Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Arroyo’

Argentina Tops Brazil For Title

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If the championship game of the FIBA Americas didn’t really mean anything, since both teams had already locked up their Olympic bids, someone forgot to tell the players from Argentina and Brazil. Because Sunday night’s game in MarDel Plata, Argentina didn’t look anything like a friendly exhibition.

Luis Scola scored a tournament-high 32 points to lead Argentina to the 80-75 win and their second FIBA Americas title, their last coming a decade ago. Scola earned MVP honors after carrying his team in a tight game for the win. Carlos Delfino added 16 points and nine rebounds for the winners. Marcus Vinicius led Brazil with 17 points and Tiago Splitter added 12.

Scola was joined on the All-Tournament team by his Argentina teammate Manu Ginobili, the Dominican Republic’s Al Horford, Puerto Rico’s Carlos Arroyo and Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas.

By virtue of making the title game, Argentina and Brazil earned spots in London next summer for the Olympics. Horford led the Dominican Republic with 23 points as they topped Puerto Rico 103-89 in the third-place game. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela all earned invites to the qualifying tournament next July with their top five finishes in this competition.

Two Olympic Berths On The Line

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – The FIBA Americas Championship 2011 will be decided on Sunday in Mar del Plata, Argentina, but to most people involved, the most important games of the tournament take place 24 hours earlier. Saturday evening’s semifinals will determine the Americas’ two representatives at next year’s Olympics in London.

But the losers of Saturday’s games can still dream about walking with their nation at the Olympic Stadium next July, because they will be placed in a 12-team, last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament earlier in the month. The top three finishers in that tournament will earn the last three spots in the Olympic field, but Saturday’s losers will have to compete for those spots with four teams from the very competitive EuroBasket tournament that wraps up next weekend, as well as Venezuela, who qualified by finishing fifth in this one.

The four teams still alive separated themselves from the pack early. They finished with a cumulative record of 19-1 against the other six teams in the tournament, with the Dominican Republic’s one-point loss to Canada the only blemish.

Both of Saturday’s games, as well as Sunday’s action (a third-place game and the final), can be seen on ESPN3 in the U.S. and on FIBATV.com elsewhere. Here’s a look at the matchups…

Brazil (7-1) vs. Dominican Republic (5-3) – 6 p.m ET
Brazil took the top seed away from Argentina with an impressive victory over the hosts on Wednesday. That, along with a blowout of Puerto Rico the following night, earned them the right to play the Dominican Republic, which has looked all along to be the weakest of the four semifinalists. But Brazil’s only loss came at the hands of the Dominican last Friday when Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas committed 10 turnovers.

Huertas isn’t well known among NBA fans, but he’s the key to Brazil’s offensive attack. He and Tiago Splitter are a dangerous pick-and-roll tandem, because you can’t leave either alone and Brazil has plenty of shooters to spread the floor and complement them.

The Dominican Republic will lean heavily on Al Horford, who is averaging 18.6 points and 9.1 rebounds in the tournament. Horford is complemented on the inside by “El Limpiacristales” Jack Michael Martinez, who has five double-doubles in eight games.

But if Brazil packs the paint and keeps Horford out of the post, he’ll need help from the perimeter. The Dominican Republic is shooting just 32.7 percent from 3-point range for the tournament, but they were 8-for-13 from downtown (Francisco Garcia was 4-for-5) in their win over Brazil.

Argentina (7-1) vs. Puerto Rico (6-2) – 8:15 p.m ET

A few days ago, Argentina looked unbeatable in this tournament. Their veteran core was back together and playing dominantly on both ends. But then Andres Nocioni sprained his right ankle on the opening tip against Brazil on Wednesday and the Argentina offense, which torched Venezuela a night earlier, seemed to follow him back to the locker room.

The hosts recovered to win easily over the Dominican Republic the next night, and they’re still the favorite to win the tournament, but Nocioni’s status for Saturday’s semifinal is questionable. And they’re certainly not as unbeatable as they looked before Wednesday.

Luis Scola is the tournament’s leading scorer at 19.4 points per game, but Argentina’s offense is about finding the open man, no matter who he is. They’ve assisted on 57 percent of their field goals, the highest rate in the tournament, and all four NBA players on the roster are averaging in double figures.

