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

15 Comments

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.

Celtics top Cavaliers in Game 5, setting up Game 7 in Boston?

4 Comments

LeBron James and a couple Cavaliers teammates left the court well before the Celtics dribbled out their 96-83 Game 5 win Wednesday.

The Cavs are already moving on.

Game 6 will be Friday in Cleveland, and the Cavaliers – down 3-2 in the Eastern Conference finals – must win to avoid elimination. The way Boston has played on the road, it’s even easy to look ahead to Game 7, which is scheduled for Sunday in Boston.

Still, the Celtics bought themselves leeway with their decisive win in Boston tonight. They led by double digits the final 20 minutes, breaking the Cavs’ momentum after two straight wins in Cleveland.

“It’s tough going on the road, playing against somebody else in their house with their crowd,” said Jayson Tatum, who had 24 points, seven rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocks tonight. “So, we were just comfortable. We came back home and defended home-court like we have all playoffs.”

Boston is now 10-0 at home this postseason – but just 1-6 away. Fueled in part by that historic split, no game in this series has been close. All five have been decided by at least nine points, and the average margin of victory – 18 – is in the 97th percentile for largest ever in a 3-2 best-of-seven series.

So, just as two big Celtics wins in Games 1 and 2 didn’t deter the Cavaliers, this one likely won’t, either. The Cavs should be heavily favorited in Game 6.

Beyond, if it gets that far? That’s a much bigger tossup.

Teams up 3-2 in a best-of-seven series have won 85% of the time. But Boston is missing a key reason it secured home-court advantage, including a chance to break the 2-2 at home rather than on the road – Kyrie Irving. And LeBron James is downright scary in a Game 7, even on the road.

The Celtics at least took care of business tonight, showing a far greater sense of urgency than Cleveland. Brad Stevens changed his starting lineup, inserting Aron Baynes for Marcus Morris, and tightened his rotation to just seven players until garbage time. Boston ran the floor much harder than the Cavs, decisively outrebounded them and beat them to loose balls. Even in altercations, the Celtics had a man advantage.

LeBron (26 points, 10 rebounds five assists and six turnovers) never made his presence felt in the way usually necessary for the Cavaliers to win. Cleveland’s four other starters combined to score just 24 points, two fewer than LeBron did himself.

After Boston seized control early, the Cavaliers made few adjustments in strategy or effort – as if they’re saving those for later.

LeBron James says we don’t know full story of his upbringing, but he’ll reveal it after retirement

AP Photo/Ron Schwane
5 Comments

LeBron James was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school – as a junior.

He has been in the spotlight ever since, somehow living up to the outsized expectations set while he was a teenager. His story has been told and retold – how he and his mom moved around Akron as she struggled to provide for him, how his athletic ability lifted himself and those around him.

But are we missing key details?

Upon passing Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for most shots made in the playoffs, LeBron reflected on his journey.

LeBron:

To know where I come from, you guys know a little bit of the story. But you guys don’t know the full story about where I come from and the struggle that I had. You guys know about the single-parent struggle, and y’all done heard that story. But there’s a lot more to it, which I’ll talk about when I’m done playing ball.

But to know where I come from, small city 35 miles south of here, and to hear I’m in the same category or talked about and jumping these greats in the playoffs — it’s like I was a kid and I watched the playoffs so much and I was like, I would love to be a part of that, that moment, that atmosphere. I think it’s pretty cool. You hear the scoring, the field goals made, and for a kid that really doesn’t care much about scoring.

Like with LeBron’s secret motivation a couple years ago, I’m totally intrigued. When LeBron decides to share, I’ll be all ears.

Larry Nance Jr., Marcus Morris and Terry Rozier exchange shoves after whistle (video)

5 Comments

Marcus Morris fouled Larry Nance Jr. in Celtics-Cavaliers Game 5 tonight. Nance didn’t like that, got up and shoved Morris. Morris and Terry Rozier didn’t like that, and both shoved Morris.

All three received a technical foul, which seems fair.

Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala questionable for Game 5

AP Photo
4 Comments

Andre Iguodala missed the Warriors’ Game 4 loss to the Rockets with a leg injury.

It’s not certain he – or Klay Thompson, who played through a knee injury suffered in Game 4 – will be available for Game 5 tomorrow.

NBC Sports Bay Area:

Klay Thompson, who suffered a left knee strain during the first half of Game 4, is listed as questionable, the team announced Wednesday afternoon.

Iguodala missed Game 4 with a left lateral leg contusion and is questionable for Game 5.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Iguodala:

He’s feeling a little better today, and he’s out on the floor. Not doing a whole lot, but making progress.

Kerr on Thompson:

Klay is moving around really well. I think Klay is going to be fine.

That sounds better than “questionable” for Thompson.

The Warriors need one, maybe both, of those two on the court. Golden State’s depth, especially on the wing, is looking shaky.

In Game 4, Golden State outscored Houston by 20 in the 31 minutes Stephen Curry, Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green played together. In the in the 17 minutes they played without even one of those stars, the Warriors got outscored by 23. Nick Young, who received more playing time when Thompson left the court area due to his injury, looked particularly overwhelmed.

James Harden‘s defense is a huge bellwether in this series. The Warriors spend a lot of focus trying to exploit him, and if that fails, the shot clock gets low before they move into another action. If Thompson is even just slowed, that’d make it easier for Harden to keep up.