Thursday, September 03, 2009

'09 FIBA Americas: A Puerto Rican Perimeter Party

A Puerto Rico party on the perimeter overpowers Dominican Republic, 85-76. Puerto Rico improves to 5-0 and clinches a qualifying spot for Turkey in 2010. Dom. Rep. falls to 2-3, and still has work to do for a spot.

Puerto Rico has always relied heavily on the 3pt. shot, and today their patented long-range bombing was the key to holding off the Dominicans. Puerto Rico shot 15/29 from 3pt. land & had a sweet eFG% of 60%.

Anytime Puerto Rico needed a pick-me-up in this game, they stepped behind the 3pt. line for relief. Larry Ayuso (16 pts), Ricky Sanchez (11 pts), & Carmelo Lee (10 pts) scored most of their points behind the arc. Ayuso was 4/9 from 3pt., Sanchez-3 out of 7, & Lee-3 for 4.

The 2nd half of this game was characterized by runs. Dom. Republic would start off each quarter strong, then Puerto Rico would take over the 2nd half of each quarter.

The Dominicans came out the halftime break with some sharp offensive execution in a 11-2 run to start the 3rd Q. Then Puerto Rico responded with barrage of long jumpers (4/7 3pts.) to regain the lead in the 3rd. Larry Ayuso got streaky from the perimeter (as he is known to do), and ripped off 10 pts in the last 6 mins of the 3rd. Ayuso led Puerto Rico on 19-8 run to finish the 3rd.

After sitting out the 3rd Q. due to 4 fouls, Chuck Villanueva ripped off 10 straight points early in 4th, punctuated by 3pt. trailing in transition to tie the game, 63-63. Then P. Rico responded by hitting back-2-back 3pts. by Arroyo & Sanchez, to push the lead to 69-63.

Killer offensive glass work allowed the Dominicans to withstand P. Rico 3pt. assault, and stay close for most of the game. Dom. Rep. pulled down 17 off. rebs to 24 def. rebs for Puerto Rico. The Dominicans were down only 3 points at halftime because they grabbed 13 off rebs. to P. Rico's 13 def. rebs in the 1st half. Their rebounding also offset their subpar 4 for 19 3pt. shooting performance.

Carlos Arroyo used the high screens effectively to free himself for jumpers and drives. 'Los played consistent thru-out for 18 pts., 6 rebs., & 5 assts. Arroyo hit some timely jumpers like Ayuso & Sanchez, and shot 3/4 from 3pt.

Al Horford continues to play great all-around ball and did damage drilling jumpers in the 12-15 range. Al hit about 4-5 jumpers (a couple pick-n-pop) on his way to 18 pts & 10 rebs (3 off.).

Charlie Villanueva was saddled with foul trouble again, but he exploded in the 4th with 17 of his 21 pts. [Note: Here's the tweet of the day from Charlie V: "CV31 I didnt even know in FIBA a technical foul counts as a foul against u. I got 2 fouls in one play. Play 4th qtr with 4 fouls, 5 and your out."]

Francisco Garcia had been the best shooter in this tourney thus far, but he had an off-day vs. P. Rico with 3 pts on 1/9 shooting, 1/6 3pt.

Combo guard Luis Flores quietly racked up 14 pts, 9 assts., & 4 rebs. Flores often set up Horford for his looks. Flores snuck in for easy lay-ins, but again took some poor shots. Still too many incidents of the Dominican guards taking sketchy shots & making suspect decisions with the ball.

Dom. Rep. got some nice contributions from PF JM Martinez, with some nifty moves in the painted area and his usual strong board work (10 pts & 7 rebs). But Martinez's foolish tech foul halfway thru the 4th with a 4-point P. Rico lead cost his team.

This win clinches a spot in next summer's Worlds for Puerto Rico. This loss by the Dom. Republic leaves the door open for Uruguay & Canada. A possible do-or-die game between Can. & Dom. Rep. could be on tap for Friday, which could be for the last qualifying spot to Turkey.


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