Day 3 of the Preliminary Round brought thrillers and all-time Olympic records. In a showdown between undefeated teams in Group B, Russia edged Brazil 74-75 on a go-ahead three-pointer by BC Khimki guard Vitaly Fridzon. Spain had to battle hard to beat Great Britain 79-78 with 19 points from Jose Manuel Calderon. Both teams tie atop Group B, each with a 3-0 record. France took a pivotal showdown in Group A by downing Lithuania 82-74. Australia grabbed its first win in the 2012 Olympic Tournament by downing China 81-61 in Group B behind solid performances from David Andersen and FC Barcelona Regal forward Joe Ingles. Argentina rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Tunisia 92-69 with 24 points from former Euroleague winner Manu Ginobili. Last but not least, USA broke the all-time Olympic scoring record with a huge 156-73 win against Nigeria. The previous record belonged to Brazil with 138 points. Carmelo Anthony had 37 points in less than 15 minutes. Russia and Spain have reached the Olympic Quarterfinals and USA is all but mathematically into the next round, too.
France 82-74 Lithuania
France took a pivotal showdown in Group A by downing Lithuania 82-74 in London on Thursday. France improved to 2-1 while Lithuania dropped to 1-2. Tony Parker led the winners with 27 points. Nicolas Batum added 21 while Boris Diaw had 10 for France. Former All-Euroleague forward Linas Kleiza led Lithuania with 17 points. Marty Pocius of Real Madrid added 15 while Simas Jasaitis of Lokomotiv Kuban Krasnodar had 11 for Lithuania. All five French starters had scored in the opening 4 minutes, giving Les Bleus a 15-6 margin. Kleiza stepped up for Lithuania and back-to-back layups by Pocius brought Lithuania within 22-21. A three-pointer by Parker fixed the score at 25-21 after 10 minutes. Pocius struck from downtown to complete the Lithuanian comeback, 25-26, early in the second quarter. Batum and Parker kept pacing France but a backdoor layup by Darius Songaila restored a 34-35 Lithuanian edge. France struggled to score against Lithuania’s zone defense and All-Eurocup forward Ronnie Seibutis of Lietuvos Rytas allowed his team to extend its margin to 39-43 at halftime. The game turned into a physical battle in the second half and France made the most out of it, limited Lithuania to just 6 points in 9 minutes. Meanwhile, Mickeal Gelabale of BC Khimki and Diaw fueled a 7-0 run that allowed France to get a 59-52 margin after 30 minutes. Batum and Diaw stayed on fire early in the fourth quarter to make it a double-digit game, 65-54. France boosted its margin to 70-54 behind an outstanding Nando De Colo and kept full control of the game from that moment until the final buzzer.
Argentina 92-69 Tunisia
Argentina rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat Tunisia 92-69 in Group A. Argentina improved to 2-1 and ties with France for second place. Tunisia dropped to 0-3 and needs to record a win right away to stay alive in the quarterfinals race. Ginobili led the winners with 24 points. Carlos Delfino added 21 while Luis Scola had 20 for Argentina. Salah Mejri led Tunisia with 19 points, 14 rebounds and 7 blocks. Makram Ben Romdhane took over early in the game and three-pointers by Marouan Laghnej and Mourad El Mabrouk forced Argentina to call timeout at 5-14. Anothere triple by Laghnej and a wild dunk by Mejri soon boosted the Tunisian lead to 12-23. A jumper by Mejri and a show from downtown by El Mabrouk made it a 14-point game, 14-28, after 10 minutes. Argentina improved its defense early in the second quarter, as Scola and Ginobili ignited their team’s comeback. Both players combined for all points in a 15-0 run that gave Argentina a 29-28 lead. Tunisia was not done, however, as an outstanding Mejri allowed his team to regain a 33-38 edge. Delfino and Ginobili stepped up to tie the game, 40-40, at halftime. Argentina rolled after the break, using a 9-0 run that Facundo Campazzo capped with a three-pointer to get the lead for good, 49-40. Scola and Delfino stayed on fire to make Argentina break the game open, 71-53, late in the third quarter. Tunisia never gave up but Argentina sealed the outcome soon after that and never looked back.
USA 156-73 Nigeria
In a night of scoring records, the United States of America overwhelmed Nigeria 156-73 to stay undefeated in Group A USA broke the previous scoring record, which belonged to Brazil when it amassed 138 points against Egypt in Seoul 1988. USA also set a new record for most three-pointers made (29) and tied another one for most points in one half, 78. Anthony paced the winners with 37 points on 10-of-12 three-pointers in less than 15 minutes. It is the most points by any US player in Olympic history – Stephon Marbury had the previous record with 31 against Spain in Athens 2004. Russell Westbrook had 21, Kobe Bryant added 16 while Kevin Love got 15 for USA. Ike Diogu led Nigeria with 27 points. Durant and Bryant combined for all points in a 13-0 opening run that allowed USA to get the lead for good. Nigeria needed more than 3 minutes and a timeout to find its first points but USA kept rolling. Bryant and Durant stayed on fire and a three-pointer by Anthony boosted his team’s lead to 28-11. Russell Westbrook joined the three-point shootout and Anthony sank another one from beyond the arc to break the game open, 38-15, after 8 minutes. USA sank 11-of-14 shots from downtown in the first quarter to get a 49-25 lead after 10 minutes. Both teams kept trading baskets at full speed early in the second quarter. An 11-0 run that Bryant capped with a jumper made it a 32-point game, 64-32, enough for the US team to lead 78-45 at halftime. The outcome was clear already but USA kept finding good scoring options, reaching the 100-point mark midway through the third quarter on 4 consecutive triples by Anthony. USA led 119-62 after 30 minutes and broke the all-time Olympic scoring record, 139-68, on a three-pointer by Andre Iguodala with over 4 minutes left. A rain of three-pointers allowed the USA to seal a historical performance.
