They’ve been teammates for so long that they’re basketball brothers, family. They’ve won countless games and three NBA titles together.
But Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were out of place Tuesday night — on opposite teams in the Olympics.
The separated San Antonio Spurs.
“Very strange,” Ginobili said. “The first time ever after playing probably like a thousand games together. Wishing him to miss a shot is kind of something new.”
Parker scored 17 points and fed a lob pass over Ginobili for a key basket in the final two minutes to help France stun Argentina 71-64 in a preliminary round tournament game featuring 10 NBA players.
Parker, wearing goggles to protect a left eye seriously injured in a New York nightclub brawl in June, got the best of his close friend Ginobili in the first game between the two All-Stars.
“It was special,” said Parker. “Manu is one of my best friends. We’ve been playing together for a long time and it was kind of weird to be playing against him.”
With France leading 67-62, Parker — one of the world’s most dangerous players with the ball in the open floor — drove the left side and threaded his pass over Ginobili’s outstretched arms to Kevin Seraphin, who laid it in to make it 69-62 with 1:07 left.
Following a miss by Argentina, Parker made two free throws to put the game away for France, which was rocked by 27 points on Sunday by the Americans.
“Obviously it a big win for us,” Parker said. “We were little bit disappointed with the way we played against the U.S.A. We wanted to play a lot better.”
Nicolas Batum added 14 points and Mickael Gelabale 13 for France (1-1), which came in 0-4 in Olympic competition against Argentina.
Ginobili scored 26 — 18 in the second half — and Luis Scola had 16 for Argentina (1-1), which had looked so impressive in a 23-point win over Lithuania in its opener.
Following the respective national anthems, Parker and Ginobili sought each other out and shared a warm embrace near center court before the opening tip. The pair hugged again after the game, perhaps relieved they’re on the same team most of the time.
After Ginobili’s 3-pointer brought Argentina within 60-58, Parker, who had to be treated for a cut on the bridge of his nose, went to work.
He made two straight layups, the second on a nifty scoop after dribbling through traffic to make it 64-58. Ginobili threw the ball away on Argentina’s next possession and Parker made the gold-medal contenders pay for the turnover by making two free throws to extend France’s lead to eight.
“We were lucky that he had only a couple” of big plays, Ginobili said. “He’s one of the best players in the world so we knew he was going to be a tough matchup. We controlled him pretty well for three quarters, down the stretch he kind of got away with a couple of plays but he’s so talented that can happen.”
Parker said he’s still adjusting to the goggles, necessary attire after he nearly lost his left eye when he was struck by a piece of broken glass. He’s also just getting back into shape after missing most of France’s practices leading up to the London Games.
“I was just happy at the end I could make a couple of shots and we could get the win,” he said.