Posts Tagged ‘Marcelo Huertas’

Brazil puts itself in good position with big win over Serbia


VIDEO: FIBA: Day Five Wrap

GRANADA, SPAIN – There will be no easy games on the A-B side of the 16-team bracket at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup. Outside of Spain and the United States, there are probably nine second-tier teams in this tournament, and six of those nine will be in Madrid starting Saturday.

Throw in Spain and there’s basically one opponent (fourth place in Group B) you might choose to face on that side of the bracket. And Spain will likely get that opponent. So there are bound to be three very good matchups in the round of 16. Good news for fans, bad news for a bunch of teams hoping for a medal.

Brazil (3-1) is one of those teams. And while it can’t avoid two other second-tier squads in the round of 16 and quarterfinals, it did the next best thing: likely avoiding Spain until the semis with what will probably be a second-place finish in Group A.

The Brazilians still have one game to play (vs. Egypt on Thursday), but look good for second after beating France on Saturday and picking up another huge win, 81-73, over Serbia (2-2) on Wednesday.

It was a game of wild swings. Brazil’s offense looked better than it had in a long time in the first half, scoring 48 points on just 33 possessions. A turnaround jumper by Leandro Barbosa gave Brazil a 16-point lead at the half.

As good as the Brazil offense was in the first 20 minutes, Serbia’s was better in the next 10. It turned that 16-point deficit into a four-point lead with an incredible 32-12 third quarter. Serbia then led by as many as seven early in the fourth.

But Brazil wasn’t done. Sparked by a couple of huge Marquinhos Vieira 3s, they went on a 12-0 run to go back up five. Serbia couldn’t get anything done offensively as Tiago Splitter drew two straight charges on Miroslav Raduljica, who also went 1-for-4 from the free-throw line down the stretch.

Former Hornet Vieira (known as Marcus Vinicius when he was in the NBA) hit one more big 3 and finished with a game-high 21 points, having shot 6-for-9 from beyond the arc.

Though they have Marcelo Huertas and Leandro Barbosa in the backcourt to go with three NBA bigs, Brazil can struggle offensively if they’re not hitting 3s. The 6-9 Vieira hit two on his team’s first three possessions of the game and the floodgates opened from there.

“We need him,” Huertas said afterward, “as much as we need Leandro’s speed or for our bigs to dominate in the post. For us, when the guy has a day like he had today, we know if we set a good screen or find him open in the corner, that ball is going in.

“The guy is tall. It’s very hard to contest a shooter like him.”

Brazil got here with a wildcard invitation, having gone 0-4 at last year’s FIBA Americas tournament. But they were an obvious pick, with the ability to put a much better team on the floor than they did in 2013 and having played well at the 2010 World Championship and 2012 Olympics.

Both of those years, they lost narrow decisions to Argentina in the first knockout round (round of 16 in ’10, quarterfinals in ’12). They’d love to avenge those losses this year, and they clearly have their eyes on a medal. Wednesday’s win was a big step toward that, because you can’t medal if you lose to Spain or USA before the semifinals.

“For us, it’s big,” Huertas said. “We want to go as far as we can in this competition. We really feel we have a team that can compete at the highest level.”

More notes from Brazil 81, Serbia 73…

  • After an ugly start to Monday’s game against Spain, Brazil coach Ruben Magnano changed his lineup, starting Anderson Varejao instead of Nene. The move worked, with Brazil jumping out to a 14-4 lead.
  • Suns draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a gutty, step-back 3 during Serbia’s big third-quarter run, but was rather quiet otherwise, scoring eight points on 2-for-7 shooting.
  • Barbosa is 31, but still has some game left. He’s averaged 11.5 points and has shot 6-for-13 from 3-point range through four games. Against Spain on Monday, he was the only Brazilian player who could get anything done offensively. Barbosa and Shaun Livingston should be an interesting back-up backcourt with the Warriors.
  • Unless it can beat Spain on Thursday, Serbia is looking at a fourth-place finish in Group A and a round-of-16 matchup with the winner of Thursday’s Argentina-Greece game on Sunday. Raduljica downplayed the significance of his team’s two losses to France and Brazil. “It didn’t affect us, because we don’t calculate are we going to win or lose. Of course, we want to win every game. It’s just how we go out on the court, do our best, and try to win.”

