Day 4 Men: ARG 98 - NZL 94
Argentina claim quarter-final spot
ATHENS (Olympics) - Argentina broke hearts all over New Zealand on Saturday and clinched a place in the Olympic quarter-finals in the process.
The South American giants got 25 points from their Tau Ceramica forward Luis Scola and 19 from San Antonio Spurs wing Emanuel Ginobili in a 98-94 thriller that sent the Tall Blacks to their third defeat.
Argentina were among the gold medal favourites before the Athens Games but New Zealand, just as they showed by reaching the semi-finals of FIBA's 2002 World Championships, are capable of beating any side.
They came into the game fresh off their narrow triumph over Serbia & Montenegro.
Tall Blacks captain Pero Cameron, the star in Indianapolis two years ago, made six of his 10 three-point shots against Argentina and finished with 21 points.
He buried his most important with 1:08 left in the contest to close the gap to 93-92, turning up the volume in an already frenzied atmosphere at the Hellenikon Indoor Arena.
Trailing by one, Cameron fouled Scola with just under a minute to play and after a New Zealand time-out, the big power forward made only one of two from the line. New Zealand weren't able to take advantage, though.
Tab Baldwin's side brought the ball up court but encountered a stiff Argentinian defence. Ginobili almost picked off a pass but knocked the ball out of bounds with four seconds left on the shot clock. Baldwin called another time-out to draw up a play that might tie the score or put the Oceania side in front.
The ball was inbounded to Phill Jones, and he dribbled to his left above the top of the key and rushed a three-point attempt while falling away from the basket. The shot didn't draw rim and Argentina snatched the ball out of the air. Argentina coach Ruben Magnano then turned the game over to his biggest star, Ginobili.
The left-hander dribbled to the top of the key and started to knife his way into the lane when he made contact with reserve centre Ed Book.
Ginobili received the benefit of the doubt with the referee calling the foul on Book, much to the consternation of the Kiwis.
Ginobili made the first from the line but missed the second, however, New Zealand didn't box out Scola who grabbed the rebound. He was fouled and again split two free throws for a 96-92 lead. New Zealand needed a miracle but Cameron missed a three on their next possession.
Fabricio Oberto rebounded, was fouled and made two free throws before New Zealand's outstanding former UNLV point guard Mark Dickel scored for the final margin. Cameron took no solace in his offensive explosion.
Not many teams are going to win a game when they give up 98 points.
"We just couldn't stop them on defence," Cameron said. "And this went on to the end. We are improving, but in some parts of the game I'm afraid we're getting worse.
"Their big guys scored 65 points, we've been humbled by them."
It was not a pretty sight for New Zealand, who allowed the Argentinians to shoot 60% (36-60) for the game. Inside the three-point arc, Magnano's men shot 68% (30 of 44).
The good news for New Zealand is that they still control their own destiny and can reach the quarter-finals if they win their final game.
The bad news is that that game is against Spain, who haven't lost all summer, including a perfect 4-0 in the Olympics.
"We need to get more confident as a team," Cameron said.
"Against Spain, we will play to get a result. Anything can happen in this tournament."
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens
|Press Conference quotes:|
Luis Alberto SCOLA, center (ARG)
On the game:
"New Zealand surprised everybody and showed that nobody has to underestimate her as team. Our opponents played really hard from the beginning of the game and they didn't let us to built a secure deficit. They showed great strength and they played with heart. Fortunately we were concetrated at the end, we won the game and secure our qualification to the quarter-finals."
On the competition of the tournament:
"From what I've seen so far in this tournament the competition has a very high level. Everybody can win against everybody and this good for basketball. Let's hope we will see the same closed game also in the next round."
Ed BOOK, center (NZL)
On the game:
"Argentina was a very tough team. We thought we were playing the right defense for 40 minutes which shows that we could 've won. Unfortunately we weren't play the defense we should 've been playing. We can't keep taking time-outs in order to tell us to rebound. From now on we can't have our heads down for too long and we have to do what we are suppose to be doing from tommorow on. We let our selves down, it was tough game, but we have to come back."
|Press Conference quotes:|
Fabricio OBERTO, Center (ARG)
"We knew that it was going to be a tough game, because of New Zealand's style of play. We needed a long time and a lot of energy to adapt to their defense; they switch all the time and then play the quick transition. Now we must focus on the next game against Italy, and continue creating and building up our game through vistories. Italy is a strong team that desperately need to win, so this is our next goal, and then we can think about the quarterfinals."
Pero CAMERON, Forward, Team Captain (NZL)
"We just couldn't stop them on defense, and this went on to the end. We are improving, but in some parts of the game I'm afraid we're getting worse. Their big guys scored 65 points, we've been humbled by them. We need to get more confident as a team. Against Spain, we will play to get a result. Anything can happen in this tournament."
Ruben MAGNANO, Head Coach (ARG)
"We played against a great team, which has its own special way of playing and creates many difficulties for every opponent, no matter who the opponent is. They have great heart and they are restless; we knew that from (the 2003 World Championships in) Indianapolis. Congratulations to them, they played a great game. As I have mentioned before, it's too early to speculate on the next round. Our next game is against Italy, and this will be our focal point. But we are ready for whatever opponent in the quarterfinals."
Tab BALDWIN, Head Coach (NZL)
"We played against one of the best teams in the world, which I am sure will reach the medal round, and I really believe we had a chance. We had the right mentality, but were defensively vulnerable, so we didn't get the job done. Today's loss is kind of a disaster for us but it's not the end of the world. But nonetheless we have some hopes left, if we succeed again in winning the right game at the right time, as we did in Indianapolis."
Source: Athens news service