With games coming up against Tunisia and Nigeria before facing off against Team USA, the Argentinian men’s basketball team had a chance to stake its claim to the likely No. 2 seed coming out of Group A.
Tony Parker and the French squad had other ideas, upsetting Argentina with a 71-64 victory in qualifying play that now puts France in the driver’s seat for the No. 2 spot behind the US despite currently sitting in fifth due to point differentials.
Argentina is technically still second because its +16 differential is the best of the four teams in the group tied with a 1-1 record (Team USA is 2-0 and Tunisia 0-2). France sits fifth, but that’s only because it has already played the top two presumed teams in the group whereas Argentina still must face the Americans.
Luis Scola played another solid game in this one, but he did not get much help aside from the 26 points poured in by Manu Ginobili.
Scola scored 15 on 7-for-15 shooting and also grabbed eight boards and drew eight fouls. Having drawn a team-best nine fouls in the opener against Lithuania, the Olympics are showcasing one of the biggest ways Scola will help the Phoenix Suns.
Sure, we all know he has a crafty interior game and will be able to get the Suns buckets in the post, but he can also draw a plethora of fouls and get the team into the bonus quicker. Some may call him a flopper, but whatever he is the man knows how to get calls.
Just as he was two years ago when he led the 2010 FIBA World Championship field in scoring, Scola has been one of the Olympics’ best scorers thus far with a 24.0 scoring average that ranks second behind Russia’s Andrei Kirilenko (25.5) and just ahead of Ginobili (23.5).
This one was close throughout as Argentina trailed by three at halftime and by one after three. The Argentinians cut the lead to two on a Ginobili trey with six minutes left, but a 7-0 France spurt with six of the points scored by Parker put the game largely out of reach.
The lead was down to five with 1:44 left on a Scola foul shot, but when a Ginobili turnover led to a fast-break bucket the other way this one was over.
This contest featured a heavy Spurs flavor with the long-time Suns rivals Parker (17 points) and Ginobili leading their respective squads in scoring. I half expected Tim Duncan to be at center court cheering both teams on.
“Very strange,” Ginobili told The Associated Press. “The first time ever after playing probably like a thousand games together. Wishing him to miss a shot is kind of something new.”
“It was special,” said Parker. “Manu is one of my best friends. We’ve been playing together for a long time and it was kind of weird to be playing against him.”
And then there’s Scola, the current Sun, who was originally drafted by the Spurs, as well as French guard Nando De Colo, San Antonio’s 2009 second-round pick that the team signed this offseason.
This loss was so critical for Argentina because if all the other games go as expected this was the de facto second-place contest in Group A. That’s because the first tiebreaker is head-to-head and Argentina will likely finish no better than 3-2 assuming a likely loss to Team USA.
Argentina seems destined for the No. 3 seed out of this group (assuming wins against Tunisia and Nigeria) unless Lithuania knocks off France to forge a three-way tie for second through fourth with Argentina. Since all three teams would be 1-1 against each other, the next tiebreaker would have to do with goal average in the games amongst the tied teams.
If France does lose then Argentina will once again be looking good for the No. 2 seed so long as the loss is not in blowout fashion being that they beat Lithuania by 23 before losing this one by seven.
Scola and his mates will be watching Thursday’s France-Lithuania game with great interest, but it will only matter if they take care of business against Tunisia at 6:30 a.m. MST later that day.
Tags: Luis Scola