Day 1 Men: ARG 83 - SCG 82
Ginobili lay-up decides thriller
ATHENS, (Olympics) - Emanuel Ginobili made a grand entrance at the 2004 Olympics with a buzzer-beating lay-up to fire Argentina to an 83-82 win over Serbia & Montenegro on Sunday - the tournament's opening day.
The San Antonio Spurs superstar, who had a game-high 25 points, has scored many an important basket in his career but this one has to rank near the top of the list.
It enabled his country to avenge their overtime defeat in the final of FIBA's 2002 World Championships in Indianapolis.
Dejan Tomasevic maded just one of two free throws to leave his country with an 82-81 edge with 3.8 seconds, thus leaving the door ajar for Ginobili to rescue his team.
Argentina inbounded the ball to Alejandro Montecchia, and the point guard sprinted past half-court and passed to a streaking Ginobili on the right.
Off balance as he cut into the lane, Ginobili laid the ball off the glass as the buzzer sounded.
Argentina's players piled onto Ginobili, who was lying on his back with clinched fists in the air, while Serbia & Montenegro's players and coaching staff stood at the other end of the court stunned.
Serbia & Montenegro trailed by as many as 14 points in the first half and were staring at a 49-39 defict at the break.
After Farbricio Oberto's basket in the lane at the beginning of the second half, however, a Vladimir Radmanovic bucket started a 7-0 run to bring his team back into the game.
They didn't level the until early in the fourth quarter.
Radmanovic scored following an offensive rebound by Tomasevic to make it 61-61.
Two trips down the court later and Igor Rakocevic penetrated and scored for a 63-61 lead - Serbia & Montenegro's first of the night.
After the game had five lead changes, Bodiroga, a player not historically known for his long range shooting skills, buried a three-pointer with the shot clock winding down for a 78-75 advantage with 2:33 remaining.
Ae Serbo-Montenegrin free throw horror then doomed the team.
Tomasevic made just one of two for an 80-76 lead with 42 seconds left.
After Andres Nocioni scored down low for Argentina, Carlos Delinfo fouled Bodiroga and he made only one of two for an 81-78 edge.
Ginobili, with 16 seconds left, drove into the teeth of the defence, scored and was fouled. He sank the free throw for an 81-81 tie.
After Oberto fouled Tomasevic at the other end, he again missed the first and made the second to give Ginobili his chance for glory.
Ginobili, who scored 17 of his points in the first quarter, also had five rebounds and three assists.
Nocioni, having this week paid the buyout clause in his contract with Spanish club Tau Ceramica so he could sign a contract with the Chicago Bulls, had 12 points.
Carlos Delfino, a recent Detroit Pistons signing, had an excellent Olympic debut with eight points in 14 minutes off the bench.
Serbia & Montenegro, who are missing Peja Stojakovic for this tournament, got 21 points from Seattle Sonic Radmanovic.
Recent Pamesa Valencia signing Igor Rakocevic contributed 19 - most of the points coming on drives into the lane.
Captain Bodiroga had 16 points but was just five of 12 from the field.
Tomasevic, sorely missed last summer along with Bodiroga at the European Championships, scored six points. He made just four of eight free throws in the game.
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens
Emanuel GINOBILI (ARG) - guard
On his last-second game-winning shot:
"We didn't have any particular plan, because there was no time to set it. I saw my teammate running the court and I just keep following him. I couldn't imagine that he would pass me the ball. I just thought that he would shoot it.
"When I saw him pass me the ball, my main concern was to release it before time expired. It was a short shot and in those kind of situations the chances are fifty/fifty. When I saw the ball hit the glass and go in the basket, I started celebrate.
"It was very emotional and I was very happy about that moment. It was one of those shots."
On the result:
"It was a very important win for us, because we know who Serbia & Montenegro is. They are the world champions. They have tradition, history, potential and the NBA skills. It was a very good start for us, but we have to put it behind because it really doesn't mean anything, and on Tuesday we have to be ready to face Spain."
Ruben Pablo MAGNANO (ARG) - Head coach
"I am really happy because we managed to beat Serbia & Montenegro, the current World Champions. Everybody is asking me if we took revenge for our loss in Indianapolis tonight, but I am just saying it was a very important win and we have to move on. Of course, that loss back in 2002 gave us high motivation, but revenge was not in our minds."
Fabricio OBERTO (ARG) - Power forward
"I think it was a very tough game. We started really well in both defense and offense, thats why we dominated during the whole first half. When the third period started we lost our concentration, we didnt stay calm and allowed our opponents to come back and fight for the win. At the crucial moments, we got together as a team and manage to beat them with an incredible shot like this."
Zeljko OBRADOVIC (SCG) - Head coach
"We showed two different faces, a bad one and a good one. My players improved their game during the second half and honestly you cant say much after a loss like this. My team fought hard and lost at the buzzer. I know it is painful for everybody, but we have to step up and try to win as many games as possible."
Igor RAKOCEVIC (SCG) - Point guard
"It was a pure battle among two great teams. We lost, but we could win the game too. We showed two completely different performances tonight. After a bad first half, we managed to react, to cut the deficit and even lead the game by three points. At the end we had bad luck, but life goes on."
Source: Athens News Service