Argentina Stays Undefeated With Overtime Win Over Brazil (86-79)
Ok, Suns fans, next time you're feeling blue over your team cashing in their draft picks, go over to NBA.com and watch a replay of this game. You'll get to see Luis Scola making Spurs fans wonder whether trading Scola's rights for a second-round pick, the privilege of sending Vassilis Spanoulis back home to Greece, and yes, the dreaded "cash considerations" was really the best deal they could get. It might make you feel better for a few minutes until you remember that teams with Tim Duncan and multiple championships can afford to mind their pennies. In the meantime, it is fairly safe to say that Scola is the reason Argentina successfully completed a comeback from 14 down at the half to win this game in overtime. He rebounded. He got to the line again and again. He almost single-handedly got Tiago Splitter fouled out of the game (four of Splitter's fouls were against Scola). And he made the big plays in crunch time.
Brazil gave it their best shot. They played tough, scrappy defense early in the game to keep Argentina out of rhythm, and used it to fuel their own offense en route to the half-time lead. But Leandro Barbosa's foul trouble coupled with Argentina maintaining a bit more poise under pressure did them in eventually. Barbosa picked up his fourth foul with about four and half minutes left in the third quarter. Brazil held on for a while, but gave up an 8-0 run to Argentina to open the fourth. By the time Barbosa reentered the game, the lead was gone and the score was tied. Barbosa's return initially seemed to light a fire under his team as they had a nice sequence on both ends of the floor to regain the lead. But it all came down to a final shot at the end of regulation, and Barbosa just couldn't repeat what he did at the end of the Chicago game back in January. With Tiago Splitter fouled out, Argentina had the look of a championship team as they closed it out for a rather...well...Spurs-like win in overtime. So, a heartbreaking loss for Brazil, but easily the most exciting and competitive game I've seen in this tournament so far. (With the obvious caveat that I've only been watching the two teams that have Suns players, of course).
Player of the Game: The aforementioned Luis Scola. He had 23 points on 5-9 shooting, made 13-18 free throws, had 12 rebounds, and made the big plays when it mattered most. The one blight on his game was turnovers (he had six), but Argentina doesn't win this game without him.
Runner-Up: If Brazil had won I would have had a very hard time picking a Player of the Game. Most likely, I would have just gone with the cop-out solution and given it to the whole team. Since they didn't, I'll put a little more thought into it. We have Nene's double-double (10 points, 12 rebounds), but he whiffed at the free throw line to go 0-3. Not that the rest of his team did much better, but Nene's misses seemed to come at especially crucial times. Leandro Barbosa showed how much he was missed when he had to sit with foul trouble. But he hurt his team by getting in foul trouble to begin with, and also by shooting an awful 5-18 from the field. Tiago Splitter played well in many ways that don't show up in the boxscore. One stat that does show up in the boxscore is his four blocks. But he too hurt his team by fouling out, so he doesn't get it either. Valter Silva was Brazil's best shooter at 5-6 with a couple of big shots in the fourth to help Brazil regain the lead. But, I'm going with Marcelinho Machado who didn't shoot particularly well (19 points on 6-15 from the field), but made five of his six free throws and had the better all-around game with seven rebounds, seven assists, and three steals. I won't hold his six turnovers against him since I gave Scola a pass on those too.
Random Thoughts: Guilherme Giovannoni gets my unofficial Boneheaded Play of the Game award for a needless flagrant foul that very well may have cost Brazil the game. But way back in the second quarter, he threw in a layup buzzerbeater to close out the half. This is the second time he's dropped in dramatics at the buzzer, and it's also the second time that said dramatics were his only points. Maybe Brazil should just save this guy for the final four seconds of each quarter, and leave him on the bench for the rest of it?
LeBron Sets Record for Perfection in Win Over Uruguay (118-79)
I'm keeping it brief with Team USA tonight since the Brazil-Argentina overtime game put me behind on my writing and sleep is calling. The story of Team USA's latest demonstration of greatness is no doubt going to be LeBron James who set a new record for FIBA field goal percentage in a single game by going 11-11 (including 4-4 from three). He also had zero turnovers, four assists and two steals to go with his 26 points of perfection. Carmelo Anthony sat this one out with a bruised heel, and was hardly missed. His absence opened up additional opportunities for Amare Stoudemire who built on last night's breakthrough performance with 19 on points on 7/10 shooting, including a three-pointer for the second game in a row. He also added seven rebounds and three steals.
Uruguay was led by Esteban Batista who's gone from Atlanta Hawks bench warmer to third leading scorer in this tournament. Batista shot 9-15 and had five rebounds to go with his 20 points. Uruguay managed to keep it close early in the game, but the rout was well under way by the end of the first quarter. Like I said, I'm keeping it brief, so on to the individual kudos:
Player of the Game: A statistically perfect night by LeBron James nets him his second Player of the Game in a row.
Runner-Up: If you're a Suns fan, go with Amare for the repeat. If you're a Uruguay fan, go with Esteban Batista.
Random Thoughts: I have none. I'm too tired to think.