Other games of note…

Group A: Spain 88, France 64

Spain (4-0) passed test No. 2, which was slightly tougher than Monday’s game against Brazil. France (2-2) withstood a quick start from the hosts to come back and tie the game late in the first quarter. But a buzzer-beating three from Juan Carlos Navarro gave Spain the lead for good.

Despite a flurry of third-quarter turnovers and fouls by their opponent, Spain didn’t really open the game up until early in the fourth. Their second-half energy wasn’t as good as it was against Brazil or in the first half.

Pau Gasol (15 points, four rebounds, two blocks) didn’t dominate as much as he did against Brazil, but brother Marc (17 points, six rebounds, three steals) and Serge Ibaka (10 points, eight rebounds, two blocks) picked up the slack.

  • Spain has four NBA bigs on its roster, but only uses three in its regular rotation, with Victor Claver at the end of the bench. So Marc Gasol played the first 14:35 of the game. In fact, the whole Spanish starting lineup played the entire first quarter.
  • Nicolas Batum couldn’t really take advantage of a mismatch with the smaller Navarro. Batum scored 11 points on 5-for-15 shooting.
  • 2013 draft pick Joffrey Lauvergne got a good test, starting against the Gasol brothers. He mostly held his own, but Pau’s size, in particular, gave him trouble. He shot 3-for-9, struggling to finish in the paint.
  • Lauvergne said Wednesday that the Nuggets offered him a contract this summer, but it wasn’t enough for him to come over. He signed a more lucrative two-year deal with Khimki, with a buyout option next year. Denver still retains his rights.
  • Lauvergne is really too small to play the five, but that’s where France needs him with their veteran centers missing the World Cup. (Rudy Gobert backs him up.) If he’s going to play the four in the NBA, he’ll need to be able to shoot. He took a couple of threes on Wednesday and his form looked OK, but both were off the mark.
  • Evan Fournier wasn’t in the France rotation, but finally showed a little offense, scoring nine points on 4-for-7 shooting in garbage time.

Group B: Puerto Rico 77, Philippines 73

Another close game, another heartbreaker and elimination for the Philippines (0-4), who led by as many as 14 in the second quarter and by three, with the ball, with 2:30 left in the fourth. They committed a couple of bad turnovers in the final two minutes and J.J. Barea came up huge for Puerto Rico (1-3), who stayed alive with the win.

Barea pulled up for three to tie the game with 2:10 left. He then converted a tough drive with just under a minute to go to give the boricuas the lead. He finished with 30 points on 8-for-15 shooting, getting to the line 12 times and still asking for a foul call whenever he didn’t.

Andray Blatche had 25 points and 14 rebounds for the Philippines, which will have one more shot at a win against Senegal on Thursday.

More Day 5 notes

  • Mexico’s loss to Australia makes it even more likely that they will finish fourth in Group D and be USA’s opponent in the round of 16 on Saturday.
  • Slovenia (4-0) trailed by three early in the fourth quarter and didn’t play Goran Dragic at all in the final period, but managed to remain unbeaten with a 93-87 win over Angola.
  • Gorgui Dieng finally had an off night, shooting just 4-for-12 as Senegal got hammered by Argentina.
  • Donatas Motiejunas recovered well from not playing the entire second half against Australia on Tuesday. He had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists in Lithuania’s win over Korea.
  • Greece remained unbeaten in Group B with a 76-65 win over Croatia. Incoming Rockets rookie Kostas Papanikolaou had his best game of the tournament, scoring 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting.

Big games on tap for Thursday

There’s still a lot to be determined on the final day of pool play.

  • Senegal can clinch a surprise trip to the knockout rounds, but needs to hold off the pesky Philippines team (8 a.m. ET).
  • The winner of Finland-New Zealand (9 a.m. ET) will have a chance to squeak in out of Group C with a decisive point differential.
  • Lithuania (3-1) and Slovenia (4-0) have both clinched spots in the knockout rounds, but their game (3:30 p.m. ET) will be for first place in Group D and a chance to avoid the U.S. until the semifinals.
  • Argentina (3-1) and Greece (4-0) are in the same exact situation on the other half of the bracket. The winner of their game (4 p.m. ET) will take first place in Group B and avoid Spain until the semis.
  • Spain gets its last test of group play against Serbia (4 p.m. ET, NBA TV).

