France's Tony Parker (center) drives through Argentina's Manu Ginobili (left) and Luis Scola. (AP)
During the NBA playoffs, more media members cover each game than you can stuff into already crowded locker rooms. To make things easier, postgame chats with each contest's top performers are conducted in a separate interview room, up on a stage, with spotlights shining on the athletes and cameras carrying every question and answer to the fans at home. Only a select few ballers take part in these postseason Q&A sessions — if you're one of them, you just had what's called a "podium game."
In the Olympics, of course, "podium" carries a slightly different meaning. At the end of each day of hoops competition in London, we'll bridge the gap between the two, celebrating those performers who shone for their national teams, helped their squads get closer to the medal stand, or both. This is Podium Games.
The gold goes to ... France's Tony Parker. To be sure, Parker didn't win this one alone — multiple teammates made timely contributions to France's huge 71-64 win over Argentina, FIBA's third-ranked team in the world (France is 12th).
After an (allegedly) Opening Ceremony-induced disappearing act against the U.S., Nicolas Batum's strong first quarter (eight points, three rebounds, one assist, one block) got France off to a good start. Young guns Nando De Colo and Kevin Seraphin played huge minutes in the second quarter that let coach Vincent Collet rest his starters; swingman Mickael Gelabale's three third-quarter 3-pointers kept Argentina at bay. But with the game in the balance late, France turned to its bespectacled leader. And he responded, scoring eight of his team-high 17 points in the final 5:04 of the fourth quarter.
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While Parker shot just 4 for 17 from the floor in the game, two of the makes came late and were huge. On the first, he dragged exhausted 35-year-old Argentine point guard Pablo Prigioni out near half-court, made him fight through three straight screens from center Ronny Turiaf and then, after losing him, drained a jumper from the top of the key to make it a two-possession game. Less than a minute later, after a Luis Scola miss, Parker danced with the Argentina defense, darting back and forth from left to right around multiple screens before eventually getting what he wanted — a one-on-one mismatch with the lumbering Scola at the free-throw line.
Read More »from Parker leads late, Splitter and Huertas hurt hosts, Khryapa connects and a Tunisian towers: Tuesday’s Podium Games