Two nail-biting finishes kept the pot boiling at the top of Group B in the men’s Olympic basketball on Thursday, while a record-breaking romp underlined why the US are the favorites to land gold.
Russia squeezed past Brazil 75-74 to maintain their unbeaten record at the summit of Group B along with 2008 silver medallists Spain (3-0), who narrowly held off an inspired British team (0-3) to score a 79-78 victory.
Vitaliy Fridzon’s three-pointer while falling came with four seconds left on the clock and saw Russia home against Brazil (2-1).
“They hit a very tough shot,” Brazil captain Marcelinho Huertas told reporters. “He could do that 10 times and he wouldn’t make it again. He was falling and a guy was under his feet. We have to forget this right away.”
Spain looked like they were going through the motions before waking up in the last minute to avoid a shock defeat against gutsy Britain.
“We were always at half-speed until the very end when the game was in danger,” coach Sergio Scariolo said.
Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol said the close call for his team would wake up the Spaniards.
“This was not the kind of result we expected, but it was a good game for us to realize that we have to play 100 percent all the time,” Gasol said. “It’s good that it didn’t cost us.”
Britain’s coach appreciated another valiant effort by his team, who also pressurized Russia before losing and were beaten by five points by Brazil.
“We’re proud of our players,” the host nation’s US coach Chris Finch said. “We had an unbelievable atmosphere in the arena and I’m proud of our fans.”
Luol Deng had 26 points and Joel Freeland scored 25 as Britain used sharp three-point shooting to give world No. 2 Spain a fright.
A flood of three-point scoring earned the defending champions from the US (3-0) a 156-73 drubbing of Nigeria (1-2) in Group A.
Led by Carmelo Anthony, who picked up 37 points, including a remarkable 10-of-12 from three-point range, the Americans set an Olympic record for most points in a game to surpass the haul of 138 by Brazil in 1988.
The US team’s 78 points at halftime was also a Games record.
In other preliminary-round games, France (2-1) beat Lithuania (1-2) 82-74, Argentina (2-1) beat Tunisia (0-3) 92-69 and Australia (1-2) defeated China (0-3) 81-61.