Puerto Rico has three NBA players on their roster, but one has played significantly better than the other two. In the league, Carlos Arroyo is a conservative, pass-first point guard. But on the FIBA stage, he’s dynamic and aggressive, averaging 13.9 points and 3.6 assists in the tournament.

J.J. Barea, on the other hand, has yet to get comfortable in the Puerto Rico offense. He has shot just 34 percent from the field in the tournament, including an atrocious 2-for-21 from 3-point range.

Puerto Rico lost their inside presence, Daniel Santiago, to a foot injury on Tuesday. So for them to have any hope against Argentina, they will need a big game inside from Manuel Narvaez, as well as the outside shooting of Alex Galindo.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Brazil Upsets Hosts Argentina

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – Wednesday’s action at the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata saw host Argentina get upset and Venezuela get one step closer to play for an Olympic berth next summer. But there’s still plenty on the line on Thursday, when pool play concludes with four more games.

Trending up: Brazil (6-1)
Trending down: Argentina (6-1)

Canada 70, Uruguay 68 (Box Score)

Canada kept itself alive for fifth place with a 7-0 run to end the game, capped by Andy Rautins‘ game-winning 3-pointer with 58 seconds left. Uruguay had plenty of chances to tie or take the lead after that, but they missed their final eight shots.

Rautins hit four of his six treys overall, but the star of the game for Canada was Levon Kendall, who scored 19 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. That helped make up for the absences of Joel Anthony (ankle) and Aaron Doornekamp (concussion).

Despite the absence of Anthony, the Canadian defense was still strong … or maybe the Uruguayan offense was just awful. Either way, Uruguay shot just 32 percent from the field, with Esteban Batista connecting on just one of his seven shots.

To finish fifth, Canada needs to beat Panama on Thursday (which shouldn’t be a problem) and have Uruguay beat Venezuela.

Venezuela 110, Panama 74 (Box Score)

Venezuela remains in position to finish fifth and grab a spot in the Olympic qualifying tournament thanks to an easy victory over Panama, who clinched eighth place with the loss.

The Venezuelan offense has been ridiculously good from the start. They lead the FIBA Americas tournament in offensive efficiency, scoring 119 points per 100 possessions. But their defense has allowed nearly as many. On Thursday though, they face the Uruguayan offense, which has been worse than Panama’s.

The fifth-place scenarios for the final day of pool play are simple, assuming that Canada beats Panama (a pretty safe assumption) in the 10:30 a.m. ET game. If Venezuela beats Uruguay (at 1 p.m. ET), they finish fifth (holding the head-to-head tie-breaker over Canada) and play in the Olympic qualifying tournament next July. If Uruguay beats Venezuela, then Canada finishes fifth.

Brazil 73, Argentina 71 (Box Score)

Exactly one year after they gave us a thriller at the World Championship, these teams gave us more quality basketball, just with smaller stakes and a little less offense. That elimination game was won by Argentina, sending Brazil home from Istanbul. This game of little consequence was won by Brazil, despite an 0-for-7 performance from Tiago Splitter.

With Splitter in foul trouble, Rafael Hettsheimer came to the rescue, scoring 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds in 22 minutes. Marcelo Huertas played all but one minute of the game and added 17 points.

Argentina cooled off considerably after shooting 18-for-28 from 3-point range against Venezuela. After combining to shoot 12-for-15 from downtown on Wednesday, Manu Ginobili and Pablo Prigioni shot 3-for-11 from beyond the arc on Thursday. Luis Scola led the hosts with 24 points and 11 rebounds, but he turned the ball over six times.

The bad news for Argentina came before either team scored a basket. For some reason, Andres Nocioni jumped center for the hosts, and when he came down from the jump, he landed on Splitter’s foot, turning his right ankle. Nocioni left the game and probably won’t play Thursday against the Dominican Republic. His status for Saturday’s semifinal is unknown.

Puerto Rico 79, Dominican Republic 62 (Box Score)

Despite a quiet game from Carlos Arroyo, Puerto Rico kept pace with Argentina and Brazil. It was a five-point game late in the third quarter when Puerto Rico put it away with a 14-0 run spanning the third and fourth.

