Tony Parker 1, Manu Ginobili 0.
For the first time the two Spurs stars met leading their teams in international competition and in the first real upset of the London Olympics France used its speed to blow by Argentina and get the win 71-64. Parker by himself outscored Argentina 13-11 in the fourth quarter to key the win.
Both teams are in Group A, which is the group the Americans should sweep. Both teams are now 1-1 but France has already played the USA and has just the two weaker African squads plus Lithuania left on its schedule — they should win out and get second in the group. Which gives them an easier path to a medal. Argentina still has to play the USA and if they finish third in Group A they could have a tough match with Brazil (or maybe Russia) in the first game of the medal round.
And the USA is just cruising along (they face Tunisia later on Tuesday).
Argentina had looked good coming in against a slower-footed Lithuanian team, while the more athletic French team came in playing at a different tempo off their loss to the USA. France made an early 12-0 run that got them up 19-10 at one point and they never let go of that lead.
Argentina struggled to knock down shots, hitting 4-of-23 from beyond the arc and shooting 37 percent overall as a team. Ginobili had 26 points on 9-of-20 shooting and Luis Scola added 16 points. But Carlos Delfino was 1-of-8 from the floor and that seemed more typical of the Argentinean day.
France got 14 points out of Nicolas Batum and just seemed to get key contributions from everyone. When both Ronny Turiaf and Boris Diaw fouled out with just more than two minutes to go in a close game, the Wizard’s Kevin Seraphin made his best play of the game — he stole a post-pass to Scola, knocked it out to Parker, then ran the floor and was rewarded with the ally-oop pass. It was the game defining play of the fourth quarter.
Argentina, which had looked good in a tune-up against the United States as well as in its Olympic opener, just looked old and a step slow all night.
And with the loss, Argentina’s road to a medal just became a steeper climb.
The Spurs have been the Spurs this season, going 19-8 with an elite defense and offense that’s good enough to get them wins, thanks to LaMarcus Aldridge playing at an All-Star level.
Starting Tuesday, they add Kawhi Leonard back to the mix.
He will return to the lineup against Dallas, but will be on a minutes restriction, coach Gregg Popovich said on Tuesday. He would not say how many minutes, although around 20 seems a logical starting spot.
Leonard is one of the five best players in the NBA (and that may be selling him short). He averaged a career-high 25.5 points a game last season, he’s arguably the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he finished third in the MVP voting last season.
However, there are going to be adjustments. LaMarcus Aldridge has been the focal point of the offense, but he could see fewer touches, particularly in crunch time. Kyle Anderson could see fewer minutes, and Rudy Gay may as well because Popovich liked some small-ball lineups last season with Leonard at the four. A lot of players will see their rotations change.
That said, it’s the Spurs. Do we really expect them to be anything but an incredibly good regular season team? One that is about to get better?
The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.
Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.
Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.
Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.
Kawhi Leonard, enabled by the Spurs’ no-nonsense culture, is probably the NBA’s most boring superstar.
He’s widely recognized as the league’s best defender, and he has worked himself into an elite offensive threat. He has already won a Finals MVP, and regular-season MVP could eventually be in the cards.
But Leonard is notoriously reserved. For someone who has been on this stage for so long, we know little about him.
Except we now know he apparently likes karate.
Gonna chop y’all up. Look at all of us. Karate styyyle.
If “karate styyyle” doesn’t become Leonard’s catchphrase, I don’t even know what we’re doing.
Leonard will finally have the chance to chop up an NBA opponent tonight, when he makes his return from injury.
Michael C. Wright of ESPN:
Kevin Durant has become a villain to many.
Clearly not to this Warriors fan, though.