Tony Parker’s rough adjustment to life in goggles carried over into France’s game against Argentina on Tuesday.
At halftime, he had managed just four points.
While eyewear may have slowed Parker in the first half, Pablo Prigioni could do no such thing in the second, and France beat Argentina 71-64, putting them in the catbird seat for the coveted second slot in Group A.
The French point guard dribbled around high screens and slower Argentines to get into the lane and, more importantly, to the line. Nine of Parker’s 17 points came from the charity stripe, where he lifted his goggles onto his forehead and enjoyed a full field of vision.
What he saw might have surprised him: four of his teammates in double figures.
Nicolas Batum wasted no time putting that 27-point loss to Team USA behind him, scoring eight of his 14 points in the first quarter and pulling down seven boards.
Even if his 11 points and three assists don’t say it, Spurs signee Nando de Colo had his most encouraging game as a national team member. Nando has always had a sackful of talent, but never enough patience to put it all to work for him. Tonight against a disciplined and physically tough Argentina defense, he bided his time, picked his spots and turned in the type of steady performance you’d expect out of a veteran.
Just minutes after de Colo knocked down a three ball to break the tie at 39, he assisted on a Mickael Gelabale (13 points) triple that stole the lead away for good, 45-43, with 3:52 left in the period.
Kevin Seraphin added a block louder than a belly flop on Manu Ginobili as time expired, punctuating a remarkable win for the French. Seraphin was also the fifth and final Frenchman in double figures with 10.
France had five guys with 10 or more points. Argentina played five guys 10 or more minutes. Now we see just how dangerous it is to show up to the Olympics without a bench.
Ginobili was Ginobili and scored 26 while Scola wasn’t Scola and still put up 16. After that, you had Prigioni, Carlos Delfino and Andres Nocioni going a collective 5-for-21 from the floor and just four subs who saw the court for just 27 combined minutes.
With the win, France is right back on their feet and officially chasing a medal, as second place in Group A likely means avoiding Spain and Russia in the quarterfinals.
If you caught either team in action today, you understand why the French—the Argentines, the Lithuanians and, Hell, the Americans—would like to put off a head-to-head as long as possible.
Russia played a doormat again and dominated, this time whacking China to the tune of 73-54. Andrei Kirilenko continued his early All-Olympics push with a sweatless 16 and Alexey Shved flung his body and the ball all over the court en route to 14 points plus six dimes.
And though the Portland Trail Blazers have already signed Great Britain’s Joel Freeland and Spain’s Victor Claver this summer, it turns out they might have let the best Olympian go back in 2006 when they shipped Viktor Khryapa off to Chicago. Since making his way back to Europe in 2008, Khryapa has turned into the Euroleague’s premiere two-way forward (offense-defense), winning Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and routinely posting baby triple-doubles like the one he had today: 7 points, 12 rebounds, 6 assists.
We warned you yesterday about letting Russia’s forwards catch and face, but with Shved on the rise and Sasha Kaun looking strong inside, opposing coaches will have some difficult decisions to make on the eves of their bouts with Russia.
Then there’s Spain, which beat Australia 82-70 behind 20 more points from Gasol and 17 from a stitched-up Rudy Fernandez. A camera lens sliced the back of Rudy’s head after he saved a loose ball and promptly crashed into a photographer underneath the hoop. Fernandez got three stitches and was right back at it for Spain. No word yet on the camera.
Rudy picked a damn fine time to get tough; Spain was already running without the Euroleague’s all-time leading scorer, Juan Carlos Navarro, who sat out today with plantar fasciitis and might miss more time. Spain’s a scary animal when La Bomba is on; with him out, they’re no longer the favorites to knock off the United States.
Plain and simple.
Fans of the Houston Rockets should keep an eye on his replacement, Sergio Llull, who had a rough shooting night (2-for 10) but can fill it up in a hurry when the tempo cranks.
The games on day one guaranteed at least one African winner, when Nigeria and Tunisia squared off. Today’s slate came with no such assurance, and both were disposed of easily by superior teams.
Linas Kleiza had 13 for Lithuania in a 72-53 win over Nigeria to put both teams at 1-1, and all 12 Team USAers got in the scoring column as the gold medal favorites piled on top of poor Tunisia 110-63.
Kevin Love poured in 16 points in 18 minutes; that’s six fewer minutes than Carmelo Anthony needed to match Love for the daily team lead. Melo made all six of his shots, one of three Americans to go without a miss from the floor. Tyson Chandler was 3-of-3 and The Brow went 5-of-5 — all of them alley-oops.
And finally the hosts took the floor against Brazil, which, early on, was unfortunate news for fans of good basketball. Great Britain emerged from the sludgiest of first quarters up 11-4 (Yes, that’s right: Brazil scored four points) and went to halftime with the score tied at 27.
Were it not for Marcelinho Huertas’ dedication to the pick and roll and Tiago Splitter’s epiphany around the rim (9-of-11 today after going 2-of-10 against Australia), the Brits might have held on and made Group B very interesting. Instead, Luol Deng needed 13 shots to get his 12 points and not even Nate Reinking’s mini three barrage could save Chris Finch’s bunch from an 0-2 record as Great Britain lost 67-62.