Russia upsets Spain, chance of USA/Spain gold medal rematch almost dead

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We almost certainly will not have a rematch of the 2008 Gold Medal game from Beijing.

But how about a rematch of the controversial 1972 Olympic Gold Medal game won by Russia? That we could get.

That’s because Russia defeated Spain 77-74 Saturday, giving Russia the top spot in Group B. It’s an upset, although if you have watched Russia play in these games you know it’s not as big of one as you would have thought a week ago. Russia has been good.

Russia is now 4-0, Spain 3-1 in group play. Spain will finish second in Group B (unless they fall to Brazil in the last game of the group, in which case Spain would be third… but that’s unlikely and would have people thinking badminton).

What that means is that Spain — considered the second best team at the Olympics — will be on the USA’s side of the eight-team medal round bracket (a lose and you are out tournament). If things stay to form the USA would play Spain in the semifinals and the best the loser of that game could do is the bronze.

The winner of a that potential USA/Spain match would likely get the Russians in a gold medal game, a Russian team that we now should call the second best in this tournament.

Still, Russia’s win over Spain was surprising.

Spain raced out to 17-point lead at the end of the first quarter but Russia owned the middle of the game, outscoring Spain 45-25 combined in the second and third quarters. Russia did it without their leading scorer having a huge game — Andrei Kirilenko was just 2-of-8 shooting on the night. Also, soon-to-be Timberwolves point guard Aleksey Shved had by far his worst game of the Olympics, not scoring at all and playing only seven minutes.

Spain and Russia were close through the fourth quarter but Spain maintained a small lead until a Victor Khryapa’s three-pointer with 1:01 left tied the game up at 73-73. After getting a stop, the Russians took the lead when Spain’s defense broke down and Timofey Mozgov got free for a dunk.

Spain had a chance to tie with 5.2 seconds left when Pau Gasol was fouled. But Gasol missed the first of two free throws. He hit the second, then Spain fouled Russian Vitaliy Fridzon (the hero of the Brazil win who scored 24 points to lead Russia in this game). Fridzon hit both, it was 77-74, and Spain could not even get off a game-tying three attempt.

Gasol had 20 to lead Spain. His brother Marc Gasol had 10 points and 9 rebounds. As a team, Spain shot just 3-of-15 from three. But it doesn’t matter now.

Spain wanted another shot at the USA and another shot at gold, but their path to the final game now is much, much harder. Their dream of a gold medal rematch with the USA is all but dead, as may be their dreams of gold period.

And in the United States we can start thinking 1972.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.

Tyronn Lue imitates LeBron James’ criticism of reporter (video)

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After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.

Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.

Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.

In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.

Tony Bradley becoming North Carolina’s first one-and-done in nearly a decade

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North Carolina hasn’t had a one-and-done player in eight years.

Since Brandan Wright declared for the 2008 NBA draft after his freshman year, the Tar Heels have emphasized player development over multiple years. That practice has yielded two national titles, including this year’s, in that span.

It also limited freshman center Tony Bradley’s playing time this season, as he was stuck behind seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks.

But Bradley shined enough in 15 minutes per game to follow Wright as one-and-done from Chapel Hill.

Jeff Goodman of ESPN:

Bradley is a borderline first-round pick, though this late decision when many expected him to return to school indicates he believes he’ll go in the first round. There’s certainly logic in turning pro before scouts pick apart his game over a larger sample.

Bradley is huge – 6-foot-11 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan – but he’s not explosive. The hope is someone in the Rudy Gobert mold.

Whomever drafts Bradley will hope his elite offensive rebounding is a harbinger. But why is his defensive rebounding and rim protection so forgettable?

He moves and passes fairly well for his size, but considering he’s so big, those aren’t necessarily skills for him to hang his hat on. If a teammate sets him up, he uses his size to finish well at the rim.

Beyond his size and offensive rebounding, Bradley doesn’t set himself apart one way or the other. Whether that’s good or bad depends how deep in the draft it is.