On Thursday, all six San Antonio Spurs affiliated players will be back in action in the 2012 London Olympics as Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nando De Colo, and France face Lithuania, Patty Mills and Australia face China, Manu Ginobili and Argentina face Tunisia, and Tiago Splitter and Brazil face Russia.
Here’s a quick preview of each game.
3:00 AM CST: France (1-1) – Lithuania (1-1)
France is coming off a classic win against Argentina in which Parker and Ginobili possibly faced each other for the first and last time. Even though Lithuania was blasted by Argentina on Sunday, the French must be wary of the Lithuanians after they defeated Nigeria by 19 points on Tuesday.
Players to watch (FRA): For France, it’s got to be Parker (13.5 points per game). After not looking physically like himself throughout the summer due to lack of conditioning, Parker seemed to regain his endurance against Argentina as he was doing what he does best with the Spurs, penetrating into the paint and making plays from there. De Colo is also a player to watch off the bench for France as he was quite productive offensively, particularly from the outside, as he supplied 11 points off the bench against Argentina.
Player to watch (LIT): On the other side, Nicolas Batum (10 points per game) will have to keep an eye on Linas Kleiza who is Lithuania’s most potent scorer at 16.5 points per game. Kleiza can hit from outside but also play rugged basketball inside of the arc.
Numbers tell us: Lithuania should defeat France 75.5 to 71
Prediction: France defeats Lithuania by 7 points or more
5:15 AM CST: Australia (0-2) – China (0-2)
Australia has been dealt two powerhouses to open the Olympics as they fell to both Brazil and Spain. Now they have a chance to earn a win as they face winless China who has lost to undefeated Russia and Spain as well.
Players to watch (AUS): For Australia, that player is Mills (15.5 points per game). He hasn’t been able to put together a complete game in these Olympics, but it didn’t help with him having to defend Marcelinho Huertas and Jose Calderon in consecutive games. Mills in particularly in struggling from one of his strengths on the floor, behind the arc. Mills has shot 1-of-14 from behind the arc two games into the Olympics, so it’ll be interesting to see if he can play a consistent game both from the inside and outside.
Player to watch (CHN): The Australian big men will have to be prepared to defend Yi Jianlian who is averaging 23 points per game in the Olympics. So far, the Australian frontcourt has had to face Splitter, Anderson Varejao, Nene, Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, and Serge Ibaka. Yi will be their next test.
Numbers tell us: Australia should defeat China 70.5 to 67.5
Prediction: Australia defeats China by 6 points or more
8:30 AM CST: Argentina (1-1) – Tunisia (0-2)
Ginobili and Luis Scola did what they could to try to defeat France, but without their supporting cast the “Golden Generation” team ended up falling in the classic matchup. Tunisia had an amazing first half of basketball against the United States as they hung with the U.S. for one half, then got blown out in the second half. Argentina mustn’t take Tunisia lightly.
Players to watch (ARG): Who else other than Ginobili (23.5 ppg) and Scola (24 ppg), who have looked dominant two games into the Olympics. Though they may never get the chance to play together in the NBA, their chemistry on the court is so fluid. It’s like they’ve been playing together since they first learned to dribble a basketball, that’s how well they compliment each other.
Players to watch (Tunisia): I don’t know much about Macram Ben Romdhane (17 ppg), Amime Rzig (12 ppg), and Marouran Kechrid (10.5 ppg), but I do know they won’t just fall over. After watching them against the United States, these guys continued to attack the rim and hoist and make 3-pointers regardless of what the score was at the time. Argentina cannot become complacent.
Numbers tell us: Argentina should defeat Tunisia 83-56.5
Prediction: Argentina defeats Tunisia by 25 points or more
10:45 AM CST: Brazil (2-0) – Russia (2-0)
This will be the marquee game of the day involving Spurs players as one of these teams will come out of the match with a loss, and they both still have to face Spain in the future. Brazil had a scare from Great Britain, but Splitter and Huertas were able to hold off the British. Meanwhile since taking a year off from the NBA and playing overseas, former Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko has been on a tear in the Olympics.
Player to watch (BRA): Brazil has four players averaging double figures in Splitter (14 ppg), Leandro Barbosa (11.5 ppg), and Varejao (10 ppg), but the man who runs the show and gets all three of those players their points is Huertas (14 ppg, 9 assists per game). Huertas is the prefect quarterback for Brazil because they have such a variety of talent on their squad. He’s called the South American version of Steve Nash for a reason; he can score, deliver crowd awing passes, and just makes that crazy highlight play happen.
Players to watch (RUS): As mentioned above, Kirilenko is on a tear right now averaging 25.5 points per game, while Aleksey Shved is helping him with 15 points per game. Brazil doesn’t have a strong option at small forward, so it will take a complete team effort to limit Kirilenko as much as possible.
Numbers tell us: Russia should defeat Brazil 84 to 71
Prediction: Brazil defeats Russia by 4 points or less
Paul’s predictions thus far involving Spurs players
Sunday 7/29: 3-0
Tuesday 7/31: 1-1
Record thus far: 4-1
What do you think Spurs fans? Which team will win each match on Thursday?