Brazil gets biggest win of Day 1


VIDEO: USAB: Rose on FIBA Schedule

GRANADA, SPAIN – Group A of the FIBA Basketball World Cup not only has the most NBA players, but also four of the best teams in the tournament. So every day of pool play in Granada will bring at least one big game. Four teams from the group will advance to the knockout rounds, but a higher placement will likely get you an easier opponent in the round of 16.

So Brazil was the big winner on Saturday, holding on for a 65-63 victory over France in the second game of the day in Granada. It was an ugly game throughout, with the two teams combining for 19 turnovers in the first half and shooting just 11-for-35 from 3-point range for the game.

But point guard Marcelo Huertas had enough in his bag of tricks to get the job done in the fourth quarter.

France actually led by nine late in the first, but scored just 10 points on its final 20 possessions of the first half, as Brazil took a two-point lead into the break. The Brazilians led by as many as eight early in the fourth, but couldn’t put France away, because they couldn’t put together more than two straight scores.

“The zone was back all the time,” said Tiago Splitter, who scored just six points on 2-for-5 shooting. “Nobody was getting easy shots. And our shooters didn’t have a good game outside. “

Huertas was basically the only guy who could get anything going offensively. He scored 11 of Brazil’s 19 points in the period, hitting a three off a Nene post-up, finding space around the foul line for a couple of runners against the sagging French defense, and sealed the game at the free-throw line in the final minute.

“They were deep into the zone,” he said afterward, “so we could attack, either for a shot or to find the open man.”

France got a big game from Boris Diaw (15 points, six rebounds, five assists), but Nicolas Batum (13 points) didn’t shoot well and the other French bigs didn’t get much done inside after the first quarter. Though they closed to within one in the final seconds, they never got a chance to tie or take the lead.

The French are missing Tony Parker and a couple of their NBA centers. They don’t have any time to recover from this first loss, because they play a very tough Serbia team in Sunday’s first game.

Brazil gets Iran on Sunday before facing tougher tests against Spain (Monday) and Serbia (Wednesday). It’s passed the first one, knowing that any win in the first game was important.

“For us, it’s a big win, even if it wasn’t France,” Huertas said. “It’s not a definite step, but it’s a great step.”

More notes from Brazil 65, France 63 …

  • Orlando Magic coach Jacque Vaughn is in Granada to see Evan Fournier (whom the Magic got in the Arron Afflalo trade in June) play. But Fournier was the 11th guy to get in the game for France, entering with 3:06 to go in the first half. He went scoreless with two turnovers in just 8:25 of action.
  • Utah’s Rudy Gobert has potential. He didn’t look comfortable when there was someone between him and the basket, but he had a couple of athletic dunks off feeds from Florent Pietrus and blocked two shots. A few seconds after missing an ugly jump hook, he actually blocked Splitter without leaving his feet.
  • Nene got a couple of buckets off pick-and-roll feeds from Huertas late in the third quarter and grabbed eight rebounds, but otherwise had a rough night. He shot 2-for-6 and committed four turnovers.

Other games of note …

Group A: Serbia 85, Egypt 64

As expected, this was an easy win for Serbia, which pulled away with a 25-12 third quarter. Milos Teodosic led the way with 15 points, hitting four of his six 3-pointers.

