Before the Olympics, Suns forward Luis Scola said there’s always one Olympic team expected to contend for a medal that falls well short of expectations. After one quarter of play on Thursday coming off an upset loss to France, Argentina looked to be that team.
But after falling behind 28-14 in that opening period, the Argentinians showed why they were expected to challenge for a medal in the first place by bludgeoning poor Tunisia 78-41 the rest of the way to earn a 92-69 blowout victory.
Scola once again was instrumental in the win, playing a superb all-around game with 20 points, 10 rebounds and five assists while shooting 8-for-14 from the field in 36 minutes. Scola was third on the team in scoring (Many Ginobili went for 24 and Carlos Delfino 21), first in boards and second in assists, not a bad day’s work for the Argentinian team captain.
After this excellent performance, Scola ranks third in scoring (22.7 ppg, behind Ginobili and Kirilenko), seventh in rebounding (7.7 per contest) and first in fouls drawn (7.3 a game after drawing five in this one) among all Olympians.
I’m not quite sure what went wrong in that ugly first quarter for Argentina, but this veteran squad fixed it in a hurry, outscoring Tunisia 26-12 in the second period to go into the break tied and then 31-16 in the third.
This game was supposed to be a mismatch with Tunisia ranked No. 32 in FIBA’s world rankings and Argentina No. 3, so the outlier certainly seems to be the first quarter rather than the domination that occurred thereafter.
Since this victory was supposed to be a foregone conclusion, the real drama for Argentina occurred earlier in the day when France held off Lithuania, 82-74, thanks to an excellent third quarter that Tony Parker’s crew won 20-9 after trailing by four at the break.
So long as no upsets occur, this victory clinched the No. 2 seed in Group A for France (2-1) and the No. 3 seed for Argentina (2-1).
After watching Team USA’s sublime effort in its 83-point blowout of Nigeria that set a slew of offensive records, it seems safe to say Argentina will also defeat Nigeria when they face off on Saturday at 2:15 p.m. MST and that they have little to no chance against the Americans on Monday.
If Argentina were to somehow knock off Team USA, they could forge a three-way tie with France and the United States that would likely lead Argentina to the No. 2 seed, but that seems unlikely enough that there’s no reason to waste any more bandwidth pondering it.
Over in Group B, Russia shocked Brazil on an impossible game-winning three in the final seconds in the de facto battle for the No. 2 seed (assuming Spain does in fact beat the Russians on Saturday in a game for the top seed in the group). As the likely No. 3, Argentina should face off against the loser of that Spain-Russia game in the quarterfinals, unless Spain falls to Russia and Brazil in its final two games, in which case Argentina would get its South American counterparts.
The worse news is that means Argentina will be on a collision course with Team USA in the semifinals if they even get that far, and based on what happened today that sounds like a death sentence (although they could still receive a bronze without beating the Americans). If Spain were to fall to that No. 2 seed, Argentina would be standing in the way of the presumed top two teams in the field.
In other words, Scola and his teammates better sharpen their games Saturday against Nigeria because they will face a brutal schedule on their journey for a medal the rest of the way.
I joined LiveSportsTalk this afternoon to talk some Suns hoops: