Luis Scola scored 32 points on 12-of-19 shooting to help Argentina beat Lithuania 102-79 in its first game at the 2012 London Olympics. Scola, along with San Antonio’s Manu Ginobli and Milwaukee’s Carlos Delfino, were too much for the Lithuanians, who were led by Toronto’s Linas Kleiza and the Raptors’ 2011 first-round pick, Jonas Valanciunas.
Scola was an offensive machine in this game. He scored off pick-and-roll, catch-and-shoot, and postups. He was everywhere. Most of his best work came off pick-and-rolls with Ginobili.
What’s impressive about Scola as the big man in a pick-and-roll is his ability to dive to the hoop or pop out to the top of the key. Most bigs in the NBA who get as much pick-and-roll work as Scola prefer to roll or pop, but Scola is equally adept at both. He really showed the impressive diversity of his offensive game in this one. If his defender was showing high to turn back the ball handler, Scola dove straight to the hoop.
If his man sunk into the key to prevent penetration, Scola ran to the free throw line. He was great no matter what the defense gave him. Watching him catch passes from a crafty, left-handed guard and score with ease gave me visions of what he and Goran Dragic could do in Phoenix next season. Scola had impressive chemistry with Ginobili, his long-time national teammate. His chemistry with Dragic, with whom he played all of last season, should be excellent by the time the season starts as well.
The other thing that impressed me about Luis’ game was his ability and assertiveness in the post. Though he isn’t the most physical player, Scola is very comfortable operating with his back to the basket. He uses his body position and long arms well. He scored twice by spinning to the baseline and draining a 6-foot baby hook, a move he can use against much larger defenders with great success. And although he isn’t the quickest guy, his footwork in the lane is impeccable, much like Suns starting center Marcin Gortat.
Scola can catch the ball on the move in the lane and finish without putting the ball on the floor. He may not hammer it home like his Polish frontcourt mate, but he can finish well in traffic. This was exhibited on a ridiculous up-and-under and-1 that Scola converted in the third quarter. He caught a pass at the top of the key, pump faked, drove past his man, and got the shot up high on the glass while being fouled by two Lithuanian defenders. The ball dropped in the hoop, and Scola headed to the free throw line screaming exuberantly. It was great to see that side of Scola. Oftentimes, his only outward expression is displeasure with the referees, but in this one he was extremely fired up.
The competition in the opening rounds of the Summer Olympics is a lot like that of the NBA’s Vegas Summer League only with worse nightlife. So Suns fans shouldn’t see this box score and pencil in Phoenix for next year’s postseason. What can be taken from Scola’s performance is his desire and ability to carry his team.
Even with Ginobili on the floor, Scola was Argentina’s most dominant player. It’s important for Phoenix, especially with all the new faces on the roster, that Scola brings this confidence and assertiveness with him to training camp. There is not an obvious top dog on the Suns’ roster, but for now it’s good to know that Luis Scola can step up when he’s called upon.
Scola on the win to The AP
“I think the message is that we are old but we can play, something like that. We didn’t want to show nothing to nobody. We weren’t playing well in the preparation. We weren’t feeling well, we got this feeling that it’s not going well, we need to do something, we’ve got to play better, we’ve got to move faster, we’ve got to have a little bit more of a spark, so we needed to have this game.”
Argentina will next face off against France at noon Arizona time on Tuesday. Tony Parker and his teammates dropped a 98-71 decision to the Americans in their first game.