Thursday, August 23, 2007

Mexico's Pressure & Pace Lead to Upset

FIBA AMERICAS-- Mexico 100, Puerto Rico 89

Nolan Richardson's leadership & "Cuarenta Minutos de Infierno" is already paying dividends with Mexico's 100-89 upset of Puerto Rico as proof. Was very impressed with Mexico's ball movement, and they did a good job of trapping/pressuring out of zone looks. Mexico was scrambling all over the floor which helped force 27 TOs leading to many transition opportunites. A little surprised P. Rico's battle-tested backcourt looked this sloppy vs. Mexico's pressure. Puerto Rico's 27 turnovers did not help their cause, and their free throw shooting--23/40--just compounded their problems. Still early, but this game could give Mexico the tiebreaker for the 5th spot & utltimately punch their ticket for the Pre-Olympic tourney.

Star of the game was 35-year old Victor Mariscal, who was on fire in the 1st half scoring 22 of 30 pts in the half either on his Brent Barry-style set shot or living at the foul line (15/18 fts total). He also chipped in 6 rebs & 4 assts. Former Phoenix Sun Horacio Llamas' silky touch belies his generous physique--he hit a few long jumpers as part of his 18 pts & 11 rebs. Llamas is sort of fun to watch--he reminds me of a very poor's man version of Sabonis, he ambles down the court, but has nimble footwork, a nice touch, & a willingness to pass. Fat Lever's son, Anthony Lever-Pedroza, pitched in with 13 pts for Mexico.

Puerto Rico did not get the type of game they needed from their established leaders. Carlos Arroyo probably had the worst game in his illustrious FIBA career--4 pts on 0/10, & 5 TOs--though he did seem to be laboring with an undisclosed injury. Larry Ayuso really never got on track, and only finished with 11 pts & 5 TOs. Dallas Mav Juan Barea added some energy off the bench that helped in P. Rico's 2nd half comeback, but overall he was erractic as well, adding 6 TOs of his own to go with the 10 combined of Arroyo & Ayuso.

Ex-Wizard behemoth, PJ Ramos, played pretty well in the 1st half, and looking more spry than in the past. He did do some damage in the paint (13 & 7 on 6/9), but was sidetracked by foul trouble in the 2nd half, and still had some rough spots where he blew 2 dunks. Rick Apodaca (ex-Hofstra) gave P.R. a much needed jolt off the bench since their main backcourt players were underperforming--Apodaca had his jumper flowing (3/6 3pt.) & ended with 15 pts & 4 assts.

One good sign for Puerto Rico was their ability to hit the boards--they outrebounded Mexico 50-36, grabbed 19 off. A lot of the dirty work was done not surprisingly by Angelo Reyes--14 pts & 12 (7 off). P. Rico really will need Reyes to continue to provide his interior toughness since their frontcourt options are lacking.