On a pair of days where everything was over-analysed, one play in particular got social media in a frenzy. Emmet Ryan on Dario’s block and the rest of what happened
Throughout Croatia’s comeback win over Spain, the trend on social media was to react way too much into Dario Saric’s poor scoring performance for the victors. It was an ugly night for Saric in what was, for many viewers, their first look at the new arrival on the Philadelphia 76ers roster. The trouble with international tournaments is that their short format tends to make every game come into sharp focus. For context, assuming the USA wins gold, it’s a lock that Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson each spend less time on the floor in Rio than either did in their series against one another in the playoffs. It’s entirely plausible that their combined Olympic minutes come in at less than the minutes logged by just one of them in the Western conference finals. The sample size is stupidly small.
In this one outing, Saric saw heavy time but only went 1 of 7 from the field in over 33 minutes of play. That’s ugly as hell but off days happen and over the past four seasons he’s followed a pretty impressive arc in development. That vile shooting display was mitigated heavily by his 7 boards and 5 assists but the basketball media was ready for a flood of thinkpieces about what this game meant for Saric and the Sixers until this happened.
And now Dario is the saviour that Philly has been waiting for. Trust the homie to get it done a few times in this tournament. The play was a joy to watch but it’s only round 1 of group play folks.
For Croatia it’s an important win, a 2-2 run from here should put them in the last eight and possibly get them third place or better in the group. Remember, fourth isn’t much of a reward as it all but assures a quarter final with the USA which tends to be bad for medal hopes.
Spain should still have enough in the tank to progress but how they do so and who they meet is up in the air. Fourth puts them against the USA in the last eight, second in the semis, making first (still doable) and third their best options for getting to the gold medal game. It’s far from ideal when there is a clear incentive to lose a game but it’s one that is all but unavoidable given the current shape of international hoops.
Boomers big start
Well that was a lovely way to silence the doubters. Australia laid the smackdown on France in their opening game. It puts Tony Parker and pals in a sticky spot again as they now must win 3 of 4 to be sure of a place in the next round and one of those is against the USA. A pair of wins over Venezuela and China will probably be enough but the road just got bumpier.
Serbia meanwhile were businesslike in their ripping apart of Venezuela to set up a likely decisive game for second in the group with the Boomers later today. The other Group A game saw the USA romp past China to the surprise of no-one.
Lithuania prefer chaos
A thunderous home crowd roarer Brazil on an extraordinary comeback where Lithuania managed to forget what offence was for most of the final quarter. Having utterly dominated through the first half, the back to back EuroBasket silver medalists managed to get a right scare late on before eventually ensuring they went 1-0 in group play.
The comeback aside, Brazil’s limitations were on full display and they face Spain next in a bid to get back in contention to progress. In the group’s other game, Argentina left no doubt in their must-win game against a poor Nigeria team. Missing Al Farouq Aminu and Festus Ezeli, the AfroBasket champions were never likely to pull an upset here. For their opponents that makes avoiding a mistake in this one vital, anything other an 0-5 is unlikely.
Women’s road shaping up
The road to the medals in the women’s tournament is a little clearer as a few teams have played twice. The five European sides have endured mixed fortunes. France moved to 2-0 with a late buzzer beater giving them the win over Belarus, having already beaten Turkey. The loss for Belarus followed a prior narrow defeat to Japan, putting them under immense pressure at 0-2 after just two days of action. Turkey also fell to 0-2 with a loss to Australia but having got both of their games against the two group favourites out of the way, it’s not quite time for panic yet.
Spain and Serbia meanwhile faced off in the all-European clash in Group B with a 13 and 11 display by Anna Cruz giving Spain the win. Spain face the freight train that is Team USA next.