Stephen Gosling/Getty Images
The pressure can mount quickly in the new Olympic format. With only three guaranteed games for each team in the tournament, a bad start in group play is insurmountable.
That puts teams like Argentina on the men’s side and France on the women’s side in precarious positions on Thursday as they look to rebound from disappointing losses to start off the games in Tokyo.
Argentina will attempt to dig itself out of a hole it created in a loss to Luka Doncic and Slovenia. They’ll now face a must-win game against a talented Spain team that is looking to win the group.
The United States women’s team will also be in action. After host nation Japan pulled off an upset against the French, they’ll have to be locked in to ensure they don’t suffer the same fate.
Here’s a look at the whole schedule for Thursday into early Friday morning. Live broadcast information is included but it’s also worth noting that the Spain vs. Argentina game will re-air at 6 p.m. ET on the USA network, while the women’s game between the United States and Japan will re-air between 2-6 p.m. ET on Friday.
Olympic Basketball Schedule
Thursday, July 29
Men’s: Spain (-8.5) vs. Argentina, NBC Sports Network, NBCOlympics.com
Women’s: Belgium (-29) vs. Puerto Rico, NBC Sports App, NBCOlympics.com
Friday, July 30
Women’s: United States (-19) vs. Japan, USA, NBCOlympics.com
Women’s: France (-7.5) vs. Nigeria, NBC Sports App, NBCOlympics.com
Odds via DraftKings Sportsbook.
The action starts with a crucial game in Group C on the men’s side as Argentina has serious work to do to make it out of the group stage.
In this year’s format, the top two teams automatically advance to the quarterfinals. The two best third-place teams will also make the field, but that comes down to point differential, which can get a little wonky.
That means the Argentines are already running out of opportunities to ensure they get out of this stage. Even if they don’t win, they will need to make sure their point differential, which is already -18, doesn’t swell much more.
Argentina has been a factor in Olympic basketball recently but has seen diminishing returns every four years since it took gold in 2004.
A 41-year-old Luis Scola led the team in scoring 23 points against Slovenia. Facing the likes of Marc Gasol and Willy Hernangomez on the interior against Spain, it will need some of the young players and perimeter threats to dial it up a notch.
Spain looked satisfactory in an 88-77 win over Japan. Rui Hachimura put up 20 points for the host team, but it’s still a team that only qualified by virtue of the games being in Tokyo.
On the women’s side, the first game between Belgium and Puerto Rico doesn’t look particularly close on paper. Belgium earned a strong 85-70 win over Australia in their opener, while Puerto Rico is one of the thinner groups of talent in the field.
But Emma Meesseman is a good reason to tune in. She lit it up against the Aussies with 32 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists and 4 steals in her Olympic debut. She should put up big numbers in another win.
The United States will have to be focused to make sure Japan doesn’t pull off another upset. The Japanese team might not have any WNBA players, but they play with intensity and will play their whole bench, as they love to apply pressure.
They held the French to 4-of-19 shooting from beyond the arc, so that will be something to watch. Meesseman’s big day was only rivaled by the USA’s A’ja Wilson in her Olympic debut, as she scored 19 points and 13 rebounds.
The United States turned it over 25 times in the win over Nigeria. Similar negligence could hurt them against a team that likes to run as much as Japan.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).
21+. NJ/PA/WV/IN/IA/CO/IL/TN only. In partnership with Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.