Brazil Leaves Empty-Handed in Loss to Puerto Rico (111-107)
After failing to secure an Olympic berth in yesterday's semi-finals, Brazil also failed to take the bronze in the consolation game today against Puerto Rico. I won't be able to recap this game because I only got to see the last few minutes of it that came on FSN after the baseball game. But from what I could tell by periodically checking in on the play-by-play at FIBA's website, it looked like my "psychological advantage" prediction in the game thread might have been right. Puerto Rico got out to a huge lead early on. Brazil got themselves back into it, but then Puerto Rico jumped out again to an even bigger lead. Brazil made it close at the end, but it was the classic case of too little, too late. Interestingly, Leandro Barbosa never entered the game at the end, even though his team got as close as two in the final minute. The broadcast mentioned something about a sore arm, so not sure if this was a new injury, or just holdover from the elbow surgery he had earlier in the summer (perhaps one of our Brazilian readers can fill us in?). In any event, it appears that it was largely Brazil's second unit along with Tiago Splitter that got them back in the game, but since it's difficult to speak intelligently about a game I didn't get to see, that's as far as I'll go. The outcome is unfortunate, but not all that unexpected. I can't imagine how difficult this game was to play, especially for Brazil. Like I said in the recap yesterday, it was probably a bit like having to play another game a day after being eliminated from the playoffs. For information on the Brazilian national team from someone who lives in Brazil, be sure to check out Sephirot's diaries about the guards and the coach.
Team USA Takes the Gold With Win over Argentina (118-81)
Team USA finished the tournament the same way they started it with an emphatic win over Argentina, and left with the gold medal in addition to the Olympic berth they secured yesterday. The rout was on even earlier than usual this time, with the USA already leading by 21 at the end of the first quarter. Fueled by Kobe Bryant's playmaking (yes, really!), and team-wide red hot shooting for the second game in a row, Team USA hit the ground running and never looked back. LeBron James led all scorers with 31 points on 11-15 shooting, including 8-11 from three. Dwight Howard also had an impressive showing with a perfect 7-7 from the field and 6-8 from the free throw line for 20 points to go with five rebounds and four blocks. Carmelo Anthony was comparatively quiet on the scoreboard tonight with only 16 points, but led the team in rebounding with eight. Amare Stoudemire was also quiet in the boxscore with seven points and four rebounds, but as usual, Team USA had plenty of offense from other places.
Despite Luis Scola playing his heart out, Argentina was really never in this game. Scola had 23 points to lead his team, but as has been a recurring theme in this tournament, it was just too much USA on both ends of the floor. Still, Argentina will leave with their primary mission accomplished, and Houston Rockets fans are no doubt hyped by what they've seen from their soon-to-be rookie these past two weeks.
Player of the Game: I'd almost give this to Kobe for the sharing if I wasn't afraid the Suns fans reading this (Suns) blog would mutiny. His shot was off, and instead of forcing it as he has tended to do far too often, he put on his best Steve Nash imitation (right down to a behind-the-back assist), and focused on setting up his teammates. But since I simply can't bring myself to nominate Kobe twice in one week, let's go with LeBron and Howard for the tie.
Runner-Up: Luis Scola. Again. He also won the MVP of the tournament, and given what he and his team accomplished with the players they had missing, I wholeheartedly agree with this selection.
Random Thoughts: On two consecutive, cringe-inducing possessions in the fourth quarter, Luis Scola got the better of Amare, raising concerns whether Amare will have trouble defending Scola when the Suns play Houston next season. But never fear, Suns fans--Scola can't handle Amare either. After Scola took it to him the second time, Amare got his revenge on the next possession with a dunk Scola never had a chance (or even bothered trying) to stop. By the way, did anyone ever figure out what's up with that band-aid "earring" Amare is wearing?
This concludes Bright Side of the Sun's "armchair" coverage of the 2007 FIBA America's Championship. I suppose I could have followed this up with one of those obligatory "grading the players" posts, but I'm not going to. I'm eager to get back to writing about the Suns. So for those who have been anxiously waiting for this to be over, thanks for your patience, and for those who found this site because of the FIBA coverage, I hope you'll stick around as we follow the Suns on their continuing quest for that ever-elusive NBA championship. Now, back to our regularly-scheduled programming...