Today, the four quarterfinals of the Olympic men’s basketball tournament saw only one close game. Luckily, I had the opportunity to see at least the second half of this thriller.
The day started with the game between Spain and Croatia. And Spain came up with a nice 13-point win over a Croatian team that lost the game already in the first quarter where the Spanish built their lead to qualify for the semis. What may be a bit surprising is the fact that Aito still prefers Rudy and Ricky to Navarro and Calderon in the guard rotation. The Barcelona returner has played a disappointing tournament so far but his scoring is absolutely needed if Spain wants to go for a medal.
Lithuania won over China, ending the tournament for Yao Ming and his friends. This elimination was felt to be a big disappointment for China. In reports I read about the game, Chinese spectators left the arena before the end of the game because they saw no possibility of winning this one; Chinese media were very harsh with Yao Ming and coach Kazlauskas because of the “non-development” over four years ago, when China was also eliminated in the final eight. Additionally, taking Yao Ming out in the second half in the last group game against Greece was also heavily criticized, because an eventual win over Greece would have given China a virtual 5/6th place, which would have been an improvement.
USA had to battle for 19 minutes in order to break Australia in the third quarterfinal. A run in the last minute of the 2nd quarter and another three-point festival to start the second half was enough to get the needed advantage over the Boomers. The three-point shooting was not there at the beginning, but Team USA improved over the game to finish with a proper 41% team shooting from behind the arc. For Australia, it was once again young Pat Mills as top scorer with 20 points.
And then there was the only thriller of the day: Argentina versus Greece. And I saw a second half of total beauty with a frustrating ending. At two points behind with eight seconds to go, it was Vassilis Spanoulis who had the shot of the game but his three-point attempt only hit the rim. I was surprised that there was no other option in the Greek playbook than just attempting a “normal” three-point shot, and so the game ended a bit abruptly. But in the minutes prior, Argentina, with Carlos Delfino great in the money time, and Greece were going for some basketball beauties.
So now, we will see Argentina face Team USA in the semis in an awaited duel, while Spain will play against Lithuania. While in the first game, Coach K’s guys are the favorites, it’s a bit tighter in game 2. But I think that Lithuania is going to win this one because of the above-mentioned situation in the Spanish backcourt.