Tuesday, September 07, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: Round of 16 Analysis (Argentina-Brazil)

Argentina 93, Brazil 89

The old lions of Argentina refused to pass the torch of South American preeminence on Tuesday, holding off a relentless Brazil team in a true El Clásico in Istanbul. What a game: the best game of the 2010 FIBA World Championships to date. It's too bad the Brazilians were sent home so early--we wanted to watch more of them.

Non-stop back-and-forth action throughout the game, other than a lull at the start of the 2nd quarter. Both teams shot 50%+ not only from the floor overall--Argentina 58%, Brazil 53.7%--but also from behind the 3pt. arc--Argentina 61%, Brazil 50%.

Luis Scola was kind of a big deal on Tuesday--37 pts on 14-for-20 FG, 9 rebs (4 off), 3 assts, 2 stls & 8-for-9 FTA. Scola is an inside-out force, but Luis did the majority of damage with his jumper on Tuesday. He was a menace in pick/pop action, where he drilled 6-7 jumpers between 15-18 ft. He even bounced in a 3pt. make, made a jumper off a heady flash cut, and hit a short pull-up off a screen. I counted only two scores with his back to the basket, but both were tough.

Scola was clutch down the stretch--he converted four baskets and forced one crucial TO in the last 3:00. Let's take a look:
    3:00: Prigioni-Scola left side pick/roll. Prigioni goes away from the pick, drops a perfect bounce pass to Luis, who hits a foul-line jumper. Argentina 83, Brazil 79.

    2:15: Delfino-Scola high pick/roll, Scola gets the ball on the right elbow on a delayed pop, Varejao charges out on him, Luis drives right and converts a close runner. Argentina 85, Brazil 79.

    1:05: Maybe his best play. Luis backs down Varejao on the right block, then turns right shoulder to bury a fadeaway jumper going across the lane over Anderson's outstretched arm. Argentina 87, Brazil 84.

    0:45: Barbosa runs a right side pick/roll heading toward baseline, Scola helps and impedes Barbosa's progress, poking the ball away in the process. Argentina recovers the ball. Argentina 87, Brazil 84.

    0:24: Prigioni-Scola high pick/roll, Prigioni drops another perfect bounce pass to Luis, who pops out high & converts a 18-footer over Huertas. Argentina 89, Brazil 84.
Scola also dropped some nifty passes and drew plenty of fouls once again. He is now averaging a tournament-leading 30.3 points per game on 62% FG and 86% FT, plus 8.3 rebounds per game. Even if Argentina loses in the quarters, Luis should get the MVP trophy.

The Prigioni-Scola pick/roll continues to be the deadliest in the tourney. A lot of Scola's scoring opportunities are made easier because of Pablo. Very few players throw bounce passes like Pablo and the placement of his passes are key to his teammates getting good looks. He's like Nash in that regard. Best pure passer in this tourney next to Rubio. Pablo dropped 8 assists but the usually unflappable vet made some unlikely miscues today (3 TOs).

We've had a lot of praise for Brazil Coach Ruben Magnano in this space, but we have to question his strategy on Tuesday. The team's coverage of the Prigioni-Scola pick/roll made no sense, as Varejao and Splitter consistently left Scola to show hard against Prigioni, who is not really a pull-up shooter, and rarely looks to create shots for himself.

On Scola's last basket, for example, you saw Brazil hedge hard on Prigioni and stay with him too long. Varejao should just have showed real quick on Prigioni, then immediately gotten back to Scola. Instead he stayed with Prigioni too long. Make Prigioni a scorer, it goes against his instincts.

It was all the more curious because Magnano is the former coach of Argentina. If anyone should know their personnel, it's Ruben, yet Brazil consistently gave up wide-open passing lanes to Prigioni, almost like an American team who had no idea what his strengths and weaknesses were.

Yes, Scola killed Brazil all game long with pop jumpers. But part of the reason he was able to was that Brazil flat-out left him open.

