Commentary

Day 3: Lithuania, Spain remain undefeated

Originally Published: August 14, 2008
By Chris Sheridan | ESPN.com

Andrei KirilenkoFilippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty ImagesLithuania's Linas Kleiza and Russia's Andrei Kirilenko battle for a loose ball. Lithuania came out on top.
BEIJING -- Russia's J.R. Holden was the first player to leave the court, storming off with his head down, saying nothing to anyone -- except whatever he was muttering to himself.

The Russian national team blew a chance to knock off one of the few remaining undefeated teams in the tournament, missing its final five free throws over the last 3 minutes and bricking 15 of 25 free-throw attempts overall in an 86-79 loss to Lithuania.

"I guess I have to go beat my head against a wall," Russia coach David Blatt said.

Lithuania was ahead for a majority of the game, but the Russians stayed within striking distance and tied the game at 77 on a jumper by Holden with 4:01 remaining. Holden led his team with 25 points.

Ramunas Siskauskas dribbled behind a screen and hit a straightaway 20-footer to put Lithuania ahead, and Viktor Khryapa and Andrei Kirilenko each missed a pair of free throws on Russia's next two possessions.

Khryapa scored on a gorgeous pick-and-roll feed from Kirilenko with 1:43 left to pull Russia to 84-79, and Khryapa was fouled on the play. But he again missed from the line, and Russian guard Victor Keyru missed twice underneath after twice grabbing offensive rebounds. Russia had one more chance after Lithuania's Jonas Maciulis traveled with 57 seconds left, but Kirilenko had his shot blocked with 40 seconds to go.

"There was a lot of talent, a lot of physicality and a lot of emotion out there on the court," Blatt said. "But when you miss 15 free throws and I would think close to 10 layups, it's hard to win against a very good team."


Spain 72, Germany 59

Ricky Rubio was the starting point guard at the beginning of the second half, and he was the key cog in a 13-0 run that broke the game open.

After making a pair of free throws, Rubio used his long arms to reach around and steal the ball from Steffen Hamann in the backcourt for a breakaway layup. Jorge Garbajosa followed with a 3-pointer, and what had been only a 39-36 halftime edge had quickly ballooned into a 14-point lead.

"He looks like a 12-year-old kid, but he plays hard. He's quick with the ball and has quick hands on defense. He's going to be a great player," Dirk Nowitzki said of Rubio, who had seven points, three assists and five rebounds in just 12½ minutes of playing time. Nowitzki was held to 11 points.

Jose Calderon again came off the bench behind Raul Lopez but led Spain with 15 points. Pau Gasol scored 13, and Marc Gasol had 7 points and 8 rebounds. Rudy Fernandez struggled for the first time in the tournament, missing six of seven shots.

Spain forward Carlos Jimenez was held out with a sore lower back he injured diving for the ball in Spain's previous game against China. Coach Aito Garcia Reneses said he hoped to have Jimenez available for Saturday's tilt with Team USA.

"We're going to see what is our level. But (beyond) that, it's not really important," Calderon said. "The important game is going to be played later. We've got to wait, play and learn."


Argentina 77, Croatia 53

The number of undefeated teams decreased by one.

Andres Nocioni had 18 points and eight rebounds, Carlos Delfino made four 3-pointers and scored 15 and Manu Ginobili had 14 points, eight assists and two steals to help Argentina hand Croatia its first loss of the Olympics.

Argentina controlled throughout, led by as many as 30 and held Croatia to 33 percent shooting.

Lithuania (3-0) is the only remaining unbeaten team in Group A, with Argentina and Croatia (both 2-1) sharing second place, and Russia and Australia (1-2) tied for fourth.


China 85, Angola 68

In a must-win game, China came out strong and scored 20 of the first 26 points. They allowed Angola to pull within three at halftime, but pulled comfortably ahead in the third quarter and coasted.

Yao Ming scored 30 points on 10-of-11 shooting both from the field and the free-throw line against a roster with no player taller than 6-foot-8.

The victory set up another must-win game for the Chinese on Saturday against Germany, with the winner likely to advance to the quarterfinals from Group B.


Australia 106, Iran 68

This one was pretty much over in the first quarter as Australia scored 16 of the first 19 points in a game it absolutely needed to win. Australia still must defeat Russia or Lithuania in one of its next two games to have any chance of advancing.

Brad Newley, who played for the Houston Rockets' summer league team in 2007 after he was drafted 54th, led Australia with 24 points on 10-for-15 shooting. Patty Mills added 15 points and five assists and Andrew Bogut scored 10 points in 17 minutes.

There will be a bundle of major games Saturday, beginning with Russia-Australia at 11:15 a.m. local time, China-Germany at 8 p.m. and Spain-U.S. for first place in Group B at 10:15 p.m. (10:15 a.m. ET). Preliminary-round play ends Monday and the quarterfinals are next Wednesday.

Chris Sheridan is an ESPN.com Insider. He has covered the U.S. senior national team since the 1996 Olympics. To e-mail Chris, click here.