Saturday, September 01, 2007

US & Argentina Beijing Bound

Arg 91, Brazil 80

- A game that was very similar to their 2nd round matchup where Brazil controlled the action in the 1st half then seemingly just handed over the game for Argentina to win. Argentina ended up shooting 18/31 in the 2nd half to outscore Brazil 56-37 in the half. Another halftime lead squandered by Brazil because of indecisiveness on the offensive end. Brazil's offense once again hit a wall in the 2nd half, while Argentina showed their typical steely resolve and systematically chipped away at the Brazil lead. Surely did not help that Team Brazil was stung by the untimely calf injury to Nene early in the 1st quarter, which took away their main low-post option.

- Luis Scola was a monster in the painted area once again shooting a blistering 10/14 overall for 27 points. Again, did his damage in a variety of ways: jumpers, lay-in off of drives, spin moves, including a nice move where he faked a spin to freeze his defender then finished in traffic. Still not sure why the Spurs decided to hand him over to a divisional rival. We mentinoed before Scola is adept at drawing fouls (something he does over in Europe), and went to the line 12 times tonight--he's going to the line 7 times per game in the tourney.

- Delfino continued to find the iron unkind on his jumpers, but Los once again brought some solid defense, rebounding, & playmaking off the dribble--Carlos had 13 pts, 4 rebs, 4 assts, & 3 stls. Pablo Prigioni is taking the place of Pepe Sanchez as this year's surprise deep threat for Argentina. Pepe, not known for his shooting, did a great job drilling his jumpers in Japan last year, and now this year Prigioni is stroking the long ball--Pablo was 3/5 from 3pt. tonite for 14 pts & 5 assts, and he's currently shooting 44% from 3pt. for the tourney. Paolo Quinteros had 10 pts, including a big 3pt with a minute left to extend the lead to 6.

- Tiago Splitter was the best player for Brazil thanks once again to another terrific defensive effort & work on the glass--only Sam Dalembert has been as good an interior defender for the tourney. Splitter is still raw on the offensive end (his shot is too flat), but does finish with either hand & likes to run the floor--made a great block in transition today. Tiago ended with 14 pts & 9 rebs (4 off). Barbosa did have 16 pts, 3 assts, 3stls, but he never seemed to get into a consistent groove, possibly because of foul trouble. Alex Garcia (16 pts) gave Brazil a nice boost with aggressiveness off the bench, and helped his team stay close in the 4th quarter.

- Things worked out very well for Argentina where they qualified for Beijing but still had the luxury of giving their key veterans a year off. To me, it's just a testament to the great system of basketball in Argentina that accords them this type of success with such a depleted roster. Brazil now has to shuffle their asses off to the pre-Olympic tourney, something which might not have been needed if they could have just figured out some sort of viable offensive gameplan.

USA 135, Puerto Rico 91

- This was one of the most devastating displays of offense I've ever seen from Team USA. Yes, maybe P. Rico's defense leaves a lot to be desired, but Team USA could do no wrong on offense. Shot 70% from the field & unthinkable 64% from 3pt. Moved the ball well, easily entered the ball into lane, drove the ball with impunity, and were deadly on their jumpers. The only minor flaw was a 16/23 night from the ft line.

-Put this game away for good right out of the halftime break--Melo hits 4 3pts in the opening 3 minutes of the 3rd. Then Mike Redd bookended the 43-point onslaught that was the 3rd quarter with a 3pt barrage of his own. Then Redd continued his hothand into the 4th, and started to trade bombs with Mike Miller. Those ended up leading the way for a long ball festival for Team USA--they were ridiculous 23/36 from downtown for the game. If Team USA is gonna consistently stroke the ball like this, it's gonna be arduous chore for any team to handle them.

-Contrary to the numbers, did not think the US was great on defense, pretty solid, but not near the level they showcased in the 1st round. Maybe I've just been spoiled by the lofty standards they set in the earlier games. Arroyo was getting free off the dribble, and had some trouble containing him. Once again probably fouled a little too much, but some of those calls were dubious. Don't know what P. Rico had on 2nd chance points but was probably too many. 3rd game in a row where Team USA had some trouble protecting their defensive glass. P.R. had 19 off. rebs. that led to a 62% def. reb pct for Team USA, not that great.

- Offensively, Team USA was led by the usual suspects. Bron drove the ball at will, and just physically overwhelmed any defender who tried to get in his way. Bron was 9/11 from the floor for 19 pts to continued his blazing shooting pct. of 76% for the tourney. When he couldn't get all the way to the rim, he was not shy about setting up his teammates off his dribble--Bron led Team USA with 9 assts. Melo also was a monster again at the offensive end--27 pts on 8/9, 6/7 from long range. Mike Redd bounced back after a few subpar shooting games with a huge outing of 23 pts, mostly off of 3pts (7/8 3pts.). Mike Miller also decided to join into the deep ball derby by going 4/6 from deep for 14. Kobe chipped in with 15 of his own, including some double-clutch MJ-inspired hangers for good measure.

- Larry Ayuso helped P.R. stay competitive in the 1st half by popping off of screens to hit multiple off-balance 3pts. Ayuso ended 5/9 from 3pt. on his way to 22 pts. Carlos Arroyo helped Ayuso out with 21 & 5 assts of his own. Angelo Reyes & Alex Falcon combined to cause the brunt of the US' rebounding problems. Reyes was his usual scrappy self for 11 pts & 6 rbs (3 off), and Falcon hauled down 6 off rebs which led to some drawn fouls--Falcon had 12 & 8 rebs.

- Now onto an inconsequential championship game where they only thing that should be on the minds of both teams in not to get any players hurt.


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