Friday, 12 August 2016
Spain shrugged off a security scare that meant they tipped off in an empty arena as the 2012 silver medallists got an all-important first Olympic basketball win Thursday over Nigeria, 96-87.
Spain, which also took silver in 2008, trailed underdog Nigeria by a point to start the fourth period, but balanced scoring down the stretch from their veteran Olympians helped them avoid a third straight loss.
Big man Pau Gasol finished with 16 points and guard Ricky Rubio had 15.
The game started with no fans present inside the 16,000-capacity arena after Brazilian security forces prevented them entering and then staged what appeared to be a controlled explosion just outside.
The loud bang was heard just before tip-off of the game in Rio’s main Olympic park.
“We heard the explosion. We didn’t know exactly what it was. We just kind of looked around and said, ‘What’s going on?'” said Gasol.
“We thought maybe nobody came to watch the game.”
Rubio added: “Officials told us to be calm, saying it was just a precaution, so it wasn’t really a big deal.”
Security officials told AFP just before the explosion that an unspecified “special situation” prevented them from allowing fans inside.
However, spectators were allowed in soon after as security gave the all-clear. The game was unaffected.
Spain, which is ranked number two in the world and was bridesmaid in the past two Games to the powerful USA squad of NBA stars, built an early lead over the lightly regarded Nigerians.
But the Africans closed the gap on the strength of 13 three-pointers including seven from red-hot shooting guard Chamberlain Oguchi.
The win helps keep alive Spain’s hopes of advancing to the medal rounds despite last-second losses to Croatia and Brazil to open the competition.
“Nigeria just kept battling us, but we were able to get out of it. That was the first step in the right direction,” said Gasol, who has left the Chicago Bulls to join the San Antonio Spurs for the coming season.
“We knew this wasn’t going to be easy. We played two heart-breakers (against Croatia and Brazil) but we got a good win, an important win, against a team that’s playing really well. They made it really tough on us.”
Spain is now 1-2, while Nigeria drops to 0-3.
A Rio 2016 spokeswoman at the arena declined comment on the security scare, saying Games organisers would issue a statement.
There have been at least three controlled explosions of suspect items in Rio since the Olympics started. One was near the finish line of the cycling road race on Saturday.
Source by: AFP