Olympic Basketball Results 2012: Most Dominant Performances from Day 8
Day 8 of the Olympics was the fourth day of the men's basketball tournament, and though there were no major upsets—though Russia's defeat of Spain was unexpected—Lithuania came within a whisker of upsetting the mighty Team USA.
In each of the six games played, at least one player from every winning team turned in a dominant performance, carrying his team to victory and one step closer to the medal podium. The dominant performances weren't left to the winning teams, however, with a few great performances that were in vain.
With Lithuania proving that Team USA isn't perfect, a new wave of hope is emerging through the tournament, and the world's best are setting their sights not just on a medal, but on the gold.
Here is a look at the six most dominant performances in the basketball tournament of Day 8 of the Olympics.
Team USA's close call against Lithuania was almost entirely due to lapses in defense. Team USA was out-rebounded 42-37 and allowed Lithuania to shoot 58 percent from the floor.
Team USA had been able to decimate Nigeria and Tunisia with minimal effort on the defensive end, but against a talented Lithuanian team, the lackadaisical defense came back to haunt them. Lithuania finished only five points behind Team USA, and held the lead with less than six minutes left in the game.
Chris Paul was the one member of Team USA who seemed dedicated to playing tough defense against Lithuania. Despite being the shortest member of Team USA by three inches, Paul grabbed seven rebounds, second most on the team. He also stole the ball four times and earned six assists.
Paul didn't score much in his team's effort, but scoring is hardly what's needed by Team USA. In a game in which Lithuania was able to score with little defensive effort by Team USA, Paul played tough D and kept the game close when Lithuania took the lead.
Lithuania nearly toppled the giant that is Team USA, and no one was more responsible for their nearly successful effort than Linas Kleiza.
Kleiza was 10-of-20 from the field, scoring 25 points with five rebounds and three assists.
Kleiza shines in international play. He was the star of the Lithuanian team at the 2010 World Championships, averaging 19 points and seven rebounds per game. Kleiza has spent six years in the NBA, and has turned into a solid sixth man-type for the Raptors.
His experience clearly left him unfazed by the overwhelming talent of his opponents, and he was almost able to lead Lithuania to a win over the best basketball team in the world.
Vitaliy Fridzon is little known in the United States, but he is a star for Khimki of the Russian Professional Basketball League. Fridzon looked every bit the star player in Russia's upset over Spain.
Fridzon led Russia with 24 points over Spain in Russia's 77-74 win, and made the clinching free throws to win the game with less than five seconds remaining. Fridzon played aggressively, drawing five fouls, and was 9-of-15 from the floor and a perfect 4-of-4 from the charity stripe.
Russia's surprise victory over Spain puts Russia on a collision course with the United States in the gold-medal game, which would be a rematch from the famed 1972 meeting of the two teams.
Timofey Mozgov is the most well-known member of Russia's team to basketball fans outside of Russia, and he will be critical to Russia's success if the team is to contend for a medal. But with his dominant performance against Spain, Vitaliy Fridzon introduced himself to the world, and a few more performances like the one we saw on Saturday should put Russia on the medal podium.
Though Tony Parker led France in its 73-69 victory over Tunisia, Nicolas Batum turned in the more dominant all-around performance, playing strong on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Batum was 6-of-9 from the field, including two three-pointers, and was a perfect 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. He also dished out three assists and drew four fouls. He looked just as good on the defensive end, blocking two shots, pulling down eight rebounds and committing only a single foul.
France has won three straight since they were trounced by the United States, and they continue to look like a strong contender for the silver or bronze medal.
Australia's 106-75 walloping of the British team looked like some of Team USA's recent victories, and Patrick Mills looked very much like the emerging NBA star that he is.
Mills averaged 10.3 points and 2.4 assists per game last season for the San Antonio Spurs, small potatoes compared to his performance against Britain.
Mills scored 39 points, the most anyone has yet scored in the Olympics, shooting 14-of-22 from the field. His aggressive play drew seven fouls, and he was perfect from the free-throw line. The British defenders were unable to stop Mills, who seemed to be scoring at will.
What was most impressive about Mills' performance was that he wasn't just hanging on points to run up the score. Australia trailed Britain by 10 at the half, and Mills scored 15 points in the third quarter to push Australia well past their opponents.
Australia's win earns them a spot in the quarterfinals, and Mills the chance to further show off his skills on the international stage.
Though he was outscored by four points by Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino turned in the most complete performance in Argentina's 93-79 elimination of Nigeria.
Delfino scored 18 points on 7-of-12 from the floor, including two three-pointers. He also dished out three assists, grabbed three steals and pulled down two rebounds.
Delfino will need to carry the momentum he built on Saturday into his upcoming game on Monday, when Argentina faces Team USA. The Argentinian team boasts several NBA players, which should rid them of many of the jitters and awe that plagued Nigeria and Tunisia in taking on Team USA. Delfino has played seven years in the NBA, and his veteran leadership will be essential to Argentina if they have any chance of defeating Team USA.