Coming in to the FIBA Americas tournament, anything less than making the championship game — and with that earning a berth in next summer’s Olympics — would have been a let down for Argentina. They were the best team in the tournament on paper with a lineup that included Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino and Andreas Nocioni.
Brazil had a harder road. Their best players — Nene, Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa — all declined to play. It was Tiago Splitter and a bunch of guys you don’t know.
It didn’t really work out exactly that way, Brazil was the best team in the tournament and Argentina looked vulnerable. But in the end those are the two teams that earned the automatic berths by making the finals of FIBA Americas with wins on Saturday.
Brazil did it by being the top seed and beating the Dominican Republic 83-76 in the semi finals. Argentina had a harder road, relying on a couple of late free throws (and some Puerto Rico missed shots) to get an 81-79 win.
The Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico — along with fifth place finisher Venezuela — will compete in the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer.
The Dominican Republic — coached by Kentucky coach John Calipari — was the only team to beat Brazil in the group stage. They got a solid 18 points out of Atlanta’s Al Horford, but Brazil was too balanced with great guard play from Marcelinho Huertas and Marcelo Machado.
Argentina and Puerto Rico were tied at 79-79 but while Argentina was able to get to the free throw line (Ginobili had the winning point from the stripe) Puerto Rico had two missed shots from Carlos Arroyo and one by J.J. Barea in the clutch and fell short.
Teams now qualified for the London Olympics are the United States, Tunisia, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and host Great Britain. Two European teams will join that list next week.
The New York Knicks couldn’t get out of their own way on Thursday night, even with a historic performance from Carmelo Anthony. With the Washington Wizards in town, it was John Wall‘s finishing ability that pushed the Wiz over New York, 113-110.
The final 45 seconds were hectic, as Wall took the lead for Washington with just 32 seconds left after drawing a foul on Carmelo.
Down by 1, Anthony then missed a jumper with 18 seconds left and the Knicks allowed Wall to do this:
Wall would go on to steal the final possession from the Knicks, and the Wizards left MSG with a win.
Gregg Popovich can be a fiesty dude, and sometimes he just wants to get his team pumped up. After news that Pau Gasol was going to be absent from the San Antonio Spurs’ lineup against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday, perhaps this was his way of doing that?
Late in the second quarter in Denver, Popovich was seen arguing with a baseline official as play continued on. Pop was hit with an initial tech, and as the officiating crew walked away he blasted ’em with the best dad insult I’ve heard in a long time.
“You’re a terrible referee!”
Meanwhile, Emmanuel Mudiay was more than happy to assist with the second technical and ejection portion of Popovich’s tirade.
Long Live Pop.
Kristaps Porzingis is “The Unicorn” perhaps in part because of his high basketball awareness on the offensive end of the floor. On Thursday night against the Washington Wizards, the New York Knicks big man had an incredible putback dunk that surprised even his teammates.
Thanks to a missed Courtney Lee 3-pointer, Porzingis was able to fly in from beyond the arc to slam home two points.
Yeah, that’s crazy.
There’s putback dunks and then there’s flying in from beyond the 3-point line like this one. Wild.
The San Antonio Spurs will have to make do without PF/C for a while Pau Gasol thanks to a recent fracture in his left ring finger.
That’s according to a press release from the team, who said Gasol fractured his fourth metacarpal — the bone that connects the ring finger down to the carpal bones in the wrist area — during warmups before a game against the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night.
No word yet from the team on recovery time, but estimates given similar recent NBA player injuries suggest anywhere from 4-8 weeks.
Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward missed the first month of the season after fracturing his finger in early October. Cleveland Cavaliers PG Kyrie Irving missed around a month in 2012 with a similar injury.
Here’s hoping Gasol can make it back to the court quickly for the Spurs.