The Olympic Basketball showdown, one of the 2 biggest International Basketball sporting events (The other being the FIBA World Cup), started on the 6th of August.
The tournament had a total of the 12 teams that were put into 2 groups. Group A consisted of the USA, Australia, France, Serbia, Venezuela and China while Group B consisted of Spain, Croatia, Lithuania, Argentina, Brazil and Nigeria.
It was expected that Team USA would have an easy run to the top spot in Group A, but that was far from the case. Although they thrashed China and Venezuela 119-62 and 113-69 respectively, they faced quite the shock when they came up against Australia, who gave them a good run for their money. The US required a 31-Point game from Carmelo Anthony to edge over Team Australia 98-88.
They were then nearly upset by Serbia as Nikola Jovic, with 25 Points, put on a show but the Americans came back to win 94-91. Just when everyone thought Team USA had weathered the storm, a thundershower in the form of Team France followed immediately after. Although team USA went in to the 4th quarter with a pretty comfortable 81-69 lead they managed to win the game by only 3 points in the end as France, led by Nicolas Batum turned the jets on towards the end.
Australia turned out to be the surprise package of the tournament. 1st they nearly beat the US, then they went on to thrash France 87-66 and beat a very strong Serbian outfit 95-80.
For Team France, who finished 3rd in the group with 3 wins and 2 losses, it was Tony Parker, their Go-To man who was the Hero with a winning jump shot to put his team ahead of the Serbs 76-75.
Although Team Serbia had a promising start to the tournament destroying both China and Venezuela, and taking Team USA right down to the wire (91-94), they faced a shocking defeat at the hands of the Aussies and a heart-breaking loss to France by 1. They too however advanced to the Quarter finals with 2 wins and 3 losses.
In Group B it was Brazil, the host nation, which surprised the World by beating the Silver medalists from London 2012 Spain 66-65. Spain had also lost to Croatia 72-70, giving them a disastrous 0-2 start to the Tournament. Facing elimination brought out the best of the Spaniards as they whooped Lithuania by 50, Argentina by 19 and Nigeria by 9 in the following games to qualify as the 2nd seed of Group B.
The Group’s top seed Croatia had 3 wins at the preliminary rounds but took the Nigerian game way too easy as they lost 76-90 after having previously lost to the Argentines. Although the 3rd seed of the Group Lithuania lost to Croatia and had an embarrassing 50-point blowout against Spain, they had very strong outings against the other 3 members of the group. The classic rivalry between the South American giants Brazil and Argentina went down to the wire with Argentine pulling off a 4 point win in double extra time to eliminate the hosts.
Knock Out stages
Australia vs Lithuania
Group A 2nd seed Australia who bagged 4 wins in the group stage took on Group B 3rd seed Lithuania who had 2 wins in the preliminary rounds. Given Australia’s dazzling performance thus far at the Olympics they did come in as favourites to win the contest. Lithuania were having a disastrous time in Brazil as the Boomers (Australia) launched an all-out assault against the Europeans right from the get go winning the 1st 3 quarters by quite a sizable margin. The final scorecard read a lopsided 90-64 as the Aussies reached the Semi-Finals for the 1st time in 16 years.
Serbia vs Croatia
Croatia was the Top seed from Group B and were the favourites against Serbia even though the latter have been better at World events. Croatia took the 1st half 38-32 with Mario Hezonja leading the way, but the Serbs gave the Croatians a thunderous thrashing in the 3rd taking the quarter by 20 points! Coming in with a deficit of 14 points to erase, the Croatians launched a gallant comeback and were, at one point, just one possession away from tying the game. However with 27 seconds to go Miroslav was fouled while going for a rebound and he hit one of the 2 free throws, making it a 2 possession game thus sealing the deal.
USA vs Argentina
The 2 teams have quite the history, which intensified with the shock win Argentina had over the USA at the Semi-Finals of the Athens Olympics in 2004. The top seed from Group A had a bit of a slow start, but picked up pace with the introduction of Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry from the bench and they went into the breather with a 56-40 lead. It was yet again one way traffic with Kevin Durant making it rain and putting on a 27 point night to go along with his 7 rebounds to eliminate the Los Condores 105-78.
Spain vs France
Just like the Brazil-Argentina rivalry, the Spain-France rivalry is always a much awaited spectacle in Basketball tournaments. The European-Champions Spain who had a disastrous 0-2 start in the tournament had since picked their game up and carried that momentum onto the Quarter-Finals taking all 4 quarters of the game 19-16, 24-14, 26-19 and 23-18 to win the game in a very lopsided fashion with the score card reading 92-67!
Australia vs Serbia
Team Australia were clearly the favourites to win this not only having won 4 out of their 5 preliminary round games but also having humbled the Lithuanians in the Quarter-Finals (90-64). But the Serbs took the game right to them right from the get go, outscoring the Aussies by double digits in both the quarters in the 1st half to take the score to 35-14 at the sound of the mid-buzzer. Australia had major shooting woes as Patty Mills kept missing his 3s and Andrew Bogut struggled to score from within the paint and the trend continued onto the 2nd half as well as Milos Teodosic lead his team with 22 points to a comprehensive 87-61 win.
USA vs Spain
Although many expected this to be the Gold medal matchup at the Olympics that was not to be. Team USA which had finally managed to improve their defense at the tournament took an early lead in the 1st quarter 26-17 as Klay Thompson seemed to be having the hot hand. Pau Gasol and Rudy Fernandez led a comeback in the 2nd quarter and the lead shrunk to 6 points for the US by the half time buzzer (45-39). In a closely fought 3rd quarter USA just edged past the Spaniards to take the quarter 21-18 thanks to the 2nd chance points USA had off missed shots via some monstrous rebounds and putbacks by Deandre Jordan who had a total of 16 rebounds for the night.
Having to cut back a 9-Point deficit in the quarter the Spaniards kept coming back only to be held off by USA with some impressive shooting and locked up defense in the quarter. Team USA trumped the Spaniards 82-76 at the Final buzzer.
Final : USA vs Serbia
Serbia was the team which stretched Team USA the most before this encounter and they perhaps had the most chance of doing that again, however this USA team was not the same one the Serbs faced in round 1, they had turned their game around. the US Team had reserved their best for the last as they came out all guns blazing to comprehensively take the 1st 3 quarters 19-15, 33-14 and 27-14.
Cousins had 15 rebounds, Kyle Lowry had 5 steals and Deandre Jordan had 3 blocks on top of all the entertainment he was giving us from the side-lines when he was not on the court! For Serbia it was Nemanja Nedovic who was the lone warrior with 14 points for the night with Teodosic and Bogdanovic almost completely having disappeared right throughout the game. It was a 96-64 blowout in the end.
As Chris Paul had said earlier, it might not be just the Americans’ sport anymore but they sure do know how to win big!