Lithuania stun champions Argentina
BEIJING // Argentina's defence of their Olympic men's basketball title suffered a blow when they were upset 79-75 by Lithuania in their opening game. World champions Spain, in contrast, had too much firepower for Greece in their Beijing Games opener, rolling to an 81-66 victory. Earlier, Dirk Nowitzki's Germany overpowered Angola, while European champions Russia thrashed Iran. Led by Manu Ginobili, Argentina wiped out a 12-point deficit to tie the game at 75-75 before the Denver Nuggets forward Linas Kleiza nailed an off-balance three-point shot with 2.1 seconds left to seal a nail-biting win for Lithuania.
The Lithuanians, three-times Olympic bronze medallists, went 60 per cent from behind the three-point arc in the second half to keep Argentina at arm's length until a furious late fightback by the 2004 gold medallists. "I wasn't on fire ? I was just three for three (on three-pointers)," an underwhelmed Kleiza said. "It was actually a simple shot. It's very special to beat Argentina in our first game."
Ginobili paid tribute to Lithuania. "You got to give them (Lithuania) credit," said the San Antonio Spurs guard, who scored 19 points in a losing effort. "They made some unbelievable, tough shots. "It's not an upset in the sense that we couldn't lose to them. They're a great team and we knew it." Guard Rudy Fernandez finished with 16 points in Spain's win over Greece, Jose Manuel Calderón added 13 and Los Angeles Lakers forward Pau Gasol had 11 off the bench in Group B.
"The first game of an Olympics is always the most difficult," Spain coach Aito Garcia Reneses told reporters. "But Pau Gasol is improving so the expectation is high." Olympic hosts China were taking on the United States in a Group B blockbuster later on Sunday. *Reuters
Published: August 10, 2008 04:00 AM