Tag: Brazil

US forward Carmelo Anthony (L)  and US f

USA’s path to gold could feature rematch from 1972. Or 2008.


We have reached the medal round and if you look at the way the USA played the last two quarters against Argentina — pressure defense where they did not gamble, then LeBron James and Kevin Durant scoring — nobody can stop them. We’re just going to pretend the first two quarters didn’t happen.

So what does the USA’s path to a gold medal look like? It starts out smooth but can get bumpy. Probably not bumpy enough to stop them, but bumpy.

First: Australia. If the USA we saw in the second half against Argentina shows up with its smothering defense, this will be a rout. Australia is led by Patty Mills, the feisty former St. Mary’s point guard who played in China during the lockout then hooked up with the Spurs after that and he played very well for them (PER of 21.5). He’s averaging 20.2 points per game these Olympics. It’s a good story. But if you think the Spurs second string point guard is going to lead a team that beats this Team USA you probably thought “In Time” was a good movie.

Second Round: Brazil or Argentina. The USA has already beaten the Argentines twice — by 6 in a tune-up game and then by 29 on Monday when their overwhelmed Argentina in the second half. When Argentina is able to grind the game down they are a threat to the USA, and Manu Ginobili may be the best single player so far in these Olympics, but there is no reason to doubt that the runs that the USA made in both meetings so far would not happen again. The USA playing its best is just too much.

The USA also easily dispatched Brazil in an Olympic tune-up, but on paper they look like a team that could give the USA trouble. First, they have size up front with Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao — the USA would struggle to match that. Especially since Tyson Chandler is a foul sponge for the USA, just soaking them up then having to sit. Brazil also has a savvy veteran point guard in Marcelinho Huertas and Leandro Barbosa’s three-point explosion lifted them over Spain. But again this is a team that could not keep up with the runs Team USA makes and doesn’t have the firepower to come back after the inevitable spurts by the Americans. If the USA lost to Brazil it would be because of how they came out, now how Brazil played.

Gold Medal Game: Russia or Spain. First off, I applogize to France and Lithuania but they are not making it this far. France maybe could swing a bronze.

The 2008 silver medalists Spain could, they put themselves on this half of the bracket by losing to Brazil on Monday. We’ve covered Spain before because they should be the second best team in London — they have Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol up front, they have good point guards in Jose Calderon and Juan Carlos Navarro, they have shooters like Rudy Fernandez. They should be a team that could push the USA. But they haven’t played like it at all. They were 3-2 in group play (although both losses were close) and the USA handled them easily in a tune-up in Barcelona. Spain can be a side that should be able to threaten Team USA in a one-game playoff, but they need to play a little better at both ends to really do that.

Russia would be an interesting matchup, a rematch of the controversial 1972 Olympics finals on the 40th anniversary of that game. First, the Russians are getting great play from two future Timberwolves: Andrei Kirilenko has averaged 18.2 points per game and played fantastic pressure defense on opposing bigs; Alexey Shved has averaged 12 points and 5.4 assists per game while really controlling the tempo and flow. Two other interesting notes from the ESPN Stats Department — Russia is holding opposing teams to 27 percent shooting from three and has been the best transition defense team in the games. Those are the two areas Team USA uses to get easy buckets.

Russia may be the Americans new biggest threat — defend the three, take away easy transition buckets, have Kirilenko control the paint and Shved controlling the tempo. Like Spain, if this were a seven game series there would be no doubt the USA would win. But it’s not. It’s the NCAA tournament — one and done. Lose and go home. And for one day Russia could put it all together and threaten the USA.

At least until LeBron James and Kevin Durant took over.

Video: Russia’s Vitaliy Fridzon’s game winner against Brazil

Brazilian guard Anderson Varejao (R) loo
Leave a comment

It was the best game of the Olympics so far, and that is how it ended.

The run-up to that shot was amazing as well. First Alexey Shved (he will be with the Timberwolves) next season tied the game with a contested three and juts 30 seconds on the clock. Then Brazil’s Marcelinho Huertas answered, hitting an insane scoop under the arm of the defender, off the glass with English lay-up to put Brazil up 74-72 with just 6 seconds left.

Then that happened.

Hat tip to SLAM for finding the video.

