France 76-75 Serbia
France and Serbia may not be the two powerhouse nations of basketball some fans will wake up early on a Wednesday morning to watch, but boy oh boy, they should recognize a dramatic game when they see one.
After being up in the first two quarters of play, France found themselves in a three point hole to start the fourth. That deficit would increase to five points with only two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter before France’s guard, Nando de Colo, went on to score four unanswered to tighten the score at 75-74 with 1:20 remaining.
The game clocked dripped down to 60 seconds, then to 50, and fell below 40. Serbia’s defense intensified. Their senses focused. Their taste buds salivating at a victory that remained only seconds away. Then it stayed away, because it was snatched away.
Tony Parker is no longer the full-formed 2007 Finals MVP player he once was for the San Antonio Spurs, but he did channel his clutch genes when his country needed it, if only for a brief second. The 34-year-old was a ghost for most of the game, scoring only six points in 22 minutes. But his team only needed two points to win and the veteran came through.
France, a team considered to be in medal contention in Rio, will have to pick up their play in the later rounds of the Olympics. To do so they will have to get Nicolas Batum a lot more involved in their games. Batum went 4-9 from the field, collecting only 11 points, three assists, and one rebound in his 27 minutes on the floor. The Charlotte Hornet is too good a player to be playing fourth or even third fiddle on this team. Look for this specific Frenchman to improve his players in the games ahead along with young center Rudy Gobert.
Meanwhile, Serbia was led by their big man Miroslav Raduljica, who shot a terrific 7-of-9 from FG range to rack up 16 points, but only three rebounds. Serbia’s center nearly carried his team to a win, but they fell just short.
Serbia takes on the United States on Day 7 of the Olympics, with France heading to battle a nicely-built Venezuela team. Both teams have tough match-ups ahead of them. The games are just beginning.
United States 98-88 Australia
Yeah, hello! Earth to Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, you guys should really know this by now. P.S. if you haven’t shared it with Kevin Durant, do it A.S.A.P. before he gets comfortable.
When you are indisputably the best team in the game with the biggest stars in the sport, nearly each and every team is going to fight you like they’re playing with a championship on the line. Team USA, you can’t let up; you can’t play lazily or inconsistently because what you end up doing is making it harder on yourselves in late game situations. Which is exactly what happened Wednesday afternoon.
Australia played hard and with great effort, and it payed off as much as any team could hope for against a vastly superior team, both physically and talent-wise, in the U.S. The Boomers lead the U.S. by five at the half and found themselves down merely three points entering the fourth.
Patty Mills glided in a layup to pull the Boomers within four with 1:59 remaining in the game. It was a bookmark game for Mills, who scored 30 points against team USA and was only two points short of leading all scorers in the match (Carmelo Anthony took that title with 31 points of his own).
A few weeks back in a friendly versus China, team USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski stated his team was having “a little bit too much fun.” If his worry was that his players wouldn’t fully show up, he was right. Yes, the U.S. are the favorites and yes they can rely on their natural talent to pull them out of close games like it did against Australia, but it doesn’t bode well for the coaching staff – or for the fans at home who had to stop playing Pokemon Go for five valuable minutes because they checked their ESPN app expecting to see the U.S. up by 586 points, and instead saw Matthew Dellavedova lighting up the best team in the world – so it shouldn’t sit well for the players either.
Anthony quickly asserted himself as the leader and face of team USA in the first couple of days in camp. He has been vocal on and off the court, and yesterday he transitioned his talk to his play and reminded everybody that the U.S. men’s basketball team runs through him. 27 of Anthony’s 31 points came from the three-point line and he added on eight rebounds to pair with it. Irving was also pivotal to his team, scoring 19 points and dishing out five rebounds, on top of a late-game three-point dagger in front of Dellavedova that all but sealed it for the U.S.
Quick, somebody Photoshop a crying Steph Curry face on Delly. Internet, I trust you in delivering this unnecessary chaos.
A loss to the United States drops Australia’s previously undefeated record to 2-1. Mills and Andrew Bogut lead the Boomers against China next, a match-up that has Australia heavily favored. This Boomers team is talented, and with a 3-1 record in tournament play, they will position themselves nicely to make a run at an Olympic medal. On the other end, it will be intriguing to see if the U.S. comes out on fire against Serbia Friday afternoon to make up for their lackluster performance.
Venezuela 72-68 China
The U.S. versus Australia was the battle of the top two seeds in Group A of Olympic play, as exciting as Olympic games get before the medial round. Venezuela versus China was the struggle of the last two winless teams in the tournament. Now, of course, that number drops to one with Venezuela besting China 72-68 to improve to 1-2. China sits at an 0-3 record and their hopes of passing on to the next round are all but evaporated at this point.
While it was a close match-up between the two teams the entire way, China always seemed to be playing catch-up against the quicker Venezuela team. Despite having the top two scorers of the match in Yi Jianlian (18 points on 6-of-13 from the field) and Guo Ailun (17 points on 5-of-9) China took the lead only once in 40 minutes of play, when they went up 41-40 early in the third quarter, and it was a lead they would hold onto for less than a minute.
Venezuela was led by forward Nestor Colmenares, who had an impressive all-around game with 16 points, four rebounds, and five assists, shooting 72.7% from the field. Both teams shot over 45% from the floor, but it was Venezuela’s three pointers that gave them the edge, and ultimately the win. Venezuela made six three-pointers to China’s two. Whereas China shot a lousy 18.2% from distance, Venezuela hit 35.3% from beyond the arc.
Credit the spacing and ability to get open looks to Venezuela’s superior ball movement. Venezuela’s total of 21 team assists stands out as the second thorn in China’s side. The Chinese, as a team, had only nine assists in the entire game. Venezuela distributed the ball well, with field general and point guard Gregory Vargas facilitating the offense. Vargas collected five assists and six of Venezuela’s 12-man roster boasted two or more assists compared to China’s 11-man roster who only saw three players garner a pair of assists.
While neither of these two respected nations are expected to draw a dramatic upset in their games to come, the Olympics is all about every team competing for their country and the pride that comes with such an honor. If nothing else, these two teams competed until the final buzzer sounded. Sometimes that’s the best that can be asked of them.