HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – With two more days of pool play left, we already know the four teams that will be playing for two berths in next year’s Olympics. Thanks to wins on Tuesday, Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have all clinched spots in the semifinals of the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina.
Those two games will take place on Saturday, with the two winners earning trips to the Olympics and the two losers being relegated to the Olympic qualifying tournament in early July. But we still don’t know who will be playing whom (the other three teams would surely like to avoid Argentina), and we still don’t know who will finish fifth and earn the final spot in that Olympic qualifying tournament.
Trending up: Venezuela (2-4)
Trending down: Dominican Republic (5-1)
Puerto Rico 79, Canada 74 (Boxscore)
Canada came oh so close to putting themselves in position to finish fifth, coming back from a 17-point deficit to tie the game with two minutes left. But they couldn’t get over the hump and now will surely need some help to qualify for meaningful basketball next summer. Canada needs to beat both Uruguay (Wednesday) and Panama (Thursday) and hope that Uruguay can beat Venezuela (Thursday).
Puerto Rico lost control of this game with both Carlos Arroyo and J.J. Barea on the bench early in the fourth quarter. But Arroyo saved them with two huge pull-up jumpers in the final two minutes.
- Arroyo is clearly the better FIBA player of Puerto Rico’s two NBA guards. He finished with 26 points on 9-for-15 shooting on Tuesday. Barea did add five rebounds, six assists and four steals to his 11 points, but he simply hasn’t found a groove offensively.
- Joel Anthony, nursing a bad ankle, did not start for Canada. So for the second straight game, Daniel Santiago provided a size advantage for Puerto Rico. But Santiago was lost late in the first quarter with his own injury. Santiago is out for the rest of the tournament with a plantar fasciitis tear in his right foot.
- Anthony did play six minutes in the second quarter, but was not moving well and didn’t play at all in the second half.
- Andy Rautins had his best game of the tournament, leading Canada with 18 points, nine of which came in the fourth quarter.
- Puerto Rico is missing wings Larry Ayuso and A.D. Vassallo, but they may have found a suitable replacement in Alex Galindo, who has been their secondary scorer in each of the last two games. Against Venezuela and Canada, Galindo has totaled 31 points and hit six of his 10 attempts from 3-point range.
Dominican Republic 84, Uruguay 76 (Box Score)
The Dominican Republic had an up-and-down first round, but opened the second round with a strong win over Panama on Monday. A day later, they looked to be down again, or at least slow to recover from the gruesome injury Edgar Sosa suffered at the end of the Panama game.
Uruguay led this one by 11 midway through the second quarter, but the Dominican took a two-point lead into halftime thanks to Elpidio Fortuna‘s buzzer-beating three off a full-court baseball pass from Al Horford. The teams traded runs and it was still a one-possession game early in the fourth. But the Dominican got big shots from Luis Flores and Sosa’s replacement Ronald Ramon down the stretch to hold on for the victory.
- Horford filled the box score with 23 points, 12 rebounds, five assists, two steals and a block.
- Charlie Villanueva had his second straight solid game, scoring 11 points on 4-for-8 from the field.
- Martin Osimani was the star for Uruguay, scoring 22 points on 9-for-19 shooting.
- Uruguay is still alive for a chance to qualify for the Olympics. If they win their last two games against Canada and Venezuela, they’ll finish fifth and play in next summer’s 12-team Olympic qualifying tournament.
Argentina 111, Venezuela 93 (Box Score)
This was a matchup of the best offensive team in the tournament thus far (Venezuela) vs. the best defensive team (Argentina). The defensive team won, but as you can see from the score, it was very much an offensive game.
Venezuela hung tight and was down just five early in the fourth quarter, but Argentina relentlessly picked apart their zone and pulled away with their long-range shooting. The hosts were a ridiculous 18-for-28 from 3-point range for the game, and that included an 0-for-4 performance from Carlos Delfino.
Check out these numbers… Manu Ginobili: 6-for-8 from downtown. Pablo Prigioni: 6-for-7. Andres Nocioni: 4-for-5. And with Luis Scola doing his typical work (17 points on 7-for-11 from the field) inside, it didn’t matter how good the Venezuelan offense was.
Venezuela needs to take care of business against Panama on Wednesday and then they should be playing for fifth place against Uruguay on Thursday.
Brazil 90, Panama 65 (Box Score)
Brazil picked up its third straight easy victory, again allowing its stars to stay fresh. It gets tough from here on out though, as they’ll face Argentina on Wednesday, Puerto Rico on Thursday, and then play the semifinals on Saturday.
The Argentina game (5 p.m. ET) is a rematch of a terrific round-of-16 matchup at last year’s World Championship (arguably the best game of the tournament) and should certainly be entertaining. Of course, Brazil has fewer NBA players on their squad this year (no Leandro Barbosa or Anderson Varejao) and Argentina has more (Ginobili and Nocioni were not in Turkey last year).