J.J. Barea picked up some of Arroyo’s slack with his best game of the tournament, scoring 14 points and dishing out seven assists. Alex Galindo continued to shoot well, hitting five of his 11 threes and leading Puerto Rico with 16 points.

Francisco Garcia was pretty awful for the Dominican Republic, shooting 1-for-10 from the field and 0-for-7 from 3-point range.

So here are your scenarios for Thursday, when Argentina will face the Dominican Republic and Brazil will face Puerto Rico…

  • If Argentina and Brazil win, then Brazil (1st) will face the Dominican Republic (4th) and Argentina (2nd) will face Puerto Rico (3rd) in Saturday’s semifinals.
  • If Argentina and Puerto Rico win, then Argentina (1st) will face the Dominican Republic (4th) and Puerto Rico (2nd) will face Brazil (3rd).
  • If the Dominican Republic and Brazil win, then Brazil finishes first and second, third and fourth place will come down to point differential in games played between Argentina, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico.
  • If the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico win, then Puerto Rico (1st) will face Argentina (4th) and the Dominican Republic (2nd) will face Brazil (3rd).

Reminder: The two winners of the two semifinals qualify for the Olympics. The two losers will join the fifth-place team (Venezuela or Canada) at the 12-team Olympic qualifying tournament in early July. The top three finishers in that tournament will qualify for the Olympics.

Top Four Clinch Semifinal Spots At FIBA Americas

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).

Faves Roll At Americas’ Second Round

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – The second round of the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina got underway on Monday, but it was marred by a gruesome injury to Dominican Republic point guard Edgar Sosa.

The four matchups were all pretty straightforward, with the favorites to make the semifinals all cruising to comfortable victories. Tuesday’s games should be similar, and we’ll have to wait until Wednesday before we see the heavyweight squads on the floor together.

Trending up: Dominican Republic (4-1)
Trending down: Canada (2-3)

Dominican Republic 92, Panama 68 (Boxscore)

The good news for the Dominican Republic is that they took care of business against a weak opponent (they led by 26 at the end of the third quarter) and that Charlie Villanueva (13 points, five rebounds, 5-for-13 from the field) looked better than he did in the first round.

The horrible news is that Sosa suffered a career-altering injury in the final minute of the game. On a drive to the basket, Sosa took some contact and fell hard to the floor. When he looked down at his right leg, he saw that it was bent in the middle of his shin.

It was an awful sight for anyone watching and the players on both teams were visibly shaken. After Sosa was taken off the floor in a stretcher, Panama respectfully dribbled out the clock and both teams gathered at center court in prayer.

Going forward, the absence of Sosa puts a lot of pressure on back-up point guard Ronald Ramon, who hasn’t made much of an impact through the first five games.

Puerto Rico 94, Venezuela 82 (Boxscore)

This was the matchup with the most potential for a close game and Venezuela was down by just two midway through the third quarter. But then they got hit with a 17-0 Puerto Rico run that decided the game.

Carlos Arroyo had another solid game, but J.J. Barea had another underwhelming performance. And it was Daniel Santiago that made the difference for Puerto Rico. Venezuela’s bigs couldn’t match up with Santiago’s size and the FIBA veteran led all scorers with 22 points on 8-of-9 shooting. He even beat Venezuela down the floor in transition a couple of times.

Santiago’s dominance inside freed up Alex Galindo on the perimeter. Galindo hit three of his five attempts from 3-point range and finished with 18 points.

For Venezuela, Greivis Vasquez had a rough day, shooting just 1-for-7 from the field. And after his huge 28-point game against Canada, Hector Romero came back down to earth. Romero failed to score on Monday, missing all seven of his shots.

Unfortunately, like the previous game, this one was marred by an incident in the closing minutes. With 5:37 left in the fourth quarter, Vasquez fouled Renaldo Balkman hard in the post and Balkman retaliated by head-butting Vasquez in the cheek. Then Nestor Colmenares shoved Balkman to the floor. Both Balkman and Colmenares were ejected.

Argentina 79, Canada 53 (Boxscore)

Like most of Argentina’s games, this one was over early. Canada got to within nine late in the third quarter, but there was never any doubt that Argentina would remain unbeaten.

