Olympics Day 1 roundup: Argentina picks up key victory

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We’ve broken down the USA win over France a few ways now, but there were five other games in the Olympics on Sunday. And we know you didn’t watch all of them because you were entranced by beach volleyball. We get that.

To help you out, here is a recap of the rest of the day in Olympic basketball.

Argentina 102, Lithuania 79: It is the first day of Olympic competition but this one was big — it likely determines second and third place in Group A (behind the USA). Argentina pulled away in the second quarter and got monster games from its stars: Luis Scola had 32 points on 19 shots, Manu Ginobili put on a clinic with 21 points and 10 rebounds, and Carlos Delfino added 20 points.

With this win it is likely the last day of Group A play will feature an undefeated USA and Argentina playing for the top spot in the group. And like the exhibition meeting (86-80 USA) it will not be a blowout.

Spain 97, China 81: Spain had to work for this one. If you’re a cynic and want to combine that with the fact the team projected as the second best in this tournament was not blowing people’s doors off in the exhibition tune-ups for the Olympics you can raise some eyebrows. But for now, I’d say keep your eyebrows down. Spain always seems to be a side that starts slow and builds in international competitions.

This was a seven-point game early in the fourth quarter before Spain pulled away at the end to have a comfortable margin of victory. As you might expect, Spain’s size — especially when Serge Ibaka was on the floor defending the rim – was hard for China to handle. Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 boards to pace Spain, Ibaka had 17 off the bench. Juan Carlos Navarro added 14.

Biggest surprise of this game was phenomenal play from Yi Jianlian, who dropped 30 for China with 12 boards. He’s never figured out how to fit his game in the NBA but he looked comfortable out there and put up big numbers. Good time to do that if you’re a guy looking for an NBA payday (and some European clubs had to notice, too).

Nigeria 60, Tunisia 56: Nigeria owned the game early — Tunisia scored just 15 first half points and Nigeria was up 19 at one point. But Tunisia made a game of it late scoring 25 points in the fourth quarter and it took some steady play from Nigerian point guard Ade Dagunduro for them to hold on.

Brazil 75, Australia 71: This game was not expected to be this close but the Aussies put up a fight behind 20 points from Patty Mills (most recently of the Spurs) and some great outside shooting down the stretch that made a game of it. Brazil kept its head down the stretch and won because of veteran point guard Marcelinho Huertas, who had 10 assists. Brazil was led by 16 points from Leandro Barbosa.

Russia 95, Great Britain 75: Timberwolves fans, watch the replay of this game and you are going to be very happy. Just signed Andrei Kirilenko dropped 35 points on 14-of-17 shooting to lead Russia. Then your new backup Russian point guard Alexey Shved added 16 points and 13 assists. Russia is a sleeper medal team in this tournament, keep an eye on them. Luol Deng led GB with 26 points but needed 27 shots to do it.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”