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.
It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:
1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.
2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.
3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.
4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.
The second round was supposed to be when things got exciting. Instead, the San Antonio Spurs put on an absolute clinic at home, blowing out the Oklahoma City Thunder, 124-92 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Just about everything went in for San Antonio, particularly for LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who combined for 63 points. How dominant were they?
Aldridge in particular got anything he wanted against the Thunder. Oklahoma City’s stars were quiet, with Kevin Durant scoring just 16 points and Russell Westbrook 14. San Antonio controlled the game from the start and Oklahoma City never recovered from the opening punch.
It’s hard to imagine Durant and Westbrook are this ineffective again, and hopefully the rest of this series will be a little more competitive. But the Spurs did what the Spurs do, and did nothing to shake the feeling that they’re the favorites to win the west, now that Stephen Curry‘s status is unknown.
ATLANTA (AP) A year ago, Atlanta’s magical season ended with a resounding sweep by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference final.
Now, the Hawks have another shot at LeBron James and the Cavaliers.
Feeling confident after an opening-round victory over Boston, the Hawks returned to practice Saturday to begin preparations for the best-of-seven series.
Game 1 is Monday night in Cleveland.
The Hawks were the top-seeded team in the East last season after a record 60-win campaign. It didn’t do them much good against the Cavaliers, who steamrolled Atlanta in four straight games.
Even though they slipped to 48 wins and fourth in the conference, the Hawks actually sound a bit more confident heading into this matchup, largely because of their improved defense and rebounding.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors have lost their lead assistant to another team. When the Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry during last year’s playoffs, Steve Kerr promoted Luke Walton to associate head coach and added former journeyman big man Jarron Collins to the bench. Now that Walton is headed to the Lakers as their next head coach, the Warriors will go outside the organization to find a replacement, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein. And one name that will likely not be in the mix is David Blatt, who very nearly became an assistant under Kerr in 2014 before being offered the Cavaliers’ head job.
Given Walton’s success this season as interim head coach while Kerr recovered from back surgery, this will undoubtedly be the most attractive assistant job in the league.