Carlos Delfino (20 pts) got the Argentines rolling early by banging home three 3-pointers in the first five minutes of the game. 'Los also snaked his way to rim a couple times for lay-ins.

SF Hernan Jasen has filled in for Andres Nocioni admirably and has been an active role player. On Tuesday he stepped up on the offensive end to score 15 pts, 3-of-6 on 3-pointers (Jasen had only hit 2-of-9 on 3PA coming into this game). His biggest contribution to the game was a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers to respond to a pair of back-to-back 3-pointers from Barbosa to tie the game early in the 4th.

Fab Oberto (7 pts, 5 rebs) was back in the lineup and was an integral piece to the victory. Oberto functions so well in Argentina's system playing physical defense, setting screens and displaying his underrated passing skills. Oberto made a few nice passes today and did a solid job laying into Splitter.

Brazil's Marcelo Huertas was once again dangerous off the bounce, constantly finding his way to the rim for scores or drawn fouls (8-for-8 FTs) on his way to a 32-point performance. Marcelo also had his jumper working--4-for-8 on 3PA--including two big 3PT makes in the last 2:00.

We felt Huertas was a possible NBA free agent prospect before the Worlds began, based on his past int'l play and strong ACB season. His play over the last 10 days just solidifies his standing as a legit NBA PG in our estimation. He has good size (6-3), good speed and can get in the lane to put pressure on a defense.

Leandro Barbosa (20 pts) was raining down 3-pointers (5-for-9) either in isolation or quick pull-ups off of ball screens. He sparked Brazil at the start of the 4th with back-to-back 3-pointers to give his team a 72-66 lead. He did not take too many dicey shots today, but he did make a costly TO late (see above).

Tiago Splitter was solid with 10 pts, 5 pts and a few big defensive plays, but he was limited to just 25 minutes due to the lingering effects of a leg injury from the group stage.

Brazilian vets Alex Garcia (7 pts, 4 rebs), Marcelo Machado (10 pts in 17 min) and Anderson Varejao all added decent auxiliary support. Garcia's speed was a factor causing TOs (3 stls) and pushing the pace when available. Varejao (7 pts, 5 rebs) did hound Scola near the rim a few times but he had difficulties following him away from the basket. Machado brought his requisite deep range with two 3-pointers.

Even though Brazil won't medal, they should feel satisfied with the way they played in Turkey. They took Team USA to the brink and they pushed a quality Argentina squad to the edge. Splitter had a solid tourney, averaging 12.8 ppg (54% FG) & 5.2 rpg plus quality defensive effort in 25 mpg.

Argentina advances to the quarters to face Lithuania on Thursday. We're expecting Argentina to take out Lithuania and head to a likely semifinal matchup vs. Team USA. Though, the one advantage for Lithuania is its depth. Linas Kleiza was also a beast on Tuesday, tallying 30 pts and 9 reb on 14-22 FG in Lithuania's 78-67 win over China. The Kleiza-Scola matchup should be a good one--they've been two of the very best players in the tournament.


At 9:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain - Serbia: My god, was that sad. Spain didn't play well in the first half, and Serbia's dirty play and the abysmal referees sunk Spain every time they started playing well in the second half. Especially the US referee, who thought he was in WWF or something like that. Now, I hope we can finally get rid of Scariolo. That last play was pathethic.

That last triple from Teodosic was great, though. But I hope Turkey beats them. Such a dirty team doesn't deserve to be in the World finals.

At 10:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ooooh, that was unexpected: Spain was defeated, and the refs are to blame. Colour me unsurprised.

At 11:49 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

Luis Scola is EXCELLENT - I watched the last 15mins of the game and that was a really really good game! Huertas also had that running three pointer in the last minute to cut the difference to one point. You can't not love Scola though, he is money with his jumpers, he had some nice shots near the basket and that fadeaway at the end. Right now, with Spain out (and Greece), I'd love to see Argentina win this, but I think Turkey also has a good chance, playing at home and all....

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