FIBA Americas 2007 resumes today with a semi-final round to determine which two of the remaining four teams will seal their spot for the 2008 Olympics, and which two will have to settle for a shot at a bronze medal in the consolation game tomorrow. For Suns fans, both games are of interest. First, Leandro Barbosa will try to lead Brazil past Argentina at 1pm Pacific/4pm Eastern on ESPN360.com. Amare Stoudemire and Team USA will follow against Puerto Rico at 4pm Pacific/7pm Eastern on ESPN Classic. For those of us who don't have one of those "participating internet providers" required for accessing ESPN360, the Brazil-Argentina game will be replayed on ESPN Classic at 6pm Pacific/9pm Eastern.
Brazil will get a chance to atone for allowing Argentina to come back from 17 down in their last meeting to take the game in overtime. For Brazil to win, they'll need to figure out how to stop Luis Scola from running wild, keep Tiago Splitter and Leandro Barbosa out of foul trouble, and they'll need Leandro to shoot a much higher percentage than the 5-18 he managed last time. They'll also need to not be intimidated by an Argentine team that bears a striking resemblance to the Spurs in how they patiently and systematically just grind it out and get it done. Brazil could have beaten these guys last time with a few more made free throws or fewer mistakes in crunch time, so there's certainly reason to be hopeful they can come out of this with a win. But Argentina with their experience and poise won't be easy to overcome, and they would certainly be considered the consensus favorite. Expect an exciting game with a nail-biter of an ending if the last one was any indication.
Team USA will get its turn against Puerto Rico whom they shallacked by 39 points in their previous meeting. Amare Stoudemire had something of a breakout game that night, so here's hoping he'll have another one as he looks to bounce back from a barely-there performance against Argentina on Thursday. As for the game itself, I'm not expecting any surprises. This is a mismatch, so barring a choke job of astronomic proportions, Team USA should land their spot on the Olympic team, then play for the tournament gold tomorrow.
Check back after the Brazil-Argentina replay for recaps of both games. (Note to self: Must switch internet providers. Having to wait for the replay to see what should be the most exciting game of the tournament because your internet provider "does not participate" is lame. Then again, ESPN not showing this game live on TV to begin with is equally lame).