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Ginobili Lifts Argentina to Wild Opening Victory

August 16, 2004|From Wire Reports

Manu Ginobili's off-balance shot left his hand a split-second before the final buzzer and dropped through the basket to give Argentina an 83-82 victory over Serbia and Montenegro on Sunday during the first day of Olympic men's basketball.

While Argentina's players mobbed Ginobili, Serbia and Montenegro's coach protested that the shot came after the buzzer. But TV replays showed Ginobili released the ball in time.

"Once it left my hand, I knew it was good," said Ginobili, a 6-foot-6 guard for the San Antonio Spurs. "This is a very special thing."

Ginobili scored 27 points for Argentina, which avenged a defeat in the title game at the 2002 world championships.

Argentina prevailed Sunday after a final 10 minutes that had all the excitement of a medal-round match. Neither team led by more than four points in the fourth quarter after Serbia and Montenegro came back from a big early deficit.

Ginobili scored on a drive with 16.4 seconds left and drew Vladimir Radmanovic's fifth foul, converting the three-point play for an 81-81 tie. Dejan Tomasevic then drew Fabricio Oberto's fifth foul on a shot attempt from the lane with 3.8 seconds left, but he made only one of two free throws.

Argentina advanced the ball quickly, and point guard Alejandro Montecchia hit Ginobili with a pass just inside the free-throw line. Ginobili managed to get off a difficult shot from the right side of the lane that bounced off the glass and in.

"It was almost impossible," Ginobili said.

Radmanovic led Serbia and Montenegro with 21 points. Igor Rakocevic added 19 and Dejan Bodiroga had 16.

Argentina's Andres Nocioni, who signed Saturday with the Chicago Bulls, backed Ginobili with 12 points.

In other games, Spain easily defeated China, 83-58, as Yao Ming struggled against double- and triple-team defenses; Greece turned back Australia, 76-54; Italy edged New Zealand, 71-69, and Lithuania overcame a dreadful first half to defeat Angola, 78-73.

Pau Gasol, a 7-foot forward for the Memphis Grizzlies, finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds to lead Spain. Yao, an NBA All-Star starter and the tallest man in Olympic history, had 12 points and 10 rebounds before collecting his fifth foul in the fourth quarter.

Lazaros Papadopoulos, a 6-11 center, led four Greek players in double figures with 21 points. He also had nine rebounds.

New Zealand whittled a nine-point deficit to two points in the last 2 1/2 minutes, but Phillip Jones turned the ball over with a chance to tie the score in the final seconds, allowing Italy to escape with a victory.

Gianluca Basile scored 16 points to pace Italy, while Kirk Penney made five three-pointers to lead New Zealand with 20.

Lithuania, considered a medal favorite, had a tough time with Angola, trailing at the half and leading by a point after three quarters. Normally a good outside shooting team, the Lithuanians, bronze medalists in the last three Games, made only 25% of their shots in the first half.

"It was not a good game, but this is the reality about premieres in big tournaments. It is always tough to play against teams that have nothing to lose," said Lithuanian Coach Antanas Sireika.

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