Monday, August 31, 2009

'09 FIBA Americas: Argentina 89, Dom. Republic 87 (OT)

Luis Scola & timely outside shooting lift Argentina over Dominican Republic 89-87 in OT.

Forget about Canada-Uruguay, this game easily qualifies as the best game of the 1st round. Fewer TOs (total of 16) & fewer fouls than the Can-Urug game plus the added juice of a lively crowd made for a memorable match.

This win happened because of a combination of Scola's interior work and team 3pt. shooting. Argentina's shooting had been faltering lately but they turned it on from deep--shooting 13/28 from 3pt range. 69 of Argentina's 89 pts came from either Scola (30pts) or 3pt. shooting. And plenty of those 3pts. were created from doubles/extra help on Scola.

Argentina was lucky to pull out the win considering the way Dom. Rep. manhandled them on the glass: 48-35, 20 off. rebs. The Dominicans recorded 12 off. rebs over the 4th Q & OT. Had 7 off rebs. in OT alone. Though, Dom. Rep. had some trouble converting easy 2nd chance opportunities, especially down the stretch.

Dom Rep. often went with a big frontcourt alignment with Al Horford & JM Martinez upfront, C. Villanueva at the 3. These three bigs combined for 31 rebs, 15 off. rebs. Horford & Martinez were dogged on the off. glass (6 each), and scored multiple times off put-backs. Most of Martinez's 13 pts came off 2nd chance pts. Though, JM Martinez had a crucial tip-in rim-out in OT.

Martinez saw the brunt of minutes defending Scola, so as to free Horford to patrol as a help defender in the middle. But with Martinez assigned to Scola, constant help was required and this opened up space for the other Argentines.

Scola was a force near the basket scoring off righty hooks, up/under moves, drop-steps, spins, and a few put-backs off his 5 off. rebs. Coach Hernandez decided to leave Scola in the game after picking up his 4th foul early in the 4th, and the choice paid off in Argentina's next offensive possession, with Scola getting fouled on a nice up/under move. Scola sought out contact as usual--10 for 14 on free throws.

Scola did a great job moving the ball out of the post when doubled--Luis had 5 assts, including setting up Andres Pelussi for a 3pt. that tied the game 74-74 in regulation.

Pablo Prigioni seems to be rounding into his usual form after looking rusty in the first two games. Was back to making sound decisions with the ball, including wisely picking when to shoot--Prigioni connected on 3/6 3pts, including a big corner 3 that cut D.R.'s 5-point lead to 86-84 in OT.

Not sure there is a PG in the world next to Nash who has better placement on his passes than Prigioni. Master of the bounce pass. Had a superb bounce pass to Scola off the pick/roll, where he threw the ball to an area like a good quarterback. Pablo had 11 pts & 5 assts.

Leo Gutierrez's only job is to shoot standstill jumpers, and he fulfilled this duty big-time on Sunday. Leo hit on 3/8 from 3pt. range, including a monster 3pt. to give Arg. a 84-83 lead with 1:20 left in OT. Argentina was thankful that SG Paolo Quinteros regained his shooting touch that has been off for the last few weeks. Quinteros scored most of his 14 pts on jumpers--a few 3pt. makes and a few quick-dribble pull-ups.

Again there was some spotty decision making & shot selection from the Dominicans. This was amplified by a shot clock violation with 0:30 in OT with D.R. down 3 pts.

Scola's stellar interior play was replicated by Al Horford. Scored his 24 pts on a couple turnaround jumpers, couple hooks, and couple buckets on put-backs. Al's underrated interior passing skills were on display again--6 assts for Al.

2 quick fouls (drawn by Scola) really knocked Charlie Villanueva off-kilter and Charlie forced the action the rest of the game. He did help out on the boards with 10 rebs, but shot just 2/13 & had 3 TOs. Villanueva missed a chippy hook to win the game in regulation.

Most of Francisco Garcia's 20 pts came off of long 3pts with hands in his face--5/8 on 3pts. This seems to be Garcia's specialty in this tourney. Luis Flores' penetration effectively led to 16 pts & 4 assts.

This outcome had huge ramifications for Argentina, not to mention Panama & Venezuela. First off, the win allowed Panama to slide into the 2nd round over Venezuela. Secondly, this win means Arg. carries a 2-1 record into the 2nd round instead of an 0-3 record. Finally, Arg. gets to carry over the +25 scoring margin from their game vs. Panama in the 2nd round. Also, this outcome could possibly open up a wild-card berth for another country outside of Europe because Argentina's semifinal chances improve.

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