Tuesday Olympics recap: Spain wins but gets a reason to worry

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We’ve told you about the big games of the day… well the one big game — France’s minor but key upset of Argentina — and the other big game for us, the expected USA rout of Tunisia.

But there were four other games played in London on Tuesday that you didn’t watch. That’s why we’re here for you. Because we care.

Here is a recap of Tuesday’s action.

Spain 82, Australia 70: Spain improves to 2-0 in Group B behind 20 points from Pau Gasol, pretty much as expected. The biggest news out of this game is that Spanish point guard and team captain Juan Carlos Navarro missed the game with a foot injury. He has long battled plantar fasciitis and if it flairs up and he can’t play in the medal rounds that could be a big hinderance for Spain.

Russia 73, China 54: This was not the prettiest game at the start — China opened up shooting 6-of-19, Russia 7-of-18. But the Russians found their range thanks to another big game from Andrei Kirilenko who had 16 points. Russia improves to 2-0 in Group B, tied with Brazil and Spain, and they look not only like a team that will advance to the medal round but a team that will be a tough out. China is now 0-2 despite 16 points and 7 boards from Yi Jianlian.

Brazil 67, Great Britain 62: This one was a whole lot closer than expected, in fact it was tied 27-27 at the half. Luol Deng is trying to do a little bit of everything for the host Brits and he almost had a deceiving triple-double with 12 points, 8 boards and 7 assists — but he shot 1-of-11 at one point and seemed to be holding them back. Then when they needed him late he knocked down a couple hero-ball threes to get it close. However, Brazil held on in part because of the 21 points from power forward Marcus Vieira. Brazil also is 2-0 on group play while the hosts are looking for their first win.

Lithuania 72, Nigeria 53: Both of these teams are now 1-1 in the middle of a crowded Group A (although Nigeria’s win came against lowly Tunisia and it is likely their only one). Lithuania led by double digits most of the way, although Nigeria chipped away at it near the half to make things look closer than they really were. Linus Kleiza had 13 points and six rebounds for Lithuania, while Sarunas Jasikevicius added nine points and nine assists.
Al-Farouq Aminu had 12 points and 11 rebounds, while Ike Diogu finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds for Nigeria, but as a team the Africans shot just 24 percent. And that will not get it done.

Celtics’ Terry Rozier on Game 3: “We needed to get our butts whooped”

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Cleveland dominated Game 3 Saturday night. They played harder, to start. The Cavaliers’ defensive pressure on the ball was better, they were sharper rotating out to shooters and covering passing lanes. Cleveland’s role players stepped up and helped LeBron James.

Boston, meanwhile, wilted in the face of that pressure Saturday, something it has done a few times on the road these playoffs. The Celtics got away from the things that got them to the Eastern Conference Finals. Guard Terry Rozier put it more bluntly, via A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

“I feel like we needed this (loss) to get us back … to get us ready for Monday,” Rozier said.

Rozier later added, “We needed to get our butts whipped. Come back to reality and take care of business on Monday.”

Cleveland is a championship team — from LeBron James on down through the core guys, they all have rings. They have been down before, and heading home it was expected they would play with force. Cleveland’s back was against the wall and they responded.

From the Celtics’ perspective, they also got a little too fat and happy and were not ready for what the Cavaliers came with in Game 3.

Now the pressure is on Boston to push back, to get back to their level of execution and do it under pressure. Make the Cavaliers prove the improved defensive effort was not a one-off game. The Celtics must move the ball and play with some pace, then see if the Cavaliers can keep it together in the face of crisp play.

When this series heads back to Boston Wednesday, it will either see the Celtics in control up 3-1, or the series will be a best of three (with the Cavs still having to figure out if they can win on the road). At home, the Cavaliers are going to play with force again and have some depth. We’ll see if Game 3 was enough of a wakeup call for Boston.

PBT Extra: Can Rockets take Game 2 energy, execution on the road?

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Houston found its blueprint to beating Golden State in Game 2: Strong defensive pressure on the ball, quick switches and communication on defense, getting out in transition when possible, and starting sets earlier in the shot clock and attacking downhill with James Harden and Chris Paul.

Now can they do that on the road? Against a more focused and sharper Warriors’ team?

That will be the question in the next two games of the Western Conference Finals, and it’s what I discuss in this latest PBT Extra.

Cavaliers cruise past Celtics in Game 3, change complexion of Eastern Conference finals

AP Photo/Tony Dejak
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The Cavaliers were heavy favorites over the Celtics entering the Eastern Conference finals. LeBron James has dominated the East for years, and Cleveland appeared to hit its stride in a sweep of the Raptors last round. Boston was shorthanded and inexperienced.

Were the Celtics’ two wins to open the series, as impressive as they were, really enough to override everything else we knew about these teams?

The Cavs walloped Boston in Game 3, 116-86, Saturday. Cleveland now has four of the NBA’s last five 30-point playoff wins – two against the Celtics last year, one over Toronto last round and tonight. (The Cavaliers lost the league’s only other 30-point game between, to the Pacers in the first round.)

Boston still leads the series 2-1, and teams up 2-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 80% of the time.

But the team up 2-1 is usually the one seen as better entering the series. That isn’t the case here, not with LeBron on the other side. And the leading team usually isn’t so woeful on the road, which will remain a major storyline entering Game 4 Monday in Cleveland.

The Celtics bought themselves margin for error, but they blew a lot of it tonight.

It’d be an oversimplification to say the Cavs just played harder, but they did, and it went along way. They chased loose balls, tightened their defense and moved more off the ball offensively. Cleveland jumped to a 20-4 lead, led by double digits the rest of the way and spent most of the game up by at least 20.

LeBron (27 points, 12 assists, two blocks and two steals) dazzled as a passer and locked in as a defender. He received help from several players:

In a low-resistance effort, Boston didn’t goon up the game at all.

The Cavaliers still have plenty of work ahead to reach their fourth straight NBA Finals, but tonight, they showed a path to advancing. Climbing out of their early series deficit now looks far less intimidating.

Luka Doncic named EuroLeague MVP at age 19

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Luka Doncic, the likely top two pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has led his Real Madrid team to the EuroLeague finals at age 19.

Now he has been named the youngest player ever win the EuroLeague MVP.

For those unfamiliar, EuroLeague is the equivalent of the Champions League in soccer — the very best club teams from around the continent face off against each other. On this biggest of European stages, Doncic has been a force. He is a gifted passer with great court vision. He can take his man off the dribble. He can hit threes. And he knows how to be a floor general and run a game. Did we mention he’s just 19?

Doncic said before the start of EuroLeague that he hasn’t decided what he is going to do about coming to the NBA or going back to Real Madrid. Don’t buy it. This is like asking a major college basketball star right before the NCAA Tournament if he is coming back to “State U” next year, they don’t want to say “no” right before the tourney so they give a non-committal answer. Same here. He’s not leaving millions on the table, he’ll be in the NBA next season.

And he’ll bee good.