The United States went to the locker room up 60-59 on Argentina before a 42-point explosion in the third quarter put the 2004 gold medalists in USA’s rearview for good. Seventeen of those 42 belonged to Durant, who hit five of his eight threes in the third and moved past Carmelo Anthony and into the team scoring lead (18.6) with 28 for the game.
Julio Lamas yanked his starters in the fourth as Team USA ran away for the win, 126-97.
Things got rowdy and benches cleared late in the game, however, when Carmelo rose up for a jumper and Facundo Campazzo hit him where the sun don’t shine. And I don’t mean England, in general.
Anthony made the shot and players, coaches exchanged glares, yells for a minute or two before we got back to basketball. Just a little more fuel to the fire if these two meet up again in the next phase (they’ll share the same side of the bracket).
Now the Group B champs will take their undefeated record and an achy, breaky groin into the medal rounds to play Australia, who are on a hot streak of their own.
The Aussies have won three straight, their third coming today against previously undefeated Russia. Australia was down 79-80 when Joe Ingles kicked it up top to Patty Mills who set his feet and rained in a game winning three as the backboard lit up.
Mills and David Andersen both had 13 in the win—which, from a standings perspective, means nothing—and Ingles had his best game of an already impressive Olympics with 20 points in the 82-80 win.
Lithuania fell into Tunisia’s notorious first quarter trap and got behind 18-7 after one, but big threes from zone busters Renaldas Seibutis and Simas Jasaitis held the Tunisians at arm’s length in the second half. Lithuania won 76-63 and sent Tunisia back to Northern Africa winless in Olympic play.
The hosts finally got on the board, grinding China’s offense down to a benign nub with good defensive pressure, their lone staple throughout these games. Great Britain won by a final of 90-58 as Kieron Achara, who had only seen 11 minutes prior to today, led GB with 16 points.
France finished second in Group B by beating Nigeria 79-73 on the group stage’s final day. Nicolas Batum keeps looking sharper and sharper and finished with 23 points on the afternoon.
And finally, Brazil beat Spain 88-82 to lock up second place in Group A, all amidst talk of tanking. The theory was that the loser slides down to third place and enters the medal round on the opposite side of Team USA in the brackets, thus avoiding them until a potential gold medal game.
If Spain were tanking, the front court trio of the Gasol Bros and Serge Ibaka would not have combined for 59 points. If Spain were tanking, Sergio Scariolo wouldn’t have run Juan Carlos Navarro around on his injured foot for 27 minutes, his highest tally of the tournament.
Brazil did sit Nene and the subs saw a little more action than usual, but that’s to be expected in the last game before the medal rounds between two teams that have already stamped their tickets.
A peculiar game full of conservative decisions and a somewhat muted intensity, sure. But not a tank job.
Tomorrow, Sheridan Hoops will preview the medal rounds in full. Today, it’s time to hand out some hardware. Ladies and gentlemen, the All-Group teams:
Patty Mills, PG, Australia
20.6 PPG | 4.2 RPG | 2.2 APG
Patty Mills shoots 14-of-40 (35 percent) in Australia’s first two games, averages 15.5 and they lose both. Patty Mills shoots 27-of-57 in their next three and averages 24 and Australia rides a three game winning streak into the knockout stage. The Boomers play best when both body and ball are moving quickly; Patty’s realized that when he dribbles the shot clock into single digits, neither will happen. The emergence of Matthew Dellavedova and even Joe Ingles as options at the point has freed up Patty to fill in empty spaces and maximize his utility in Brett Brown’s offense.
Vitaly Fridzon, SG, Russia
10.8 PPG | 2.8 APG | 46.2% on threes
Scoring 24 points to knock the Spaniards into second (and eventually third) place and scissor kicking his way to a game winning three against Brazil—easily this week’s most clutch moment—is enough to get you on this team. So is being the lone beacon of stability in a Russian backcourt when momentum seesaws between Alexey Shved and Anton Ponkrashov at the point.
Luol Deng, G, Great Britain
15.8 PPG | 6.6 RPG | 4.6 APG
Coming off a taxing, Derrick Rose-less playoff run with the Chicago Bulls, Luol Deng’s wrist was supposed to go under the knife. But as the face of Great Britain’s nascent basketball program, the London Olympics were no time to show up with a doctor’s note (or not show up at all, Ben Gordon). So he played. And he played. More possessions, more positions and more responsibilities than anyone at these games, all with a bum wrist and the added pressure of playing on the Queen’s soil. Great Britian didn’t advance, but leaving Deng off of this list would have been a disgraceful omission.
