HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – As the United States named its 12-man roster for London 2012 on Saturday, two teams earned trips to London with victories in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Caracas, Venezuela.
Russia and Lithuania, two of the favorites in the 12-team qualifying tourney, are teams Nos. 10 and 11 in the Olympic field.
In the first of Saturday’s games, point guard Alexey Shved (who looks to be NBA-bound this fall) led Russia to an 85-77 win over Nigeria, scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists. The game was tied at 26 early in the second quarter, but Russia outscored Nigeria 20-5 to close the period and led by as many as 21 in the second half.
Andrei Kirilenko added 19 points, eight rebounds and four steals for Russia, while Ike Diogu (who played two games for the Spurs last season) led Nigeria with 16 points and 14 boards. The Hornets’ Al-Farouq Aminu scored 13 points, but had seven turnovers.
Russia shot a scorching 14-for-27 from 3-point range. They were arguably the U.S. Team’s toughest competition in the medal rounds in the 2010 World Championship, losing 89-79 in the quarterfinals.
The team the U.S. beat in the ’10 semifinals was the second team to qualify for the Olympics on Saturday. Lithuania, who had a disappointing finish in last year’s Eurobasket (which they hosted), redeemed themselves with a 109-83 blowout of the Dominican Republic.
Lithuania had five guys in double-figures, including the Raptors’ Jonas Valanciunas, who scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds. Like Russia, Lithuania was red hot from beyond the arc, hitting 10 of their 18 threes.
The Dominican Republic shot just 39 percent from the field. The Hawks’ Al Horford was 4-for-14 and had only four rebounds in 23 minutes. After a huge performance (28 points) in the quarterfinals, the Kings’ Francisco Garcia scored just 11 points in 21 minutes.
Nigeria and the Dominican Republic will play Sunday for the final spot in the Olympics. That game can be seen on NBA TV at 8 p.m. ET.
|Field for 2012 Olympics|