  • Miroslav Raduljica is a hoss, and much bigger than anyone on Egypt’s roster. Starting at center for Serbia, he racked up 10 points and six rebounds in just 12:32 of playing time. He made like Moses Malone on a first-quarter possession that was going to end with either a layup by him or a foul, because he kept missing and Egypt had no chance of outmuscling him for the rebound. It properly ended with an and-one.
  • Raduljica was waived by the Clippers (via the stretch provision) on Friday, just three days after they had acquired him from Milwaukee. After one season in the league, he said he wants to stay (though it was “a little cold in Milwaukee”). He said he’s only heard rumors about any other teams that may want him and “I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen next.”
  • Suns draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic is listed at 6-6, but appears to be a bit shorter. He played neither great nor poorly on Saturday. He dished out four assists and was a game-high plus-23, but took just three shots (all 3-pointers). And it would have been hard to tell how NBA-ready he really is against this opponent anyway. France (Sunday), Brazil (Wednesday) and Spain (Thursday) will provide better tests.
  • After Brazil’s win over France, Splitter was asked about Serbia. His response: “I would say they are more talented than France. France is a very talented and athletic team, but Serbia, they know how to play basketball. They have a very good school of basketball, always.”

Group B: Croatia 81, Philippines 78 (OT)

This was the game of the day, as the Philippines came back from 15 points down to take a three-point lead with a little more than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter. After Croatia came back to tie it, the Philippines’ Jeff Chan missed a jumper at the buzzer that would have given Gilas the huge upset.

They took a two-point lead in overtime, but Bojan Bogdanovic put Croatia up for good with four free throws and the Philippines didn’t get a foul call on the game-tying three at the buzzer.

  • NBA free agent Andray Blatche, playing for the Philippines, scored the team’s first two points, but was 1-for-9 from the field early in the second quarter, settling for jumpers. He then got the Croatian big men to bite on a couple of his shot fakes, got to the rim a bit more, and hot nine of 15 shots after the slow start. He was 3-for-4 from 3-point range, hitting a big one to tie the game late in the fourth. He finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
  • Croatia’s Bogdanovic, not to be confused with Serbia’s Bogdanovic, looks like he could be a solid player for the Brooklyn Nets this season. He led Croatia with 26 points on 7-for-14 shooting, getting his buckets in a variety of ways.
  • The Philadelphia Sixers look like they’ll be getting a player (eventually) in Dario Saric, too. He’ll have better tests later in the tournament and was able to take advantage of the size discrepancy (the Gilas power forwards aren’t very big) in this game. But he he also made some nice off-the-ball cuts and showed an ability to handle the ball in the open court, as he did in this highlight from Tuesday’s exhibition win over Lithuania.
  • Pacers incoming rookie Damjan Rudez had one smooth-looking, step-in jumper, but didn’t look too good otherwise. He shot 0-for-4 from 3-point range and finished with just four points in 14 minutes

More Day 1 notes

  • Serge Ibaka sat out Spain’s game against Iran. According to Spanish TV, he has a sore hamstring.

  • Group B saw a matchup of #FIBAArroyo and #FIBAScola, who are both *better than their NBA counterparts. Carlos Arroyo didn’t have it on Saturday though, and Luis Scola led Argentina to a 98-75 win over Puerto Rico with 20 points (on just 10 shots) and nine rebounds. J.J. Barea led Puerto Rico, which totaled only five assists, with 24 points. Pablo Prigioni had 10 of Argentina’s 22 assists.
  • * The opposite is true of #FIBANene
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo took just two shots from the field, but filled the box score with 11 points, five rebounds and three steals in Greece’s 87-64 win over Senegal. Gorgui Dieng led Senegal with 21 points and 14 boards.
  • Goran Dragic paced Slovenia to an important 90-80 win over Australia in Group D with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting. The Cavs’ Matthew Dellavedova shot just 1-for-7 for the Aussies.

Big games on tap for Sunday

  • Dominican Republic-New Zealand (6:30 a.m. ET) could ultimately be for fourth place (and a trip to the knockout rounds) in Group C.
  • Argentina-Croatia (7:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV) will be an important game for seeding in Group B, though it could be a mismatch given the way the two teams played on Saturday.
  • Serbia-France (9:30 a.m. ET, NBA TV) will be the day’s big matchup in Granada, with France needing to rebound from Saturday’s loss to Brazil.
  • If Dieng’s Senegal team is to have any chance of making the top four in Group B, it probably needs to beat Puerto Rico (1:30 p.m., ET).

Plenty to watch at World Cup


VIDEO: Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis talk about the upcoming FIBA World Cup

GRANADA, SPAIN – The FIBA Basketball World Cup is the best hoops you can get outside of the NBA season. Yes, it’s better than the Olympics.