Argentina’s offense is a thing of beauty and Canada’s offense is pretty much the opposite. Canada shot just 28 percent from the field and had 18 more turnovers (22) than assists (four). Kelly Olynyk (19 points and 12 rebounds) was their lone bright spot.

Luis Scola led all scorers with 22 points on 7-for-15 shooting, while Manu Ginobili had 16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals.

Argentina should get a tougher test on Tuesday against Venezuela. Canada, meanwhile, probably needs to upset Puerto Rico in the early game to have a shot at finishing in the top five and qualifying for next year’s Olympic qualifier.

Brazil 93, Uruguay 66 (Boxscore)

Brazil put this one away with a 28-12 third quarter. The potency of their offense was on full display as they connected on 58 percent of their shots, including 10 of their 18 attempts from 3-point range. Tiago Splitter got plenty of rest, scoring nine points and eight rebounds in just 21 minutes.

Argentina Wins Battle Of Unbeatens

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – Day 4 of the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina brought the two biggest matchups of the tournament thus far. Neither game disappointed, though a couple of guards (Marcelo Huertas and J.J. Barea) did.

Trending up: Dominican Republic (3-1)
Trending down: Brazil (2-1)

Canada 84, Cuba 62 (Boxscore)

Canada went back to shooting poorly (4-for-15) from 3-point range, but that didn’t matter, because Cuba was much worse (1-for-14). After the teams each scored a bucket in the first two minutes, Canada went on a 15-0 run and never looked back, earning their second straight win.

After hitting some big threes against the Dominican Republic just 17 hours earlier, Andy Rautins was 0-for-5 from beyond the arc, but he got to the line eight times in 21 minutes.

If Canada beats Venezuela on Saturday, they’d finish in a three-way tie for first with Brazil and the Dominican Republic. But thanks to the tie-breaker (see below), the best they can do is finish third in Group A (unless Cuba pulls off a miracle upset of Brazil).

Uruguay 77, Panama 61 (Boxscore)

Uruguay established itself as the third best team in Group B with a comfortable victory. The game was close until early in the third quarter, when Uruguay took control with a 19-6 run. Esteban Batista was the star of the game, finishing with 24 points (on 9-for-13 shooting) and 10 rebounds.

Dominican Republic 79, Brazil 74 (Boxscore)

After the way the Dominican Republic played against Canada just 24 hours earlier, this was maybe the most surprising result of the tournament. Brazil led by seven late in the third quarter, but a pair of Francisco Garcia threes highlighted an 11-2 Dominican run that gave them the lead heading into the fourth.

The fourth quarter was tight throughout, but the Dominican defense was at its best and never gave up the lead. Garcia sealed the game when he stripped Tiago Splitter in the post in the final minute.

  • This was easily Garcia’s best game of the tournament. He hit four of his five attempts from beyond the arc and finished with 14 points.
  • This was easily Marcelo Huertasworst game of the tournament. He shot 7-for-11 from the field, but was sloppy with his passing, committing 10 turnovers.
  • One of those turnovers was a clean strip by Dominican big man Jack Michael Martinez, who switched out on Huertas on the perimeter at the end of the second quarter. Martinez stole the ball and found Al Horford under the basket on the other end to give D.R. a four-point lead going into the half.
  • Brazil was an efficient 25-for-41 from inside the arc, but made just five of their 22 shots from 3-point range and just nine of their 16 free throws.
  • Despite the loss, Brazil is still in position to win Group A. If both Canada (2-1) and Brazil (2-1) win on Saturday and there’s a three-way tie with the Dominican Republic (3-1), the tiebreaker is determined by the ratio of points to opponents’ point in the head-to-head games between the three teams. Brazil’s ratio was 143/136 (1.05), the Dominican’s was 151/147 (1.03), and Canada’s was 130/141 (0.92).

Argentina 81, Puerto Rico 74 (Boxscore)

This was the game to determine first place in Group B, and it lived up to the billing. It was tight until early in the third quarter when Argentina was finally able to corral Carlos Arroyo and used a blistering 16-0 run to turn a five-point deficit into an 11-point lead.

Arroyo didn’t get nearly enough help from his teammates. Meanwhile, Argentina played like a cohesive unit, getting big contributions from Manu Ginobili (23 points), Luis Scola (16 points, seven boards and two blocks) and Carlos Delfino (14 points and three steals).

