Argentina had laid down the hammer Sunday, scoring 100 plus points and thumping a barbaric Lithuania national team by 23. But on Tuesday, the Argentines, despite big performances from team captains Manu Ginobili and Luis Scola, unexpectedly laid an egg. Argentina struggled mightily with their shooting—making only 4 of 23 from three point range where they had been so devastating 48 hours earlier. And as a result of their woeful shooting percentages and lack of production outside of Ginobili and Scola, Tony Parker and his French compatriots were able to take advantage.
The game was tied at 53-53 late in the third quarter, but France kept finding ways to make little spurts, going up 60-55 on Mickael Gelabale’s jump-shots and then pushing it to 64-58 when Tony Parker made back-to-back baskets. Ginobili would hit a huge fourth quarter three to pull his team to within five, but current Washington Wizard forward, Kevin Seraphin, nailed a jumper to extend the lead back to seven and Parker would hit a pair of free throws within the final minute of play, moving the lead to an insurmountable nine points.
Tony Parker’s brilliant second half play was the catalyst behind France’s 71 to 64 victory. Despite his struggles offensively, shooting only 4 for 17 from the floor, Parker stepped up when it mattered most. He finished with 17 points and 5 assists. France’s wings Nicholas Batum and Mickael Gelabale would provide some needed scoring and rebounding, finishing with 14 points and 7 rebounds and 13 points and 6 rebounds respectively.
In other Pool A play, Lithuania managed to win their first game against a battling Nigeria, 72 to 53. Linas Kleiza continued his solid play, scoring 13 points while grabbing 6 rebounds, and would receive some needed help offensively from Darius Songalia and Rimantas Kaukenas—adding 12 and 10 respectively.
Elsewhere on an action-packed day, Brazil, Spain, Russia all continued their winning ways in preliminary Pool B play, recording wins over Great Britain, Australia and China respectively. The British performed valiantly, holding the Brazilians to four first quarter points. But ultimately it would be Thiago Splitter’s 21 points and team captain/floor general Marcelinho Huertas’s 13 points and 8 assists that would propel Brazil to a 67-62 win.
In Spain’s 82 to 70 win, the Gasol brothers asserted their dominance down low as Pau went for 20 and Marc went for 12. Shooting guard and ex-Denver Nugget, Rudy Fernandez, added 17 points as he caught fire in this one, shooting an efficient 6 of 7 from the field and 4 of 5 from downtown.
Russia, my favorite “sleeper” of the Olympic Basketball Tournament, once agained thumped their opponent, defeating the Chinese 73 to 54 as Kirilenko and Shved continued their stellar play. Yi would lead the China with 16 points, 7 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 steals.