Lithuania (3-0, 6 points) vs. Spain (1-2, 4 points)
- Time: 5:00 PM CST
When the Olympics first started, I debated whether to do a primer for every Lithuania and Spain game. But then I realized I’m not Fran Fraschilla. I’m not classically trained in the international game, and it likely would’ve been a disservice to just speak of the players that I did know about (which is likely less than 50% of the Olympic men’s basketball participants). So I targeted this game to do the primer, and it turns out to be a pretty pivotal game in Group B play.
In the preliminary stage of the tournament, each team has to play every team in their allotted group. Once the round robin stage is done, the top 4 teams in each group play in a single elimination tournament with seeding decided by the points system (2 points for a win and 1 point for a loss) and various tie-breakers if necessary. Currently in Group B, Argentina leads the group with a 3-1 record by virtue of having won their earlier game today against host country Brazil. Lithuania is currently the only undefeated team in Group B with a 3-0 record, and is almost guaranteed to make it to the elimination tournament.
Spain, on the other hand, is fighting for their elimination tournament lives. They currently sit 5th in Group B by virtue of their 1-2 record. Their two losses have been by a grand total of 3 points. Spain was thought to be the 2nd best team in the Olympics, but has so far failed to live up to that billing. They’ve suffered from inconsistent guard play that has made Pau Gasol’s life miserable on the inside. Teams are packing the paint and daring the likes of Ricky Rubio and Juan Carlos Navarro to beat them from the outside.
Now for the reason why a Lithuania vs. Spain primer is showing up on Daily Thunder.
Oklahoma City rookies Domantas Sabonis and Alex Abrines have had two completely different Olympic experiences. Sabonis has been an integral part of Team Lithuania, starting two games at power forward and usually finishing out close games. In three games, Sabonis is averaging 8.3 points and 5 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field. The front line of Jonas Valenciunas and Sabonis has been a definite plus from Lithuania.
Abrines, on the other hand, has been virtually nonexistent in Spain’s first three prelim games. In the two games he has been available, he has played a grand total of one minute. He missed Spain’s last game with knee soreness. Abrines is suffering from Team Spain’s penchant for only playing veteran players. While he may get his shot in four years, Abrines is likely destined to ride the bench for the rest of these Olympics.
This game is a virtual elimination game for Spain. If they lose this one, they’ll be in 5th place in the group with only one more game left in round robin play. For Lithuania, its all about seeding. If they are able to stay on top of Group B, there’s the possibility for them to be on the other side bracket from the United States when it comes time for the elimination round.