Argentina routs Lithuania in opener

Updated: July 29, 2012, 8:56 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

LONDON -- Those Argentina legs still looked young while running past Lithuania.

Luis Scola scored 32 points, Manu Ginobili had 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists a day after turning 35, and Argentina opened the Olympic men's basketball tournament with a 102-79 victory on Sunday night.

Playing poorly by their standards during exhibition play and considered too old by many others to be viewed as a top medal threat anymore, the Argentines denied wanting to use their opener to send any kind of message.

"I think the message is that we are old but we can play, something like that," said Scola, now with the Phoenix Suns.

"We didn't want to show nothing to nobody. We weren't playing well in the preparation. We weren't feeling well, we got this feeling that it's not going well, we need to do something, we've got to play better, we've got to move faster, we've got to have a little bit more of a spark, so we needed to have this game."

Carlos Delfino finished with 20 points for the Argentines in a rematch of their 87-75 victory over Lithuania in the bronze-medal game four years ago in Beijing.

It was an impressive start for the 2004 gold medalists, who have faced questions if the run is over for the "Golden Generation" that has been an international power for the last decade.

That certainly seemed the case two years ago in the quarterfinals of the World Championship, when Lithuania rolled by Argentina in a 104-85 victory. Lithuania hit nine of its first 11 3-pointers and sent Argentina to its earliest exit at a major tournament since 2000.

"We remembered the game in Turkey, quarterfinal in Turkey that day, first quarter they killed us," said 35-year-old, New York Knicks-bound point guard Pablo Prigioni. "So we have that game in our head and we go on the court thinking that that cannot happen."

But Ginobili didn't play in that tournament and having him back now gives Argentina the inside-out tandem of Scola and Ginobili that has combined for so many international victories.

Scola and other several other key players are in their 30s, though looked in top condition while breaking open the game over the middle two quarters and even occasionally -- though not often -- managing to somewhat quiet the cheering, chanting Lithuania crowd that began making noise even before the previous game at the Basketball Arena was over.

"I felt very good," said Ginobili, set to face San Antonio Spurs teammate Tony Parker of France on Tuesday. "Of course the adrenaline at the beginning of an Olympic games kind of makes you forget everything, the aches, the pain and age. So felt very energetic, very proud of my teammates. It was a wonderful game."

Linas Kleiza, who plays with the Toronto Raptors, scored 20 points for Lithuania.

Up 24-23 after one, Argentina got hot from the 3-point line and scored 27 points in the second quarter, taking a 51-39 lead into halftime on Delfino's 3-pointer as time expired. The Argentines then scored seven in a row, Delfino and Ginobili making layups before Delfino buried a 3-pointer, extending a 13-point cushion to 63-43 with 6:51 remaining in the third.

The Argentines gave the U.S. a good test in an exhibition game last week in Barcelona, Spain, trimming an early 20-point deficit to four in the final minutes before falling 86-80, and hopes to have locked up a quarterfinal berth before the teams meet again next Monday in their final game of Group A play. They face another tough opponent Tuesday in France, with Ginobili joking he would tell his teammates to fog up the goggles that Spurs teammate Parker is wearing to protect a recent eye injury.

Argentina and Lithuania met in their opener for the second straight Olympics. Lithuania won 79-75 to start things in Beijing but never could slow down Argentina in this one.

Spain 97, China 81

Pau Gasol had 21 points and 11 rebounds to lead Spain to a 97-81 victory over China in the opener for both teams.

Spain got off to a slow start and held just a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter, 19-17. However, they went on a 7-0 run in the second quarter to give themselves a cushion and were never seriously challenged the rest of the game.

Spain was silver medalist at the Beijing Games four years ago and is the two-time European champion. They are expected to challenge for a gold medal here with their imposing front line of the 7-foot Gasol (Los Angeles Lakers), his 7-1 brother Marc Gasol (Memphis Grizzlies) and 6-10 Serge Ibaka (Oklahoma City Thunder) -- who finished with 17 points.

Yi Jianlian of the Dallas Mavericks had a double-double for China, scoring a game-high 30 points and pulling down 12 rebounds.

But China had no answer to the depth of Spain, which had four players score in double digits -- Juan Carlos Navarro scored 14 points and Jose Calderon (Toronto Raptors) added 12.

Russia 95, Great Britain 75

Andrei Kirilenko, heading back to the NBA, scored 35 points to help Russia spoil Great Britain's return to Olympic men's basketball with a 95-75 victory.

Kirilenko, who played last season in Russia after spending 10 seasons with the Utah Jazz, signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday. Long a top defender, he showed an expanded offensive game, making 14 of 17 shots.

Alexey Shved, also Minnesota-bound, added 16 points and 13 assists for the Russians, who wore down the hosts with their physical defensive pressure.

Luol Deng scored 26 points for Britain, making its first appearance in the field since hosting the Olympics in 1948. The Chicago All-Star made the first basket of the game, drawing a huge cheer from the home crowd, and former NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu added 22, but the British were 4 of 26 from 3-point range.

Nigeria 60, Tunisia 56

Al-Farouq Aminu had 15 points to help Nigeria hold off a second-half rally by Tunisia, 60-56.

Nigeria held Tunisia to 15 points in the first half and held a 16-point halftime lead. They led by as many as 19 and seemed in control of the game.

Tunisia, however, began the second half with a 10-2 run and closed the gap to two points late in the game.

But Aminu, who plays for the NBA's New Orleans Hornets, made 1 of 2 free throws to seal the victory with 11 seconds remaining.

Amine Rzig scored 15 of his 18 points in the second-half to lead Tunisia in the Group A game.

It was the Olympic debut for both teams in men's basketball.

Brazil 75, Australia 71

Leandro Barbosa scored 16 points and Brazil held on to beat Australia 75-71.

Brazil had a one-point lead at halftime, but opened the third quarter with a 10-2 run and extended its lead to 11.

Then David Andersen got on a roll and helped Australia get back in the game.

The former NBA forward scored all of his 14 points in the second half and Australia battled back to within two -- 73-71 -- on Joe Ingles' basket with 29 seconds left.

Brazil let the clock wind down and Australia was called for kick ball -- which reset the shot clock. The Australians were then forced to foul Brazil captain Marcelinho Huertas, who hit two free throws to seal the victory with five seconds left.

Patty Mills, re-signed by the Spurs earlier this month, finished with a game-high 20 points for Australia.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.