USA ends brilliant international career of Manu Ginobili, Argentina’s “Golden Generation”

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Listening to the crowd for the final five minutes of play, you would have had no idea the game was a blowout.

Wednesday in Rio, Manu Ginobili just didn’t have enough clever playmaking — and, more importantly, enough energy in his legs — to lift Argentina to an upset of Team USA. The 105-78 loss spells the end of Argentina in these Olympics.

It also spells the end of international play for Argentina’s golden generation, which was led by Ginobili and included Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, and Andres Nocioni.

For the final five minutes of a game where Argentina trailed by more than 20, a loyal and raucous Argentinian fan base serenaded and thanked Ginobili and the golden generation in the only way they knew how. After the game, they kept on cheering as Ginobili and company stayed on the court, hugged one another in tears, and accepted the adulation of their fans.

We should all say thank you to them.

It was this core group of players — even more than the excellent Spanish and French teams that followed — that changed the dynamic of international basketball and showed teams they could beat the USA. It was Ginobili, with both his international and NBA play, that was the best evangelist for David Stern’s gospel of NBA globalization.

It was Argentina that handed the USA its first post-Dream Team loss, beating them in group play during the 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis. It was Argentina that crushed the USA in the semifinals of the 2004 Athens Olympics that sent the USA to bronze. The Argentinians were clear and away the better team in that tournament. It was that day that USA basketball changed, and soon Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski were put in charge of changing the USA Basketball culture — of trying to build the kind of continuity and team chemistry that Argentina had shown.

Argentina went on to win the gold in Athens. Only the USA, Soviet Union, and Argentina have ever won men’s basketball gold.

This remains a very tight Argentinian group, one that had been playing together since their teens. They grew up together on that international stage, and while they went down different paths with their club careers — Ginobili picking up four titles, a Sixth Man of the Year award, a couple of All-Star appearances, and incredible respect as a member of the Spurs — they always came back to their international team bond.

That bond is why after a 2012 London Olympics, when they said they would part ways, they changed their minds and came back for one more run at it in Rio.

Wednesday night that came to an end, at it was emotional for them. Ginobili — who had 14 points and 7 assists against the USA — was given the game ball and hugged it close all through his press conference.

Argentina was a longshot to medal in Rio, and then had the misfortune to be matched up with the USA in the quarterfinals (they didn’t have the size and athleticism to keep pace with the Americans).

This summer the international basketball stage has said goodbye to Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, and now Manu Ginobili. Things will never quite be the same.

But none of those legends had the impact on the international game that Manu did.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.