There are twice as many teams, allowing for more depth from Europe and the Americas. And there’s an extra round of single-elimination, tournament play, giving us 15 win-or-go-home games once pool play is completed.

No, the NBA’s top two players aren’t here. But there are 46 guys currently on NBA rosters, a high for any international tournament. And because Kevin Durant and LeBron James aren’t representing the United States, and because there is so much depth among the second tier of teams, the competition for medals will be captivating.

Along with the U.S., Spain is the co-favorite. As the hosts they will enjoy a home-court advantage, which helped propel Turkey to the final game four years ago. But they also have a ton of talent and experience, both in the NBA and in making the U.S. sweat for a gold medal. The reason U.S. has four centers on its roster is because Spain has Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Beyond the top two, the competition to reach the semifinals could be wide open. Pool play will help sort things out somewhat, but as many as 10 other teams could have dreams of making the semifinals and playing for a medal.

Most of those teams will be on Spain’s half of the 16-team bracket after pool play is completed. In Group A play in Granada, the hosts will face Brazil, with its three NBA big men and terrific point guard, France, the 2013 European champion with five NBA players on is roster, and Serbia, who knocked out Spain in the quarterfinals of this tournament four years ago.

When pool play is completed, the top four teams from Group A (Granada) will match up with the top four from Group B (Sevilla) on the Madrid side of the bracket. Group B features Argentina, Croatia, Greece and Puerto Rico.

The U.S. has an easier path to the final. In Group C pool play in Bilbao, its toughest opponent will likely be Turkey, which has fallen hard since the 2010 World Cup, or the Dominican Republic, which the Americans blew out in New York last week.

Group D (Gran Canaria) features two tougher teams – Australia and Lithuania – which the U.S. will likely face on the Barcelona side of the bracket.

The USA’s history in this event (formerly called the World Championship) is not great. Prior to 2010, it had only won 1954, 1986 and 1994. Yugoslavia, which continued to exist as a basketball team after it dissolved as a nation, won five World Championships.

But Mike Krzyzewski has compiled a 43-1 record and a 36-game winning streak in his nine-year tenure as the USA head coach. He won this tournament four years ago with a roster of 12 guys who had never played a senior-level international game. And the world has yet to experience the defensive of new assistant Tom Thibodeau first hand.

The U.S. won its four exhibition games by an average of 29 points, but could still use improvement, especially on offense. Pool play, beginning with Saturday’s game against Finland (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will allow them to work some things out, but it’s doubtful that anything can prepare them for a potential gold-medal game against Spain in Madrid.

Before we can think about that, there is a ton of high-quality basketball to be played and plenty of reasons to watch.

There are key players on NBA contenders — Derrick Rose and Anderson Varejao — looking to get back into basketball shape after injury-riddled seasons.

There is the last stand of Argentina’s golden generation and their beautiful brand of basketball, represented by Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola.

There’s the continued growth of Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng, and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas

There are six incoming rookies, including Australia’s Dante Exum (Jazz), Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou (Rockets) and the Croatian pair of Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets) and Damjan Rudez (Pacers), to watch and figure out how they might contribute to their new teams.

There are 2014 draftees like Croatia’s Dario Saric (Sixers) and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic (Suns), who might eventually be NBA contributors. And there are a few potential prospects, like the Ukraine’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (who will play at Kansas next season), to keep an eye out for.

There’s the curiosity of how veteran Euroleague floor generals like Marcelo Huertas (Brazil) and Milos Teodosic (Serbia) would fit in the NBA.

There’s the Dragic brothers racing up the floor at every opportunity for Slovenia. There’s Andray Blatche playing point-center for the Philippines. And there’s the flair of real point guards like Carlos Arroyo and Ricky Rubio.

Seventy-six games over 17 days. If you can’t wait the upcoming NBA season, with Kevin Love joining LeBron in Cleveland, the Spurs trying for their first repeat, and Rose back in a Bulls uniform, the FIBA World Cup should hold you off for a while.

