Argentinian guard Emanuel Ginobili (2dR)

Olympics Day 1 roundup: Argentina picks up key victory


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.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked

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The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.

Byron Scott doesn’t see reason D’Angelo Russell should play more in fourth


The Lakers’ clear top priority for this season should be simple: develop their young stars.

Julius Randle is a beast with the ball in his hands, but a one-handed beast who needs to work on his right hand. D'Angelo Russell has shown flashes but is trying to adapt to the speed and style of the NBA game. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. can be pieces on a good team, eventually. The Lakers need to build that foundation.

Which is why coach Byron Scott sitting Russell in the fourth quarter of games, even blowouts, is perplexing. As were his responses when asked about it after the Lakers’ lastest blowout loss, Tuesday night to the Golden state Warriors. So Scott, is there value in playing Russell in blowouts to get him more time on the court? Mark Medina of the LA Daily News had the answer.

“Nah. There’s really no reason to. At that particular time we’re down 30 [points],” Scott said. “I wanted to get Ryan [Kelly] some time and Marcelo [Huertas] as well and some other guys that haven’t played a lot.”

That would be 32-year-old Marcelo Huertas, who played the fourth quarter Tuesday while Russell sat.

This is not Gregg Popovich resting his stars to keep them fresh for the playoffs here. We are talking about a 19-year-old rookie point guard whose game is based on court vision, anticipation, and angles, a guy who has to learn how to apply those in a league where everybody is long and fast. He needs time on the court to adapt. Is he going to make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. That’s what rookies do. If you coach them up, they learn from those mistakes and make fewer each time out. It’s a sometimes painful process, but it’s how rookies learn.

Except in Byron Scott’s world where they get benched. Because that will teach them. Meanwhile Kobe can do whatever he wants, because he was once great and that gives him carte blanche.