Andrei Kirilenko, F, Russia
18.2 PPG | 6.2 RPG | 2 SPG
Andrei feels like a young deer. David Blatt thinks of him as a wild horse. His tattoo artist fancies him a pterodactyl-esque warrior dragon. And while NBC’s announcers frantically pine for his increased involvement during crunch time, Kirilenko is quite all right being this team’s motor, its mortar, or even a secondary offensive weapon, crashing in for a putback right when you’ve let your eyes wander.
Pau Gasol, PF/C, Spain
20.6 PPG | 6 RPG | 1.4 BPG
Pau Gasol is so reliable on offense he’s almost invisible, with scoring totals of 21, 20, 17, 20, 25. Equally encouraging news for Spanish coach Sergio Scariolo is that Pau has been invisible to the referees as well, picking up just four fouls in 128 minutes of action. It’s not that he’s playing opossum either, as he’s blocked two shots in each of his last three games. And be scared, world: Pau’s hit four threes in nine attempts during the Olympics. Step your game up, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook (three each).
Second Team: Marcelinho Huertas (Brazil), Joe Ingles (Australia), Viktor Khryapa (Russia), David Andersen (Australia), Sasha Kaun (Russia)
Tony Parker, PG, France
15.8 PPG | 3.6 APG | 2.2 RPG
With Mickael Gelabale hitting corner threes, his man can’t cheat over to stop Parker’s drives anymore. With Boris Diaw making plays from the elbow, his man can’t hedge so hard on screens that Boris is left alone. With Nicolas Batum hitting over 80 percent of his two-pointers and nearly half of his threes, leaving him stranded is out of the question. France has gotten more across-the-board contributions than they could have realistically hoped for, and that cohesion has been key to their solid run. But when Vincent Collet really needs a bucket, it’s No. 9, every time.
Manu Ginobili, SG, Argentina
20 PPG | 6 RPG | 4.8 APG
What Diego Maradona is and Lionel Messi is becoming for football in Argentina, Manu Ginobili is for basketball. No player in these Olympics is more closely associated with his national program than Ginobili is with Argentina, his bald spot as much a part of the uniform as the colors themselves. In London he’s been nothing short of sensational, scoring at will and signing up for extra ball handling duties with Pablo Prigioni kidney stoned. If this older group wants to medal, Ginobili’s play needs to approach perfection. Going 26-of-26 from the free throw line is a Hell of a way to start.
Nicolas Batum, SF, France
16.8 PPG | 5.8 RPG | 86.4% on twos
Joakim Noah’s no-show was nearly enough for me to count France out entirely as a medal contender. In Noah, France hadn’t just lost a certain number of boards and blocks, they’d lost a second steady body behind Parker. With all eyes on Batum to up his output, France got stomped in the battle of reds, whites and blues as Batum scored just seven points on six shots. After that, Batum turned it on, leading France in scoring, rebounding, blocks, field goal percentage and three pointers made. France wanted a Robin; they got a Bat(u)man.
Kevin Durant, F, United States
18.6 PPG | 5.6 RPG | 3.8 APG
While announcers continue to praise LeBron’s occasional dormancy in the scoring column as unselfish dominance, Kevin Durant has been getting buckets. On a team saturated with All-Stars, only Durant has reached double figures in all five of Team USA’s games. While Durant scoring in boatloads won’t surprise anyone, trailing only Kevin Love (and exceeding Tyson Chandler) in rebounding might.
Luis Scola, PF/C, Argentina
20.2 PPG | 5.2 RPG | 3.2 APG
In a shortened game with only five fouls to give per person, getting to the line is key, and nobody drew more fouls in the group stage than the wily Luis Scola. With strong pump fakes and spin moves that give defenders a face full of hair, guarding Scola can’t be too much fun. Throw a deadly elbow jumper into the arsenal and it’s no wonder the 2010 World Championships scoring leader (27.1 per game) is only decimals off of the lead (Gasol and Mills are at 20.6 PPG) this summer.
Second Team: Sarunas Jasikevicius (Lithuania), Carmelo Anthony (USA), Linas Kleiza (Lithuania), LeBron James (USA), Salah Mejri (Tunisia)