Qualifying For ’14 World Cup Is Wide Open

.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Eurobasket has just begun and we’ve already had plenty of surprises across FIBA’s regional tournaments, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

In Asia, defending champion China was knocked out in the quarterfinals. In Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia — the two teams that repped the continent in last year’s Olympics — both failed to make the semis. And in the FIBA Americas tournament, Brazil lost all four of their first-round games and was sent home after blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to Jamaica on Tuesday.

Thus far, 10 teams have their tickets punched for Spain (see below). Another 10 (four from the Americas and six from Europe) will receive automatic bids in the next 17 days. Later this year, four wild-card berths will be awarded, giving teams like China and Brazil a shot.

And if Brazil is awarded a wild-card berth, they certainly have the potential to rebound from this year’s performance and make some noise at the World Cup. They have four big men in the NBA: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Vitor Faverani (signed by the Celtics this summer). But none of the four was in Caracas this week, leaving Marcelo Huertas without a competent big man to run the pick-and-roll with.

Their 0-4 performance was still a shock. Brazil gave the U.S. its toughest game at the 2010 World Championship and finished second to Argentina at the 2011 FIBA Americas tourney.

But give credit to Jamaica for it’s comeback, led by former Cav Samardo Samuels, who led all scorers with 21 points and who hit all nine of his fourth-quarter free throws. A pair of freebies by Akeem Scott won the game for Jamaica in the final seconds.

Brazil’s ouster gives Canada a better shot at one of the four automatic berths. The Canadians are without Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, but went 3-1 in the first round. They still have some work to do, as the eight teams remaining in Caracas will play four games — Thursday through Sunday — against the teams they’ve yet to face, and after that, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the semifinals and next year’s World Cup. Canada’s most important game could be Saturday against the Dominican Republic.

The lack of NBA players participating has made the FIBA Americas tournament wide open. And the same may hold true at Eurobasket, which tipped off Wednesday in Slovenia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez on board, Spain is still the clear favorite. And France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, is a lock to get one of the other top six spots.

But after that, things will get interesting. And Exhibit A is Finland’s tourney-opening victory over Turkey, the team that made a fantastic run to the gold medal game in 2010 and has a frontline of Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik.

If you need a basketball fix with another month to go before training camp, there’s plenty of international hoops for you over the next three weeks. NBA TV will have some games, and the others can be seen on ESPN3.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Brazil, Spain, Russia, Argentina And Nigeria Impress In Olympic Openers

LONDON – The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team wasn’t the only crew to walk away from the first day of Olympic competition with an impressive win, theirs coming in a 98-71 thumping of France in the third game of the day.

There were familiar faces (to NBA fans) on the court all day and night, as Brazil, Spain,Russia, Argentina and Nigeria all made good first impressions at the Olympic Basketball Stadium.

A quick round-up of the action …

NIGERIA 60, TUNISIA 56:

The Aminu brothers, Alade and Al-Farouq combined for 25 points and 18 rebounds as Nigeria, the last team to qualify for this 12-team field, held off a late rally from the African champions in the first game of the day. Ike Diogu added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Amine Rzig scored 15 of his 18 points in the second-half to lead Tunisia in what was the Olympic debut for both teams.

BRAZIL 75, AUSTRALIA 71:

Leandro Barbosa scored 16 points but it was his backcourt mate, Brazilian captain Marcelo Huertas, who played the hero as they held off a late push from Australia on two free throws from Huertas with five seconds to play. David Andersen scored all 14 of his points after halftime and Patty Mills led Australia with a game-high 20 points, but it wasn’t enough.

SPAIN 97, CHINA 81:

Pau Gasol was dominant, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points, as the silver medalists and two-time European champs whipped China. Yi Jianlian was impressive in defeat, scoring a game-high 30 points for China, which had no answer for Spain’s depth and quality backcourt duo of Juan Carlos Navarro (14 points) and Jose Calderon (12).

RUSSIA 95, GREAT BRITAIN 75:

The gracious hosts were no match for the Minnesota Timberwolves-bound duo of Andrei Kirilenko (35 points) and Alexey Shved (16 points and 13 assists, who sparked Russia’s dominating performance. Luol Deng scored the first basket of the game, the first for the British in the Olympics since 1948, and finished with 26 points. But he and Pops Mensah-Bonsu (22) couldn’t help the home team overcome Russia or an ugly 4-for-26 effort from beyond the 3-point line.

