Russia nudged ahead 17-16 at the end of the first quarter and seemed to hold fort, when the Croats hit a 10-2 run to close the second quarter. Trailing 32-34, Planinic scored four, Marko Tomas and Marko Popovic both converted twin free-throws after Stanko Barac had struck from inside the paint to take Croatia into the changing rooms 46-34 ahead.
The Croats, who made it to Beijing as one of the teams from the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament at Athens, consolidated their position further and with 2:30 left in the third quarter the Jasmin Repesa-trained squad were leading by 13 points.
“That (the 10-2 run), and the start of the second half were the most important part of the game for us,” Repesa said.
Russia, coached by David Blatt, managed to narrow down the lead to five points twice in the second part of the fourth quarter, but got no closer.
“This is the first time we’ve lost an official international game in a long time and it took a good team that played a high level to beat us,” Blatt said.
“I think we need to be a little more gritty.”
“We didn’t realize that it took a bar fight today and not a pool game. The basketball aspect took over and they won the game.”
Argentina, smarting under their opening game defeat to Lithuania, set off right from the word go.
Luis Scola scored nine of his 17 points in the first quarter, as Argentina raced away to a 20-3 run to close the first quarter 23-11 ahead. That set the tone for the rest of the game.
Manu Ginobili top scored for Argentina with 21 points, while his San Antonio Spurs teammate Fabricio Oberto logged in 12.
“This was a very important win for us,” Scola said. “It was hard game, but we were solid and to finish 17 points up is a good result.”
“It’s important to win, while the margin of the win and how you play is also important,” the Tau Vitoria forward added.
“We played a complete game.”
Patrick Mills led the scoring for Australia with a game-high 22 points.
An 8-2 run in the last two minutes of the first quarter and a12-0 spree in the closing moments of the second perched the USA right on top as they closed the first half 55-37 ahead. A position of comfort that was never disturbed.
Dwyane Wade scored 12 of his team-high 19 and Dwight Howard struck 11 of his 14 in the first half itself.
“First of all, on behalf of my team-mates, we would like to thank Angola for playing so hard tonight,” Wade said.
“They made us play our A game. We are getting better like we do every game and we are really proud of that.”
It was China all the way, against Spain, till the start of the fourth quarter. The hosts trailed by a basket at the first quarter (18-20), but played gallantly and outscored their rivals 28-17 and 15-10 over the next two quarters. The 18,000-capacity crowd watched with bated breath as their team, 61-47 ahead, going into the fourth quarter, seemed to upset the applecart of the World champions.
But Spain had other ideas. Los Angeles Lakers superstar Pau Gasol struck down six of his game-high 29 points, as Spain went on a 12-3 run to close the margin to just three (61-64) with 5:24 left in the game.
Felipe Reyes, who was otherwise quiet, came into his own, with a few jumpers as Spain began to chip away as Rudy Fernandez continued his good showing. Fernandez, who will travel to the NBA to play for Portland Trailblazers, finished with 21 points, eight assists and nine rebounds.
“It has been a very difficult game,” Fernandez said, “especially in the first half.
“We didn’t play the way we are used to playing. China have been very effective and in the third and fourth quarter, when we put pressure and we defended better, we posed more problems for them and that’s when we started running and won the game. I thought China played a great game.”
Marc Gasol tied the score for Spain at 72, after Wang Zhizhi’s three-pointer had put China ahead. And 17-year-old Ricky Rubio played a stellar role in stopping Liu Wei from scoring what might have been a clincher for the hosts. Of course, Rubio himself faltered moments later to seal the issue, narrowly missing his attempt.
In the Overtime, Chinese superstar Yao Ming fouled out and Pau Gasol added nine more to his tally and Spain steered away to their second win.
Liu topped the scoring for China with 19 points.
“I think we did a good job,” China guard Sun Yue said.
“I am proud of what we did considering Spain are the 2006 world champions. We showed that China can compete against a team of this level.”
“I think Spain showed a lot of experience.”
“We hurried too much and they were so cool. We got nervous,” he added.
Greece too fell behind at the end of the first quarter, but woke up early enough to avoid any last minute heart-stops.
Germany began rather well to turn a 5-14 deficit into a 23-21 lead at the end of the first quarter. But the Greek held the Germans without scoring for the first five minutes of the second quarter, but themselves scoring 12 in the meantime.
That spree combined with some remarkable defense on Germany’s NBA stars Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman ensured Greece didn’t have to look back.
Greece held Nowitzki to just 13 points on three of eight shooting and Kaman had four points and just two rebounds.
Germany coach Dirk Bauermann admitted the Greek defense had been decisive.
“I thought they played a great defensive game,” he said. “I thought their defense was extremely intense, very physical.”
“They took all, especially Chris Kaman, completely out of the game. They trapped him, they threw a lot of guys around him. That can happen.”
Lithuania 99 (Linas Kleiza 22, Sarunas Jasikevicius 20, Rimantas Kaukenas 14) bt Iran 67 (Hamed Ehadadi 21). Quarterwise Scores: 15-20, 46-34, 74-53.
Croatia 85 (Marko Popovic 22, Zoran Planinic 20, Stanko Barac 14) bt Russia 78 (Andrei Kirilenko 18, Sergei Bykov 15, Viktor Khryapa 14). Quarterwise Scores: 16-17, 42-36, 60-51.
Argentina 85 (Manu Ginobili 21, Luis Scola 17, Carlos Delfino 14, Fabricio Oberto 12) bt Australia 68 (Patrick Mills 22, Brad Newley 11, David Andersen 10). Quarterwise Scores: 23-11, 39-29, 63-46.
Greece 87 (Vassilis Spanoulis 23, Theo Papaloukas 15, Dimitris Diamantidis 12) bt Germany 64 (Dirk Nowitzki 13, Demond Greene 11, Sven Schultze 11). Quarterwise Scores: 21-23, 44-33, 69-48
Spain 85 (Pau Gasol 29, Rudy Fernandez 21) bt China 75 (Liu Wei 19, Zhu Fangyu 15, Wang Zhizhi 15, Yao Ming 11). Quarterwise Scores: 20-18, 37-46, 47-61, 72-72.
USA 97 (Dwyane Wade 19, Dwight Howard 14, Lebron James 12, Carmelo Anthony 12) bt Angola 76 (Carlos Morais 24). Quarterwise Scores: 29-18, 55-37, 81-53.
Lithuania, with two wins from as many games, take on Russia (1-1) on Thursday, while Croatia also having won both their games clash with Argentina (1-1). Australia and Iran, who have lost both their games so far play each other.
Spain and the USA are now 2-0 and will play against opponents who are locked 1-1, on Thursday. Spain match wits with Germany, while the USA take on Greece. Angola and China, both at 0-2, will play each other.
Last Modified on 23/08/2008 08:31