Luis Scola and Manu Ginobili are together again on the world stage with Argentina.
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And the explosive duo combined for 53 points to help Argentina get started on its quest for a third straight Olympic men’s basketball medal with a 102-79 victory over Lithuania on Sunday night.
Scola, now with the Phoenix Suns, scored a game-high 32 points. Ginobili, the San Antonio Spurs star guard, flirted with a triple-double: 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Carlos Delfino finished with 20 points for the Argentines in a rematch of their 87-75 victory over Lithuania in the bronze-medal game four years ago in Beijing.
It was an impressive start for the 2004 gold medalists, who have faced questions if they’re too old for one more run to the medals podium.
That certainly seemed the case two years ago in the quarterfinals of the World Championship, when Lithuania ran by them in a 104-85 victory. Lithuania hit nine of its first 11 3-pointers and sent Argentina to its earliest exit at a major tournament since 2000.
But Ginobili, who turned 35 Saturday, didn’t play in that tournament and having him back now gives Argentina the inside-out tandem of Scola and Ginobili that has combined for so many international victories in the last decade.
Scola and other several other key players are in their 30s, though looked in top condition while breaking open the game over the middle two quarters and even occasionally — though not often — managing to somewhat quiet the cheering, chanting Lithuania crowd that began making noise even before the previous game at the Basketball Arena was over.
Linas Kleiza, who plays with the Toronto Raptors, scored 20 for Lithuania.
Up 24-23 after one, Argentina got hot from the 3-point line and scored 27 points in the second quarter, taking a 51-39 lead into halftime on Delfino’s 3-pointer as time expired. The Argentines then scored seven in a row, Delfino and Ginobili making layups before Delfino buried a 3-pointer, extending a 13-point cushion to 63-43 with 6:51 remaining in the third.
The Argentines gave the U.S. a good test in an exhibition game last week in Barcelona, Spain, trimming an early 20-point deficit to four in the final minutes before falling 86-80, and hopes to have locked up a quarterfinal berth before the teams meet again next Monday in their final game of Group A play.
The teams met in their opener for the second straight Olympics. Lithuania beat Argentina 79-75 to start things in Beijing but never could slow down Argentina in this one.