Most of us who follow the men’s Olympic basketball games must remember just how intense the gold-medal game between the United States and Spain during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. For those of you who forgot, the bronze-medal game between Argentina and Lithuania was pretty intense and gritty that game was. Argentina ended up winning the game 87-75 which gave them the bronze medal and leaving Lithuania with no men’s basketball Olympic medal to bring back to their home country.
After four years, Lithuania will be able to get their revenge against Argentina after the bitter defeat. However, Lithuania has a different set of players this time. The two leading scorers for the Lithuanians in their bronze-medal game in Beijing is no longer on their roster. Lithuania has three players with some NBA experience and one who is still going to get some this coming NBA season. Former NBA players in forward Darius Songaila and point guard Sarunas Jasikevicius will both be coming off the bench for Lithuania. In 2008 Songaila didn’t play for the team, while Jasikevicius competed an was the third leading scorer on Lithuania with 9 points and also dished out 3 assists. Sarunas is no longer the starting guard for Lithuania due to his old age (36) and guard Maltias Kalnietis will be taking over his spot.
Maltias Kalnietis is a big point guard standing at 6 foot 5 and will be a solid match-up going up against Argentina’s starting point guard, 6 foot 3, Pablo Prigioni. Prigioni, now with the New York Knicks of the NBA, had 8 points, 6 assists, and 5 rebounds against world #1 USA in an exhibition match earlier this week. That match up of two big guards will certainly be one to look at when watching this game.
There will be a different look inside for Lithuania who will go alongside current Toronto Raptors forward, Linas Kleiza, who just had 5 points in Lithuania’s loss to Argentina four years ago. Center Jonas Valanciunas was the 5th overall pick by none other than Kleiza’s NBA team, the Raptors. Unfortunately for Raptors fans, Valanciunas hasn’t played even one minute in the NBA due to him wanting to stay in Lithuania for one more season. This season, the world and the NBA will be able to witness what this Lithuanian big man can really do. However, today and for the rest of the 2012 London Olympics, we’ll be able to see exactly how Valunciunas can do. The seven foot Valunciunas will be matched up against Juan Pedro Gutierrez who is one pesky big man to go up against. Against Lithuania in the 2008 games, Gutierrez didn’t play much and had zero points, but today, expect to see a lot from the Argentinian starting center.
Lithuania will definitely have it’s hands full against a team that almost stunned Team USA in during an exhibition match, but unfortunately fell due to big shots by the Americans. Argentina will obviously be led by Manu Ginobili who was inactive to play in the bronze-medal game. Argentina still took home the bronze-medal without their captain though. Against Team USA recently, Ginobili led the way with 23 points which included 3 three pointers. With Ginobili running the show together with Prigioni, Luis Scola will be taking care of business down low. Newly acquired by the Phoenix Suns, Scola will be doing some classic Scola-like hard work in the paint. Muscling through defenders and making a supposedly tough shot look easy as a layup. Valunciunas will be able to taste just how intense the paint will be in the NBA. Scola, however, will give up size to Lithuania and to that he has to work even much harder with Gutierrez.
Former NBA player Andres Nocioni will be Argentina’s wing man who will consistently knock down jumpers after jumpers much like 6th man, Carlos Delfino, who is currently an unrestricted free agent. In the bronze-medal game back in 2008, Delfino caught fire and led the way with 20 points including 3 three pointers and 10 rebounds as well. Delfino’s energy certainly can pumped up any team and that is one thing Lithunia has to control and try to match. Argentina’s energy is high when they get out and running, especially with Ginobili. Closing the half and opening the half were the bad quarters for Lithuania four years ago and if they are able to keep the game tight against Argentina who is looking for more than just bronze this year, Lithuania can pull off a victory. However, I won’t be shocked if they do because Lithuania isn’t that bad of a team themselves and with the height advantage and still enough legs to run, Lithuania will be a tough opponent.
My prediction: Argentina wins.
Lithuania vs Argentina tips-off at 4:15 PM ET
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