July 30, 2012
By Luka Papalko
The Olympics have started and the first games of the Men’s Basketball portion of the competition have concluded. The teams completed the first leg in Preliminary Group play, with four more still to come. Here’s a quick recap of the opening action.
Nigeria took home a 60-56 win over fellow African nation, Tunisia. The Nigerian team was led by the Aminu brothers, Al-Farouq and Alade, who combined for 28 points. Forward and former 1st round draft pick, Ike Diogu also had a strong performance, posting a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. After a poor 1st half performance of only 15 points, Tunisia came back strong in the 2nd half lead by team captain Amine Rzig, who had 18 points. Unfortunately for Tunisia, it wasn’t enough in the end to pull out the victory.
In the first game in Group B play, Brazil managed to edge past Australia for a 75-71 victory. The Brazilian team captain Marcelhino Huertas had a terrific performance with 15 points, 10 assists, 4 rebounds and 2 steals. Backcourt mate Leandro Barbosa helped carry the scoring load with 16 points of his own. Cavalier big man Anderson Varejao was in foul trouble early but ended up with 12 points and 7 rebounds. Patty Mills was the leading scorer (18), rebounder (7) and assist man (4) for the Aussies. David Andersen and Joe Ingles played well too but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Brazilians.
Team USA’s first game was against a very talented French team but Team USA was too much for them, as witnessed by the 98-71 outcome. France was able to come out of the 1st quarter tied with Team USA at 21 but after that point USA enforced their will on France by outscoring them 56-30 over the next 2 quarters. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 22 points and also chipped in 9 rebounds. LeBron James put on another good all around performance with 9 points, 8 assists, 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Tony Parker played well in spurts but was bottled up by Team USA and held to 10 points and 1 assist.
The team that many think will challenge Team USA for Gold, Spain, took on China and looked good in their 97-81 win. Spain showed off their terrific balance between their frontcourt and backcourt with Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka combining for 38 points while the backcourt of Juan-Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon combined for 26 points. Former lottery pick Yi Jianlian put on of the more impressive performances in the tournament thus far with 30 points and 12 rebounds.
With so much talk of Big 3’s in the NBA, Argentina certainly looked like they had their Big 3 in their 102-79 win versus Lithuania. Argentina’s Big 3 of Luis Scola (32 points), Manu Ginobli (21 points) and Carlos Delfino (20 points) combined for 73 points and nearly outscored the Lithuanian team by themselves. Linas Kleiza put up a good statline of 20 points and 7 rebounds but it wasn’t enough to lift the Lithuanian past Argentina.
The final game of the first leg of group play had Russia defeating host nation Great Britain, 95-75. This was a game of tremendous individual efforts with Andrei Kirilenko putting up 35 points, Luol Deng putting up 26 points and Pops Mensah-Bonsu posting 22 points. In addition, Alexey Shved and Joel Freeland played well for their respective countries. In the end, Russia had too much firepower for Great Britain.
The Men’s Basketball games will continue on Tuesday, with games starting at 4 AM (ET) and going until 5:15 PM (ET). Team USA will take on Tunisia at 5:15 PM (ET), with the last game of the day.