Finally, the Olympic basketball tournament field is set.
Nigeria — led by 25 points on 14 shots plus 10 boards Ike Diogu (he formerly of the Spurs, Clippers, Pacers, Kings, Blazers and Warriors) — earned the final spot in the tournament by knocking off the Dominican Republic in a third-place game in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Venezuela.
The night before Russia (by far the best team in the tournament) and Lithuania qualified with wins that sent the DR and Nigeria to the do-or-die game.
Nigeria was the better side most of the game — they were up 8 at the half and led most of the way — but the Dominican Republic never went away with Francisco Garcia who had 17 points.
The game was tied with less than six minutes left, but the Diogu hit two three pointers and Nigeria took control again. New Orleans’ Al-Farouq Aminu added 14 points and five blocks for Nigeria.
The Dominican Republic should have had the best player on the floor with the Hawks Al Horford, but he had just 12 points as foul trouble kept him in check.
So the field for London is set. The 12-team tournament starts July 29 with play in the two six-team groups (four from each advance to the knockout tournament). The groups are:
Group A: United States, France, Argentina, Tunisia, Lithuania, Nigeria.
Group B: Great Britain, Spain, Brazil, Australia, China, Russia.
Chris Paul broke his finger Saturday.
The initial diagnosis said the injury wasn’t serious.
Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times:
Paul obviously wouldn’t push it during the preseason. If the Clippers are allowing him to play, this can’t be bad.
Really, the most challenging aspect to this is grasping the concept that a broke finger can be a minor injury.
Brad Stevens has a big challenge this year – sorting the Celtics’ deep roster of similarly able players.
It seems that process is shaking out at power forward and center.
A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:
it appears Boston’s first four bigs will be starters David Lee and Tyler Zeller, with Amir Johnson and Kelly Olynyk off the bench.
That leaves Jonas Jerebko and Jared Sullinger, potentially on the outside looking in as far as the regular rotation is concerned.
Lee is the best passer of the bunch, which could partially explain why he’s starting. Boston’s most likely starting point guard, Marcus Smart, is still growing into the role of the lead ball-handler at the NBA level. Lee and presumptive starting shooting guard Avery Bradley can take some pressure off him.
Olynyk can space the floor for Isaiah Thomas-Johnson pick-and-rolls with the reserves and run pick-and-pops with Thomas himself.
I’m a little surprised Zeller is starting over Johnson, though. The Celtics just signed Johnson to a $12 million salary, and I thought they’d rely on his defense to set a tone early. Like Johnson, Zeller is a quality pick-and-roll finisher who can thrive with Thomas.
This is particularly bad news for Sullinger, who – barring a surprising contract extension – is entering a contract year. It seems those reports of offseason conditioning haven’t yet paid off. Jerebko’s deal also isn’t guaranteed beyond this season, but at least he has already gotten his mid-sized payday. Sullinger is still on his rookie-scale contract.