ARGENTINA 102, LITHUANIA 79:

Luis Scola scored 32 points, Manu Ginobili finished with 21, 10 rebounds and six assists and Carlos Delfino added 20 points for the 2004 gold medalists, who struggled in their exhibition run-up to this competition but celebrated Ginobili’s 35th birthday in style. Linas Kleiza scored 20 points to lead Lithuania, which defeated Argentina in the opener for both teams four years ago in Beijing.

***

For a look at Tuesday’s schedule, click here!

Brazil A Test For The U.S. On Monday

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From every angle, Spain, featuring a frontline of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, is the biggest threat to the U.S. Men’s Senior National team in its quest to win a second straight Olympic gold medal.

Argentina, with its generation of international stars playing one last tournament together, is a dangerous threat. France has as much NBA talent as any team outside of the U.S. And Lithuania and Russia are two more tough teams who won’t be eliminated easily.

But the team that gave the United States their toughest game at the 2010 World Championship was Brazil, who the U.S. will play Monday in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2). It’s the U.S. Team’s final action on American soil before they travel to Manchester and Barcelona for three more exhibitions, and then to London for the Olympics.

The U.S. Women will also play Brazil as part of a double-header. The women’s game precedes the men on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET.

The Brazilian men finished ninth in Turkey, but they gave the U.S. a real scare in preliminary round action before falling 70-68 in a game that was inches away from going to overtime. It was also a game that was played without two of Brazil’s best players, Nene (not on the roster) and Anderson Varejao (injured).

Five players on this year’s U.S. Team were there in Istanbul and remember that game pretty vividly. The other seven got a taste of it when the team watched film Sunday morning before practice. (more…)

Venezuela Picks Up Big Win As First Round Wraps Up

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – On the final day of first round action at the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina saw just one matchup of any interest. But it was a very important game regarding the standings and Olympic qualifying.

After a day off, the eight teams remaining will proceed with the second round on Monday. There’s still a lot to be determined, but a clear hierarchy has begun to develop.

Trending up: Venezuela (2-2)
Trending down: Canada (2-2)
Going home: Cuba (0-4), Paraguay (0-4)

Venezuela 103, Canada 98 (OT) (Boxscore)

Other than the two semifinal games next Saturday (which will determine which two teams qualify for the Olympics), this was probably the most important game of the tournament. Here’s why…

  • The teams that finish third, fourth and fifth in the FIBA Americas tournament qualify for next summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament, where the top three teams (of 12) will qualify for the Olympics. A berth in that tournament would be a big step forward for either Canadian or Venezuelan basketball.
  • Now that the first round is over, the top four teams from each group will each play the top four teams from the other group in the second round. So Canada and Venezuela will each play two teams they should beat (Uruguay and Panama) and two teams they shouldn’t (Argentina and Puerto Rico).
  • After the second round, only the top four teams qualify for elimination-round play. Those four teams should be Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Fifth place (and that final spot in next year’s qualifier) will be determined only by the round-robin results.
  • A Canada win would have put them two games ahead of Venezuela in the standings and virtually ensured them of that fifth spot. But a Venezuela win ties them with Canada in the standings and gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker, putting them in the driver’s seat for fifth.

Appropriately, this was the most exciting game of the tournament. There was an ugly stretch in the second quarter and both teams botched their final possession of regulation, but it was otherwise entertaining.

In the end, it was probably Canada’s mistakes that made the difference down the stretch. They committed four turnovers in the fourth quarter and another two in overtime. They were down by just one when Greivis Vasquez fouled out with less than three minutes to go, but Venezuela scored on each of its next five possessions to go up six and pick up the win.