Australia 81-61 China
Australia grabbed its first win in the 2012 Olympic Tournament by downing China 81-61 in Group B on Thursday. Australia went up to 1-2 and improved its chances to go to the Quarterfinals. Meanwhile, China dropped to 0-3 and most probably needs to win both games to reach the medal rounds. Patty Mills led the winners with 20 points. Andersen added 17 while Ingles had 13 for Australia. Shipeng Wang led China with 21 points. He struck three times from downtown to force Australia to call an early timeout at 8-15. Mills stepped up for Australia with 9 quick points and a three-pointer by Brad Newley gave the Boomers a 21-20 edge. A buzzer-beating jumper by Li Yi put China back ahead, 21-22, after 10 minutes. Ingles followed a wild three-point play with an acrobatic jumper to make Australia get a five-point lead, 32-27. Andersen nailed his trademark turnaround jumper and soon added a triple-and-foul for a 39-30 Australian edge. Andersen and Ingles kept pacing the Boomers, allowing Australia to get a 49-33 margin at halftime. China improved its defense after the break and a fast break layup by Jianghua Chen brought his team within single digits, 55-46. A three-pointer by Lui Wei brought China even closer, 61-53, after 30 minutes. China went scoreless for more than 5 minutes right when it mattered and a 9-0 run that Mills capped with a three-pointer sealed the outcome, 70-52, long before the final buzzer.
Brazil 74-75 Russia
In arguably the most exciting game of the 2012 Olympic tournament until now, Russia edged Brazil 74-75 on an outstanding game-winning three-pointer by Fridzon. Reigning Euroleague MVP Andrei Kirilenko of CSKA Moscow paced the winners with 19 points. Timofey Mozgov added 18 while Alexey Shved had 17 but Fridzon stole the show down the stretch. Leandrinho Barbosa had 16 points for Brazil while Larry Taylor added 12. A three-pointer by Barbosa and a close basket by former All-Euroleague center Tiago Splitter gave Brazil a 12-7 lead midway through the first quarter. Fridzon and former All-Euroleague forward Viktor Khryapa of CSKA stepped up for Russia but Splitter and Nene Hilario kept Brazil ahead, 20-15, after 10 minutes. Kirilenko shined with a three-point play early in the second quarter and soon added a catch-and-shoot triple, a layup and free throws to put Russia ahead, 23-30. Guilherme Giovannoni and Hilario took over to bring Brazil as close as 32-33. Mozgov, Shved and Kirilenko fueled a 0-7 run that boosted the Russian lead to 32-40 at halftime. Brazil managed to stop Kirilenko after the break and a layup-plus-foul by Taylor brought his team within 45-49. Russia found a new go-to guy in Mozgov, who singlehandedly gave his team some fresh air, 53-59, after 30 minutes. The game turned into a thriller when another three-point play by Taylor and a jumper by Barbosa tied it at 63-63 with under 6 minutes left. Free throws by Hilario completed the Russian comeback, 66-65. Back-to-back baskets by Taylor and Barbosa made it a five-point game, 70-65, with 2:25 to go. Russia did not surrender, however, and a three-pointer by Shved tied it at 72-72 with 26.3 seconds left. FC Barcelona Regal playmaker Marcelinho Huertas scored in penetration but Russia called timeout and Fridzon hit an off-balance corner triple to win it for Russia!
Spain 79-78 Great Britain
Spain stayed undefeated and kept tying for first place in Group B by edging Great Britain 79-78 on Thursday. Spain improved to 3-0 and qualified to the Quarterfinals. Great Britain dropped to 0-3 but keeps chances to reach the medal rounds. Calderon led the winners with 19 points. Pau Gasol added 17, Marc Gasol had 12 while former All-Euroleague swingman Fernando San Emeterio of Caja Laboral pulled down 10 rebounds for Spain. Luol Deng had 26 points for Great Britain while Joel Freeland added 25. Pau Gasol and Real Madrid guard Rudy Fernandez got Spain started with consecutive three-pointers but Great Britain found a go-to guy in Freeland, who had 8 quick points to singlehandely keep his team within 10-8. Marc Gasol followed a fast break layup by Calderon with a dunk that made it a double-digit game, 22-11. Deng and Robert Archibald brought Great Britain within 24-15 after 10 minutes. Pops Mensah-Bonsu of Maccabi Electra took over with a three-point play that got the hosts even closer, 25-20. former Eurocup Rising Star Victor Claver and former All-Euroleague guard Sergio Llull took over to force Great Britain to stop the game at 33-22, enough for Spain to keep 37-29 edge at halftime. Pau Gasol helped his team to stay way ahead, 46-35, after the break. Fernandez stepped up with free throws and a behind-the-back assist that fed Serge Ibaka for a slam. A baseline jumper by Felipe Reyes of Real Madrid and free throws by Llull helped Spain to keep a double-digit lead, 60-48, after 30 minutes. Deng followed a jumper with free throws to give Great Britain some hope, 64-58. He got some help from Freeland to make it a two-point game, 71-69, in the next-to-last minute. Calderon stepped up with a fast break layup, a steal and 6-of-6 free throws that allowed Spain to seal the outcome with 17 seconds to go, as a three-pointer by Deng was too little, too late for Great Britain.