Croatia open their campaign with a 72-70 win against Spain
Spain went into the tournament as one of the few teams that had the potential to shock the USA due to having the privilege of being able to field multiple established NBA players. Pau Gasol, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Mirotic are all extremely capable talents that face premier opposition day in, day out at club level. However this didn’t stop Croatia, led by Bojan Bogdanovic of the Brooklyn Nets (23 points), stealing the win on day two of the men’s tournament.
After Spain had led for much of the game, the Croatians saw an opportunity to rewrite the script by managing to steal the ball with only 1.25 minutes left on the clock and finish on the break. This was the first point of the night where Spain were behind and their opposition didn’t look back.
Veteran Gasol dominated the game (26 points, 9 rebounds) and had the chance to level the scores with only 1.8 seconds, however Philadelphia 76ers’ newest recruit Dario Šarić rose high to emphatically block the Spaniard and secure the win.
Although Šarić didn’t wholly impress throughout, shooting only one for seven, he did manage to display his other attributes with seven boards (three offensive) and a notable five assists.
The result will disappoint Spain in their quest for gold and with the team only getting older, this may be their final chance to make their mark. Croatia however will look to capitalise on their win when they face another top-tier challenger in Argentina.
Argentina roll over Nigeria with 28 point blowout
2004 gold medalists Argentina began their tournament by brushing aside a Nigerian team devoid of any real threat 94-66. Point guard Facundo Campazza led the team with 19 points and five three-pointers made.
The experienced South Americans have proven to be the only team in Olympic history to unseat Team USA at the top and with a part of their golden generation still remaining, they’ll fancy their chances in Rio.
Manu Ginobili, arguably the biggest name on the team, contributed with 12 points while Luis Scola of the Brooklyn Nets also provided on the offensive end with 18 points.
With the advantage of having many Argentinian fans in the arena, the men in blue benefited from slack defending from the Nigerians to take an early lead. Although Ikechukwu Diogu chipped in with 15 points and 13 rebounds, an injury to Shane Lawal only made the situation worse for Nigeria, as Argentina eased to their first win.
The Argentines will now face a much sterner test in Croatia on Tuesday.
Lithuania survive late surge from hosts
Brazil hoped to come into the Olympics with the support of their home fans spurring them to a medal. However, what was already essentially a dream, became even more faint after yesterday’s 76-82 loss to Lithuania.
After taking charge early, Lithuania took a comfortable 58-29 lead to half-time. However, Brazil looked rejuvenated after the break, cutting the difference to only four points in the fourth quarter. The NBA’s Leandro Barbosa and Raul Neto led the fightback with a combined 35 points.
However, Lithuania managed to keep their cool and closed out the game despite continued pressure. Mantas Kalnietis led the Lithuanians with 16 points while Oklahoma City Thunder’s newest addition Domantas Sabonis scored ten points with a clutch there in the last few minutes to halt Brazil’s late run.