  • Vasquez had another huge game, scoring 29 points on 8-for-18 from the field. At one point in the second quarter, he had 15 of his team’s 30 points and had a hand in another seven via three assists.
  • But Vasquez got a lot more help in this game than he did in Venezuela’s previous three. David Cubillan dished out 10 assists and hit a huge three in overtime. And Gregory Echeniquerecorded a double-double that included a couple of put-back dunks down the stretch.
  • But the player of the game for Venezuela had to be Hector Romero, who scored 28 points on 7-of-9 from the field and 11-of-14 from the line. Romero finished great around the basket all night and even drained a three early in overtime. His biggest play was an interception of an Andy Rautins cross-court pass that he took the other way for a dunk that gave Venezuela a six-point lead with two minutes to go.
  • That costly turnover was just part of Rautins’ rough afternoon. He shot just 3-for-9 from the field and missed three crucial 3-pointers down the stretch.
  • Carl English carried Canada in the first quarter, but Jermaine Anderson took over after that. Anderson scored more points on Saturday (28) than he did in Canada’s previous three games combined (23).
  • Joel Anthony had a couple of Canada’s late turnovers, but his defense around the rim was critical in getting them to overtime. Anthony finished with nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

Uruguay 79, Paraguay 66 (Boxscore)

Uruguay may be the team that can take that fifth place standing away from Venezuela. And they’ll get a chance in the next round after finishing third in Group B. Esteban Batista recorded his third straight double-double in this game that was never really close after Uruguay took an 11-point lead early in the third quarter.

Paraguay finished 0-4 and can look back at Guillermo Araujo‘s missed free throws at the end of Thursday’s loss to Panama as the reason they’re going home.

Brazil 93, Cuba 83 (Boxscore)

The final score of this was closer than it should have been, but the result was never in doubt. Brazil led by 15 at the half and by 22 at the end of the third quarter, allowing both Tiago Splitter (four points in 10 minutes) and Marcelo Huertas (six assists in 15 minutes) to get plenty of rest.

Like Paraguay, Cuba goes home without a win. They lost their four games by an average of 24.8 points.

Argentina 90, Panama 71 (Boxscore)

This was another game that was never in doubt and another display of Argentina’s terrific teamwork. The hosts didn’t shoot particularly well, but had five guys in double figures and assisted on 24 of their 34 field goals. Luis Scola led the way with 19 points and 14 rebounds and Pablo Prigioni made Panama pay for leaving him alone on the perimeter, connecting on five of his seven attempts from 3-point range.

Panama advances to the second round thanks to that narrow escape over Paraguay on Thursday, but looks destined to finish eighth in the standings.

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.

(more…)

Notes from ARG 93, BRA 89

Scola pointed the way to the quarterfinals. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The round of 16 concluded with the best game of the 2010 World Championship thus far. From start to finish, this was a beautiful display of basketball, and it’s a shame that one of these two teams had to go home early.

That team is Brazil, with Argentina advancing to the quarterfinals with a 93-89 victory on Tuesday night. Both of these teams executed brilliantly in a win-or-go-home situation, and in the end, Argentina had Luis Scola, and Brazil did not.

Scola has clearly been the MVP of this tournament thus far, and apparently his 29-point average in pool play was just an appetizer for the medal rounds. He dropped 37 on Brazil, to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.

One of Scola’s biggest shots of the game was a post-up, fadeaway turnaround over Anderson Varejao, but we really didn’t see much of Scola in the post in this game. In fact, when he did post up earlier in the night, he turned the ball over a couple of times.

Most of his production came off pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action with point guard Pablo Prigioni. But he also had a gorgeous running bank shot off a slip-and-dish from Carlos Delfino. Then there was a great weak-side cut down the middle of the lane off a Prigioni-Fabricio Oberto pick-and-roll.

The biggest bucket of the night was a pick-and-pop 18-footer that gave Argentina a five-point lead with 24 seconds to go. Brazil never got a chance to tie or take the lead after that.

On the other end of the floor, Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas was almost as brilliant as Scola. Huertas wasn’t dishing out assists like he did in the first half against the U.S. last week, but rather was getting to the rim off high screen-and-rolls. He also hit a few pull-up threes when the Argentine defenders backed off, finishing with 32 points on 10-for-16 shooting.

It was a ridiculously efficient game overall, with the two teams combining to shoot 56 percent from the field and score 182 points on 131 possessions, which translates to 139 points per 100. As a reference, the overall efficiency of the tournament before Tuesday’s games was about 105 points per 100 possessions.

(more…)