There was very little to choose between Argentina and Greece as neither gave a quarter nor sought any.
Both teams went neck and neck for the first three quarters before Carlos Delfino scored back-to-back three pointers to put Argentina 62-55 ahead early in the fourth quarter.
The South Americans never trailed after that and led 80-75 when Greece threatened to bounce back with a Panagiotis Vassilopoulos three-pointer. But those were the final points of the game.
“This Olympic tournament has been of a high level and we have to acknowledge Greece for being one of the best teams,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said.
“We are proud to have beaten a Greek team that has played with great intelligence and quality.”
Manu Ginobili had a game-high 24 points and was six of 13 from long range.
Carlos Delfino chipped in with 23 points, but played a more crucial role in compensating for the absence of Andres Nocioni.
Nocioini hurt his knee and asked to be replaced after scoring 12 points.
“Nocioni asked to come out of the game and for a player like Nocioni to ask to be changed, he must have felt an acute pain,” Hernandez said.
“I feel fantastic,” Delfino said.
“The ball just kept going in when the team needed it most. I have to thank the work done by team-mates who freed me up to take those shots.”
Antonis Fotsis led the Greek charge with 17 points and a game-high 10 rebounds.
“I am very glad because my players participated in the best games of the tournament,” said Greece coach Panagiotis Yannakis.
“Considering the performance, both teams could have gone to the final four. Argentina made a good start, we fought and we took the final shot.”
It was their rock-solid defense and sharp rebound collection which highlighted USA’s win against the Boomers.
Kobe Bryant scored big for the first time in the tournament, with a game-high 25 points. But what mattered more for Mike Krzyzewski’s men was the 57-28 advantage they held in the rebounds.
The fact that they scored as many as nine points in the first quarter, off second chance, in 13 rebound attempts, spoke for the Americans’ struggle with their shooting.
“Australia has been the most difficult team for us to defend,” Krzyzewski said.
“They are a force to be reckoned with. They caused us a lot of problems. We are very happy to have beaten Australia.”
USA narrowly led the first quarter 25-24 and led only by five for more than half of the second ten minutes, but Lebron James and Bryant combined to trigger a late surge to close the second quarter 55-43. The USA were beginning to find their scoring rhythm now.
James accounted for 16 points for the game, nine rebounds and five steals.
“We understand we are not going to break things open in the first period,” Bryant said.
“We have to wear teams down. We come in waves. Usually in the second or third period is when we can bust things open.”
Bryant continued the ‘redeeming’ run with two three-pointers and three more points, as the USA raced away to a 69-43 lead before Patrick Mills’ success from behind the arc broke the barren run for the Aussies.
Mills would go on to top the scoring for his side with 20 points.
“In my mind, they (USA) are playing great together and everyone is contributing. I think they are going to be tough to beat,” Australia Brian Goorjian said.
Seasoned campaigner Sarunas Jasikevicius led the Lithuanian quest to return to the podium with a stellar-shooting show.
The Panathinaikos Athens guard sunk five of his six attempts from behind the arc in a 7/8 floor record and led the scoring for the game with 23 points. He found success with all his four free-throws.
“It always helps when the three-pointers are going in,” Jasikevicius said.
Ramunas Siskauskas, who played along side Jasikevicius, when Lithuania won the bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, chipped in with 15 points.
Linas Kleiza played only 18 minutes, but led the rebounds for Lithuania with seven collections to go with his 15 points.
China managed to keep the scores close at the end of the first quarter, but Lithuania pulled away with a 14-6 run midway through the second that gave them a 41-30 at half-time.
Jasikevicius had 12 points and Ramunas Siskauskas 11 of his 15 in the first half.
They went ahead by 17 points over the next ten minutes before sealing their fifth consecutive semi-final appearance.
“We were strong in Sydney, strong in Athens. Everything is being decided in 40 minutes. We’re lucky. Sometimes in other sports, four years work is decided in 10 seconds,” Jasikevicius said.
“In my opinion, our key to winning was strong defense,” Lithuania coach Ramunas Butautus said.
Yao Ming led the scoring for China with 19 points.
“I was thinking that we can do something more. But not everything has to do with practice and games,” said China coach Jonas Kazlauskas.
“I think we need more experience, need more players in other clubs, other countries,” added the coach of Lithuanian origin.
Spain were focused from the word go, played solid defense keeping the Croats to merely one point in the first six minutes.
Pau Gasol scored nine out of game-high 20 points, in the opening ten minutes to help Spain to a 22-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Croatia almost matched their more fancied rivals in scoring in the rest of the three quarters, but that early difference proved decisive in the end.
“They played aggressive defense, never letting us move the ball easily,” Croatia coach Jasmin Repesa said.
“But we missed many open shots. It’s difficult to beat a Spain team when you shoot badly.”
Without Mark Popovic, who sat out with an injury for the third game in a row, Croatia managed only 20 of 53 on the floor. Spain were 26 of 53.
“We are happy with the result,” said Gasol, who played his 100th game for Spain.
“It was an important win in the quarter-finals and it is something we wanted to do in the Olympics.”
“I’m happy that we are in the semi-finals, but we still have two games left to play. We need to be intense from the start as we were today.”
Spain coach Aito Garcia Reneses attributed the victory to “our great defense and a lot of focus.”
“That defense lasted for a long time in the game. The offense has been inferior to our defense and that perhaps had to do with the fact we were leading,” said Garcia Reneses, who replaced the popular Pepu Hernandez at the helm weeks before the Olympics.
Spain 72 (Pau Gasol 20, Felipe Reyes 13, Jose Calderon 10) bt Croatia 59 (Marko Banic 15, Zoran Planinic 12). Quarterwise Scores: 22-11, 37-26, 51-38.
Lithuania 94 (Sarunas Jasikevicius 23, Ramunas Siskauskas 15, Linas Kleiza 15, Simas Jasaitis 12) bt China 68 (Yao Ming 19, Yi Jianlian 11, Liu Wei 10). Quarterwise Scores: 19-17, 41-30, 70-53.
USA 116 (Kobe Bryant 25, Lebron James 16, Carmelo Anthony 15, Deron Williams 10, Chris Bosh 10) bt Australia 85 (Patrick Mills 20, Saville Glen 13, Joe Ingles 11, Brad Newley 10). Quarterwise Scores: 25-24, 55-43, 89-61.
Argentina 80 (Manu Ginobili 24, Carlos Delfino 23, Andres Nocioni 12, Luis Scola 11) bt Greece 78 (Antonios Fotsis 17, Konstantinos Tsartsaris 13, Ioannis Bourousis 12, Panagiotis Vasilopoulos 10). Quarterwise Scores: 22-23, 39-40, 56-55.
Last Modified on 23/08/2008 08:16