  • Arroyo had a pretty amazing minute of basketball late in the first half, when he was wholly responsible for a 7-0 run that gave Puerto Rico a 33-27 lead. It started with a pretty pick-and-roll feed to Daniel Santiago. Then, after Ginobili missed a shot, Arroyo hit Alex Galindo with a nifty touch pass on the break. And on the possession after that, he stepped into a three on another high pick-and-roll. Less than two minutes later, he hit Santiago with another pretty dish for a three-point play.
  • Arroyo is about 10 times more entertaining (and aggressive) when he plays for Puerto Rico than when he plays in the NBA.
  • J.J. Barea is far less so. For the second straight game, Barea struggled from the field, shooting 3-for-10 after a 1-for-8 game against Uruguay on Thursday. And when Argentina double-teamed Arroyo in the second half, Barea wasn’t able to pick up the slack.
  • Delfino was just 1-for-4 from 3-point range, but had two incredible and-ones under the basket in the third quarter.
  • After scoring 10 points in the first quarter in each of Argentina’s first two games, Scola had just 10 through the first three quarters on Friday. But he hit three straight shots midway through the fourth to help put the game away.
  • After sitting out the first two games, Fabricio Oberto got his first action of the tournament. He scored two points in 12 minutes.

Canada Pulls Off An Upset

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – Day 3 of the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata brought us our first upset of the tournament. It also brought us some upset Paraguayans.

Trending up: Canada (1-1)
Trending down: Dominican Republic (2-1)

Panama 89, Paraguay 86 (Boxscore)

There are 10 teams in this tournament, and after four first-round games, eight of them (four from each group) will reach the second round. There are four solid teams in Group A and we don’t have any problems with Canada or Venezuela playing three more games next week.

But after Argentina and Puerto Rico, there’s a big drop-off in Group B. Of the Panama-Paraguay-Uruguay group, two of those teams will advance to the second round, so this matchup meant a lot to both teams.

Panama was in control, up 70-55, after the third quarter. But Paraguay came all the way back and had a chance to tie the game or take the lead with 19 seconds left. Enrique Martinez found Guillermo Araujo under the basket with five seconds left and Araujo was hammered hard by Ruben Garces.

The Paraguayans were looking for an unsportsmanlike foul call (which would have resulted in two shots and the ball back), but they only got a standard foul. Still, Araujo had the opportunity to send the game to overtime.

But he missed both freebies and Panama escaped with the win.

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Argentina, P.R. Continue To Dominate

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – Day 2 of action at the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, featured a near-upset, a couple of blowouts, and a critical game between two teams who have a shot at the top five (and a spot in the Olympics or the Olympic qualifying tournament next summer).

Trending up: Venezuela (0-2)
Trending down: Dominican Republic (2-0)

Dominican Republic 92, Venezuela 89 (Box Score)

For the second straight day, Venezuela looked poised to pull off an upset. This time, they were up by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter and by 11 heading into the fourth. But the Dominican Republic turned up the defensive intensity in the final 10 minutes, swarmed Greivis Vasquez whenever he came off a pick, and pulled out a three-point victory.

More notes from Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela:

  • For most of the game, the Venezuela zone kept Edgar Sosa out of the paint and Al Horford out of the post. But Horford was able to find opportunities near the rim by moving without the ball. He finished with 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting, adding 10 rebounds.
  • Jack Michael Martinez, the Dominican’s starting center and their version of Ben Wallace, added 18 points and 14 rebounds. A lot of those points followed his seven offensive boards.
  • The Venezuela offense was a little more balanced than it was on Tuesday, but Vasquez still filled the box score. He came one assist short of a triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine dimes.
  • Once again, both Francisco Garcia and Charlie Villanueva were largely disappointing. Garcia was mostly invisible and Villanueva looked sluggish. There’s talk of Villanueva being under the weather, but the only good thing about him through these first two games has been the way the FIBA announcer pronounces his name.
  • With the game going down to the wire, neither Garcia nor Villanueva were on the floor for the Dominican Republic.
  • Luis Flores was on the floor, and he hit two big jumpers in the closing minutes.
  • After trailing by six with 45 seconds left, Venezuela had a chance to tie with a three on their final possession. But the play that ex-Warriors and Kings coach Eric Musselman drew up in the timeout was not executed on the floor and Vasquez drove baseline and had no one to pass it to.
  • By playing well against both Brazil and the Dominican Republic, Venezuela has been a pleasant surprise in this tournament. They might have a shot at finishing fifth, but they need to start turning those fourth-quarter leads into Ws. They’ve got Cuba on Thursday and then a huge game against Canada on Saturday.
  • The Dominicans looked strong against Cuba on Tuesday, but took a step backward on Day 2.

