extended the lead to 5 with 2:26 to go. But Alexei Shved was not going to let his team lose.
The Russian guard (who has some young Ginobili in him) attacked the rim and found Mozgov for an unguarded dunk. Taylor scored for Brazil on a short jumper to put Brazil up by 5 again, 72 – 67. Shved was not going to be outdone and closed the gap back to 3 with a jumper of his own. 1:34 to go, Brazil 72 – Russia 69. Nene and Taylor run a pick and roll and the American-born scoring guard was fouled by Mozgov at the rim. Unfortunately, he missed both free throws and things remained the same with only 1:17 to go. Shved was fouled and went to the line where he scored one of two. Huertas replaced Taylor and immediately turned the ball over due to a travelling violation. Brazil led by 3 with 40 seconds to go. Brazil went to a full court press with their best perimeter defender, former Spur Alex Garcia, putting pressure on Shved. After forcing a switch, Nene was now guarding the recently signed Wolves player who, after crossing him over, sank a 3 to tie it up with 26 seconds to go. But Brazil also has a fantastic PG in Marcelo Huertas. The Barcelona PG dribbled until there were less than ten seconds on the clock, then drove to the paint for a lay up under the defender's arm. Brazil 72 – Russia 70 with 6 seconds to go and it looked like all of Shved’s efforts were going to go to waste. After the timeout, Shved inbounded to Fridzon who launched a 3 from the corner while falling down, trying to get the call. The ball miraculously went in and Barbosa couldn't counter on the other side. Russia won 73 – 72 on a fantastic game.
How did Tiago play?
Splitter started the game great, running the floor to score in transition and on the block. His defense was great throughout, especially compared to Nene’s. There was only one embarrassing play where he fell for a Mozgov up-and-under move that resulted in a dunk, but he was otherwise solid on that end and on the boards (5 rebounds). He couldn't get it going on offense in the 3rd, missing on short range shots. He sat the entire 4th quarter as Magnano went with the frountcourt of Nene and Guilherme that got them back in the game. It was a solid if unspectacular performance; the kind we should expect from Tiago by now
Argentina started this game as badly as it could be conceivable against a clearly inferior opponent. The defense was atrocious and the offense depended exclusively on Ginobili and Scola. Tunisia couldn’t miss and that resulted on a surprising 14 point lead going to the 2nd quarter on the back of center Salah Mejri's interior defense. After that, Ginobili took over. 19 first half points for Manu, who scored in every way possible. Scola and Campazzo (who was replacing an injured Prigioni) pitched in and Argentina tied it up before going to the break.
The second half saw Argentina executing well and that was enough to get a comfortable lead that reflected the real difference in talent. The defense tightened up, and Tunisia didn’t exceed 16 points in a quarter after scoring a whopping 28 in the first quarter. Argentina unnecessarily suffered in the first half, but went on to win comfortably by 23. This game still leaves a lot of doubts as to what Argentina’s ceiling is. With Russia’s win, a potential match up against Kirilenko, Shved and the rest looms in the horizon, and if Argentina doesn't improve on defense there is no way they can get past them. Particularly disturbing has been Nocioni, a guy that in the past was known for his gritty defense and rebounding, failing to seal off his man on defensive boards and playing lackadaisical defense. Perhaps it’s time to move him to his natural position in the wing, playing one of the Gutierrez next to Scola, or bring him off the bench.
How did Manu play?
This is getting repetitive but Manu was simply amazing yet again. He pretty much carried the team offensively this game (24 points) and single-handedly made sure there was no room for an upset. His 3-point stroke, which returned against France, is still wrecking havoc as he went 4-4 and his rebounding (5 boards) keeps helping the team enormously. No turnovers for Manu in this one, but the assists (3) and the steals (2) were there. This guy is the only reason Argentina has a shot at advancing past quarter finals. For the tournament, he's averaging 23.7 points (leader), 7 rebounds and 3.3 assists.
How did the Spurs play?
Tony Parker: Tony is rounding into shape and it’s showing. While he struggled the first couple of games, Parker put together a great second half against Argentina and that momentum carried over to the game against Lithuania. He’s still turning the ball over too much (4 TO, 2 assists) but his scoring (27 points) was phenomenal and his defense adequate.
Boris Diaw: Diaw seemed like a man possessed for parts of this game. No hesitation, no doubt; just great play after great play. The stat line (10 points, 6 reboudns, 8 assists) reflects that Boris was everywhere. Good to see after two not-so-good performances. On a different note, if he can lose 10 pounds, I’d be ecstatic. Olympic village cafeteria food can't be that great, Boris.
Nando De Colo: De Colo was a bit more erratic and his shot wasn't falling consistently. He rebounded well (5 boards) and didn't force things, which is good considering the stars were having amazing games. What I like about Nando is the fact that he can hit a mid range jumper when the big sags on the pick and roll. He should have a number of attempts from there in the NBA against some plodding bigs and it's nice knowing that he can hit those. 8 points in 7 attempts for the newest Spur.
I didn't catch this game, but Australia beat China 81 – 61. That puts Australia in the position to advance to the knockout stage with a win against Great Britain. The Aussies can’t finish above 4th, so they will face Team USA. China has lost all its games and will have to hope for a win over Great Britain to salvage some pride. Yi Jianlian went to the line 14 times against the Aussies. He simply transforms into a beast in international competition and is averaging 20 and 10.
How did Patty play?
Like I mentioned, I didn't watch this game but going by the boxscore, Patty had his first efficient game of the Olympics. The 4-8 from 3 is good to see, since he had only one make in 14 attempts coming into this game on some questionable shot selection. He only had 2 assists but he plays the role of scorer in the national team (20 points in 19 shots), so that's nothing to worry about. His 0 trips to the line on the other hand are somewhat disturbing, considering the ease with which he can get past his defender.
On matches not involving Spurs players, the U.S. destroyed Nigeria 156 - 73 and Spain continued to underwhelm with their close win against the weak Great Britain 79 - 78.