Friday, August 03, 2012

2012 Olympics: Russia Edges Brazil

RUSSIA 75, BRAZIL 74

We anticipated a competitive game between two closely-matched teams and we got exactly that. Best game of the Olympics so far. Vitaly Fridzon's contorted 3pt. make in the left corner off a flare screen propelled Russia to a 75-74 win.

Brazil had some tough breaks as the refs made some sketchy calls against them and they had plenty of makeable shots just not fall or just rim out.

Russia also had a touch of luck when an errant Timo Mozgov pass (that easily could have been stolen) somehow found its way to Alexey Shved, who promptly knocked down a key 15-foot pull-up that cut Brazil's lead to three points with 1:30 left.

Alexey Shved drilled mid-range pull-ups throughout the game (five total) but his biggest pull-up came behind the 3pt. line. With 30 seconds remaining, Shved lined up Nene on a switch and cooly stepped to his left to drill a 3pt. that tied the game 72-72.

Shved's (17 pts, 6 assts) game was not totally rosy. He dropped some perfectly placed passes as usual, but he also forced himself into tight spots which led to six turnovers. He also missed two FTs with just under a minute left, but made up for it 30 seconds later.

Timo Mozgov struggled with foul trouble again, fouling out in 23 minutes. But Moz was mighty productive in those 23 minutes--18 pts on 8-of-9 and seven rebounds. Moz did most of his damage cutting/rolling to the open spots as Shved or Fridzon were handling the ball.

Timo also added in a couple unexpected sweet post moves. Had a turnaround jumper and a nifty up/under move for a dunk. His activity on the offensive glass (4 off. rebs) helped Russia earn extra possessions.

Andrei Kirilenko (19 pts) didn't really hurt Brazil on cuts (something he thrives on in FIBA), but did hurt them drawing fouls in transition. Andrei earned eight free throws on transition plays. Andrei made some plays off the dribble, including a nifty spin move score.

Leandro Barbosa ignited in the 2nd half scoring 11 of his 16 points in last 11 minutes of the game. Barbosa's attacking helped Brazil cut into Russia's double-digit lead to eventually take the lead late in the 4th. Leandro's big play came when he drove pass Kirilenko in isolation to give Brazil a 70-65 lead with 2:30 left.

Reserve PG Larry Taylor teamed with Barbosa to give Brazil a huge lift in the 4th. Taylor caused major issues in pick-n-roll action scoring on short jumpers and lay-ins in traffic. Converted two three-point plays down the stretch and scored 10 of 12 in the 4th. But missed some crucial foul shots with 1:15 left that could have extended the lead to five.

Russia contained Marcelo Huertas' ball screen action fairly well. Huertas (8 pts, 5 rebs, 3 assts) wasn't as effective as in the previous two games and could not hit his floater/runner with any consistency.

Huertas sat nearly the entire 4th as Larry Taylor was hot, but then Magnano brought him back with under a minute to go. Huertas immediately got called for a travel, but redeemed himself a few possessions later by giving Brazil a 74-72 lead on his driving lay-up.

The Brazilians bigs didn't have quite as much impact on the game as you would want, but they weren't bad when they were on the floor.

Thought Tiago Splitter (8 pts, 5 rebs, 2 assts) gave another nice all-around effort during his 18 minutes on the floor. He passed out of the post well and his help defense was sound as usual. His helping on the backline was tight, especially on a play where he drew a charge on Kirilenko.

On the play, Splitter stepped up to stop Shved penetration. Shved was forced to pass off to Kirilenko on the left wing, Kirilenko drove baseline and Splitter slid over to cut off baseline right after he stopped Shved's drive. Splitter cuts off baseline as well as any big in the NBA.

Nene (8 pts, 10 rbs) was a factor around the rim, but maybe Brazil could have called a few more post-ups for him. Hate to nitpick Coach Ruben Magnano, but maybe his bigs were under-utilized today.

Anderson Varejao picked up his third foul around the 5:00 mark of the 3rd, and sat the rest of the 2nd half, besides the last few seconds of the game.

Reserve Guilherme Giovannoni ended up playing 23 minutes and was on the floor for most of the 4th quarter while Varejao and Splitter sat most of the 4th. Understand Giovannoni spreads the floor better than the other two guys and Brazil made a run when he was on the floor, but maybe Coach Magnano could have found some more time for Varejao.

Give Brazil's defense some credit, they rarely let Russia hurt them with back cuts. Russia only had nine scoring attempts on cuts as opposed to 18 attempts in each of their previous games.

Brazil hit their outside looks at a decent clip (35%), but still were not great. They need to do better job of hitting their deep shots as this tourney progresses.

Once again Russia didn't shoot the long-ball all that well (33%). Also their FT shooting was subpar (54%), but they were lucky Brazil was missing FTs (55%) as well. Russia's FT shooting is an underrated negative factor, could cost them in the future.

With the win Russia likely secures 2nd-place in Group B. Russia plays Spain next and could possibly pull the upset and grab the Group B crown. Brazil is likely locked into 3rd-place and likely to meet France in the quarterfinals.

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Saturday's Games of the Day:
(All times are London time)

Spain vs. Russia (11:15 am):
Basically the Group B championship game. Spain held off a 4th-quarter rally by Great Britain on Thursday to improve to 3-0. Not sure you can read too much into Spain's one-point win vs. a clearly inferior team.

Since Sergio Scariolo took over as coach three years ago, Spain has a habit of disengaged play in the preliminary rounds. But Spain is definitely not as imposing as they could be as Juan Navarro likely won't play vs. Russia, and possibly for the rest of the tourney.

Even without La Bomba, have to go with Spain over Russia.

Australia vs. Great Britain (8pm): Winner likely secures 4th-place in Group B and earns the honor of playing Team USA in the quarterfinals.

The Brits come into this game 0-3, but have pushed their last two opponents, Brazil and Spain. Like Australia, Britain is a solid defensive unit and both teams hit the boards well.

Britain relies heavily on the trio of Luol Deng, Joel Freeland and Pops Mensah-Bonsu. While the Aussies have a solid frontline rotation to matchup well with the Brits. The Aussies have the distinct advantage in the backcourt with Patty Mills, Matt Dellavedova and Brad Newley.

Britain does have the homecourt advantage and this should be a tight contest.

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