With team USA beating Argentina last night, the group stage of the Olympic basketball tournament officially came to an end. History was made and we witnessed a lot of close games, surprises and controversy, so let’s take a look at how the group stage played out.
Group A played out pretty much as expected. Apart from the close victory against Lithuania, USA blew out every other opponent by at least 27 points, and finished first in the group. Along the way we witnessed some great games by team USA, including a historic 83-point win against Nigeria. Carmelo Anthony took over the game against Nigeria scoring 37 points in 14 minutes, James was clutch in the game against Lithuania and Kevin Durant dropped 28 and a barrage of 3-pointers on Argentina. The overwhelming amount of talent on USA’s roster was evident, as most players chipped in and did their part.
As I predicted, Lithuania, France and Argentina essentially played eachother for the other 3 qualifying spots. Lithuania suffered a big blow by losing to Argentina in the first game of the tournament by 23 points. Due to the format of the tournament, even a victory against France might not have been enough to claim anything higher than a 4th seed. France beat Argentina by 7 points, and thus finished 2nd in the group, leaving Argentina 3rd, Lithuania 4th, Nigeria 5h and Tunisia last in the group.
Teams that qualified for the next round: (1)USA, (2)France, (3)Argentina, (4)Lithuania
This is where it got interesting. Spain were the favorites to grab the first seed, and go undefeated in the group stage. After beating China and Australia with relative ease, Spain managed to win against Great Britain by only 1 point. Obviously, Spain commanded the game, but an opponent like Great Britain should have been beaten by a more comfortable margin.
Now, this is where the controversy starts. Losing to Russia in their 4th game of the tournament by 3 points, Spain lost their grasp of the 1st seed of the group. In order to avoid playing team USA in the semi-finals, Spain had to lose to Brazil, and finish 3rd in their group, which they did. When asked about the controversy everyone associated with Spain’s national team denied the allegations, and were seemingly offended by the notion of them losing on purpose.
Now, the game itself didn’t seem staged, but it didn’t help that Brazil’s center Nene wasn’t even registered for the game. Despite missing a key-player, Brazil finished the game on a 8-1 spurt, beating Spain by 6 points and claiming the 2nd seed. While Spain perhaps didn’t lose on purpose, as all the best players were playing, it is hard to imagine that everyone gave it their absolute best down the stretch.
Russia, led by Andrei Kirilenko, were looking dominant in the group stage. Apart from losing the irrelevant last game to Australia, Russia beat Spain and, after almost letting the game slip away, came out on top against Brazil as Vitaly Fridzon hit the shot of the tournament that won the game.
As I mentioned previously, Australia was a team that was capable of upsets, and they didn’t disappoint. Australia lost by only 4 points to Brazil in the opening game, and beat Russia 82-80 in the last game of the group stage. Unfortunately for Australia, they are most likely facing an early exit in the playoffs, as they are facing team USA in the quarter-finals.
Teams that qualified for the next round: (1)Russia, (2)Brazil, (3)Spain, (4) Australia
Stay tuned for a preview of the elimination round of the tournament.