Barbosa Shines in Brazil's Win over Canada (75-67)
It was slow going at first for Leandro Barbosa and the Brazilians, who looked like they weren't really ready to play in the first few minutes. But back-to-back passes up the court leading to Barbosa layups got them going toward a double-digit lead that kept them just out of reach the rest of the way. LB didn't shoot the greatest percentage (9-26 overall; 3-12 from three), but he ended up with 30 points, and his team ended up with the win. He also shot 9-11 from the line, got five assists (including a particularly sweet one that got him Haier's Play of the Game), four rebounds, and in a game where two of his teammates fouled out and two others came within one foul of doing so, he only had a single foul the entire game. All in all, not a bad start for the NBA's 6th Man of the Year.
The game got close in the fourth quarter when Canada went on a Samuel Dalembert-led run and tied it at 56. Brazil looked to be in real trouble when both Nene and Tiago Splitter fouled out within a minute of each other, leaving Brazil without their two best big men. But they finished out the game small-ball-style (Mike D'Antoni would have been so proud), and came away with the win.
Player of the Game: Leandro Barbosa, easily. He looked like he was playing the Lakers at times.
Runner-Up: Samuel Dalembert. Somehow you can't help but think he would have totally dominated this game were it not for some early foul trouble. Between this and the really nice teamwork he showed with Nash in the recent Charity Classic video, I'm starting to wish this guy wasn't locked up with a big contract for the next several years.
Random Thought: I've always thought Steve Nash needed a cool nickname. He's had a few over the years, but none ever seemed to really stick. But the announcers of this game might be onto something calling him "'Gerber', because he feeds you like a baby". Could work. What do ya'll think?
Team USA Puts on a Show in Demolishing Venezuela (112-69)
Team USA is now 1-0 after an easy victory over hopelessly outmatched Venezuela. The contest was over well before the first quarter ended; the show was just getting started. Team USA used a balanced attack with a hefty dose of psyche-crushing dunks and fancy passing to leap out to an early lead that was well on its way to insurmountable before Amare Stoudemire even entered the game. Venezuela wasn't just the underdogs in this game. They looked a lot like some anonymous team facing the Harlem Globetrotters as the token competition in a match that was far more show than substance.
Team USA took the floor with Jason Kidd, Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and Dwight Howard as their starting lineup. Amare made his first appearance 6:12 into the first quarter with the USA already leading by eight. Amare had a pretty good game statistically. He played 18 minutes, made 4-4 from the field and shot 8-9 from the free throw line for 16 points to go with four rebounds, two blocks, and an assist. He even got in on the show a bit with a spectacular block near the end of the third quarter, and a nice dunk off a Tayshaun Prince assist late in the fourth. But he is clearly just "one of the guys" on this team, or at least he was tonight. LeBron, Kobe, and Carmelo look to be the "big three". Not that it's a bad thing, necessarily. It just makes it a little more difficult to write a Suns-centric report about the game. It was a kind of hard to evaluate Amare's performance tonight, really, because the game was so non-competitive. He seemed to struggle hanging onto rebounds a bit, especially early in the game, but otherwise, nothing much to complain about. As far as the "oohs and ahs" go, he had a relatively quiet game compared to some of the other players. Still, it's pretty hard to argue with a perfect shooting night, and on this night, a super-spectacular performance by Amare was clearly not needed.
Player of the Game: I'm not really sure who to give this to because it was really a total group effort for Team USA. I'm going with LeBron for being the most fun to watch.
Runner-Up: No one on Venezuela played well enough for this honor, so I'll go with Amare. His contributions didn't have as much of an impact on the game as Kobe's or Carmelo's, but I'm a Suns fan and I gotta back my guy.
Random Thoughts: I have to be honest, there's a reason I've never gotten into the whole Team USA thing before now. The idea of stacking a squad with NBA superstars in an attempt to roll over the rest of the league kind of goes against my ingrained tendency to cheer for the underdog. That probably makes me seem unpatriotic, but it's just how I am. Since we have a Suns player on the team this year, I will be watching, but I have to admit, I really enjoyed the Brazil-Canada game more. Still, if tonight's game is any indication, it's hard to imagine the USA won't earn its spot on the Olympic team by the time this tournament is done.