Updated: 08/31/07 03:15 ET
Brazil Lands in Semi-Finals with Win Over Uruguay (96-62)
Leandro Barbosa will no doubt get some friendly ribbing from both his Brazilian and Suns teammates for being on the wrong end of a posterizing dunk compliments of Mauricio Aguiar, but I bet he'll take it. With their 34-point win over Uruguay coupled with Canada's loss to Puerto Rico tonight, the Brazilians not only assured themselves a spot in the semi-finals, but also nabbed the #3 seed, landing them a meeting with lesser-of-two-evils Argentina, and a chance to atone for last night's near miss.
The key for Brazil was once again their running game. As I've said several times this past week, getting out in transition just about always leads to good things for Brazil. This time it helped them turn a seven-point halftime lead into a 30-8 third quarter that put Uruguay in a hole they never dug out of. Four players scored in double-figures in Brazil's 65% shooting effort (including a whopping 54% from three), and they corrected last night's free throw woes by going 9-10. On the other end of the floor, Brazil played tough, pesky defense coming up with deflections and steals, which helped fuel the running game even more. They held Uruguay to 39%, and out-rebounded them by 11. All around, a nice solid effort by Brazil.
True to my prediction in the game thread, Leandro Barbosa bounced back from last night's sub-par shooting effort to score 32 points on 12-18, including 4-7 three pointers, at least two of which were of the shot clock-beating variety (perhaps he's practicing for the next time he has the ball in his hands with 10 seconds to go in a tied game at the end of regulation?). He also made all four of his free throws, but his contribution in the boxscore was mostly limited to scoring (one rebound, two assists, one steal). Tiago Splitter and Nene teamed up to become dual immovable objects in the paint, shutting down the easy opportunities inside. Splitter had 13 points on 5-9 from the field, seven rebounds, two assists, and a block. Nene contributed 8 points (4-5), six rebounds, four assists, and two steals, and along with Splitter, many nice plays that don't show up in the stats. I got a little grief in the comments for tabbing Marcelinho Machado as Player of the Game Runner-Up last night over Valter Silva, and I probably did let him off the hook a little too easy for those turnovers. But tonight, he only had one turnover, shot 4-5 for 10 points, had three assists, two steals, and lots of disruptive deflections that either delayed Uruguay's offense or led to some of their 18 turnovers.
Uruguay got a 17-point, 8-11 shooting night out of Esetban Batista to go with his 10 rebounds and two steals, but he narrowly missed a triple-double of the unseemly variety with nine turnovers. However, after playing all 40 minutes of the game, maybe the guy was just tired. Mauricio Aguiar had 11 points on 5-10 shooting, and the aforementioned poster of his dunk on Leandro to hang on his wall as he heads back home.
Player of the Game: Suns "homer" vote: Leandro Barbosa. Who had the biggest impact on the game? Maybe the two-headed "paint monster" Tiago Splitter and Nene. (Although Leandro's 32 points certainly didn't hurt). Valter Silva's perfect 5-5 shooting and five assists weren't bad either.
Runner-Up: Gotta go with Esteban Batista. Those turnovers were ugly, though, particularly that rebound that he and another teammate had all to themselves but fumbled out of bounds. That blooper easily wins tonight's Boneheaded Play of the Game.
Random Thoughts: A few minutes into the second quarter, game announcer Rick Kamla made the following observation about a missed shot by Uruguay's Martin Osimani: "That's maybe a little out of his range". Taken in context, it's a bit amusing. Osimani had just sank a buzzerbeater from somewhere around half-court a few minutes earlier to close out the first quarter. Of course, Osimani's 1-6 shooting from three point range would ultimately prove that Kamla was right.