Puerto Rico 101, Paraguay 55 (Box Score)

Not much to see here. Neither Carlos Arroyo nor J.J. Barea needed to play more than 20 minutes in this blowout. Through two games, Puerto Rico has an effective field goal percentage of 0.582. They’ve got another mismatch (Uruguay) on Thursday before facing Argentina on Friday night.

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Horford, Splitter Stand Out On Day 1

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – With the United States already holding a ticket to London next year and happy to sit out the event for the second straight time, the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 got underway in Mar del Plata, Argentina on Tuesday.

The top two finishers in the tournament will qualify for next year’s Olympics in London. The third, fourth and fifth-place finishers will qualify for the 12-team qualifying tournament next July. The top three finishers in that tournament will qualify for the Olympics.

Eight of the FIBA Americas’ 10 teams were in action on the first of five days of preliminary-round action. Here’s a rundown…

Dominican Republic 90, Cuba 60 (Box Score)

Of the three NBA players on the D.R. roster, Al Horford clearly stood out. After a slow start (two points on 1-for-5 shooting in the first 8:58), he dominated the action in the Dominican’s easy win.

Horford’s 24 points came mostly in the post, where the Cuban big men were completely overmatched. But he did have a handful of buckets on the move and on the break. The highlight was a fast-break alley-oop throw down off a toss from Edgar Sosa midway through the second quarter.

After that 1-for-5 start, Horford connected on 11 of his final 13 shots. He added nine boards to his 24 points.

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The (FIBA) Games Must Go On

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Mike Fratello has spent decades making himself comfortable on the basketball court wherever he’s been. But Fratello has always felt especially at ease in the baby blue and gold he wore at Hackensack High back in his native New Jersey.

Those North Jersey roots were on Fratello’s mind as he prepared his latest team for EuroBasket 2011, where Ukraine’s national team will sport the same colors this week as they attempt to chase one of the top spots in the tournament and the spoils that come along with being one of the best teams in European basketball.

“I do feel very comfortable putting the old blue and gold on,” Fratello said with a chuckle. “Plus, this competition is as big as it gets right now in the game of basketball, given the circumstances with the lockout and everything else that’s going on right now in the NBA.”

You’ve read about it all summer, this wave of NBA talent that will hit foreign soil to play ball if the regular season is delayed because of the lockout.

You won’t have to wait around to see NBA talent in action now. With EuroBasket in Lithuania Aug. 31 through Sept. 18 and the FIBA Americas being played in Argentina Aug. 30 through Sept. 11, there will be plenty of familiar faces on display, including reigning Finals MVP Dirk Nowitzki and Clippers center Chris Kaman leading the German team in EuroBasket. Brothers Pau Gasol of the Lakers and Marc Gasol of the Hang Time Grizzlies headline the Spanish team.

Spurs star Manu Ginobili and Rockets star Luis Scola are the biggest names for the host team in Argentina. Mavericks point guard Jose Barea and Celtics point guard Carlos Arroyo will run the show for Puerto Rico while Hawks All-Star center Al Horford will team up with Kings swingman Francisco Garcia and Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva for the Dominican Republic.

Our nearly two month hiatus from basketball as we know it comes to a momentary end this week with the game itself back on the global stage with national teams on both sides of the globe vying for those coveted early invites to the London Olympics. Every game can be seen on ESPN3.com.

Automatic bids to the Olympics are at stake for the top two teams in each competition. Four more teams — the third through sixth place finishers from EuroBasket — will also earn bids to the Pre-Olympic Qualifying tournament next July. Three more teams — the third through fifth place finishers from FIBA Americas — will earn bids to the Pre-Olympic Qualifying tournament next July.

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