Russia wins best game of Olympics (so far), 75-74 over Brazil

Olympics Day 6 - Basketball
Leave a comment

This game mattered to Team USA — the winner likely ends up the No. 2 seed in Group B, which puts them on the USA’s side of the bracket in the medal round and could set up a semi-final game against the winner.

But that’s not why we watched it. Brazil and Russia put on the best game of the Olympics Thursday afternoon.

It was a game that needed soon-to-be Timberwolves guard Alexey Shved knocking down a contested three with :30 seconds left to tie the game.

He was answered by Brazil’s amazing point guard Marcelinho Huertas who, with time running down, drove the lane (away from a Nene pick) and hit a ridiculous scoop under the arm of the rotating big, off the glass with English layup to put Brazil up 74-72 with just 6 seconds left.

That gave Russia’s coach Dave Blatt time to draw up one last play. He had Vitaly Fridzon set a screen at the free throw line then flare off a screen from the Russian center to the short-side corner and it worked — Fridzon was open, caught the ball, turned and shot while the falling Brazilian defender took out his feet mid-air.

Didn’t matter — nothing but net.

And no foul call. Brazil got one last shot but Leandro Barbosa missed and Russia won 75-74 to improve to 3-0 in pool play.

Another soon-to-be Timberwolf big Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 19. Barbosa (a soon-to-be Laker?) led Brazil with 16 points.

Brazil had won but not looked impressive doing so up until this game, but this was by far their best effort of the tournament.

But now a USA/Russia semi-finals match in the medal round is possible — and that is no gimme for the USA. Shved gives Russia good guard play (they will not constantly turn the ball over) and they have size and skill up front with Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov.

That is, unless Russia can hit some other key shots and knock off Spain in group play, completely upsetting the apple cart. Or, maybe beet cart, in this case. Win Group B and you can avoid Team USA all the way to the Gold Medal game.

With outside shot missing, USA relies on defense, transition to beat Brazil

Brazil v USA - Men's Exhibition Game

Well, that wasn’t pretty.

Sure team USA beat Brazil 80-69 in an exhibition of two Olympics-bound squads front of president Barack Obama and a packed house in Washington D.C., but Brazil provided a real test for the Americans and the result was some vulnerabilities showing for Team USA.

The problem was the United States could not get its outside shot to fall. The Americans started the game 0-for-9 from three and finished 6-of-24 from deep. On the night, the Americans shot just 27 percent on shots outside the paint for the game, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com.

The USA settled for a lot of jumpers because Brazil rolls out a huge front line with the Wizards’ Nene, the Cavaliers Anderson Varejao and the Spurs Tiago Splitter — active big men who can cut off driving lanes and alter shots. The USA could not get inside to start, and their outside shots stayed out.

The result was Brazil leading 29-21 at one point midway through the second quarter. People were mocking this squad’s debate with the Dream Team at this point, some were saying the squad needed to be humbled and this was it. I think the more direct answer is there are just nights for every team when the shots won’t fall.

But while shooting can take a night off, defense doesn’t. That is supposed to be the USA’s trademark and their pressure defense bailed them out in this game — the United States forced 26 turnovers (nearly one third of all Brazil possessions ended in a turnover), which the United States converted into 19 fast break points. Brazil scored just five points in the second quarter.

“I felt our defense won the game,” USA coach Mike Krzyzewski said after the game. “I thought it was outstanding for three quarters, especially since we didn’t hit shots and we missed a lot of dunks. I liked the mental toughness of our team. We kept reminding them we’re not doing it on offense, don’t let it affect defense. I thought it didn’t.”

The other weapon the USA had — LeBron James.

Playing like he did for Miami in the finals when he had to carry his team for stretches on offense, he was a one-man wrecking crew on his way to 30 points on 20 shots, plus six boards. He attacked ferociously in transition and Brazil had no answer for that. Nobody does.

“We came out and didn’t shoot the ball extremely well,” LeBron said. “It got us down and we let our offense mess with our defense early on. Once we decided we needed to focus on our defense and not our offense we were able to turn the game around. It’s hard when you know you’re not scoring the ball like you know you can but it allowed us to pick up our defense even more and came out strong.”

It wasn’t pretty. But the USA took on a team that has an outside shot at a medal and found a way to win on an off night. They won with defense and transition buckets. Those are positives.

But if the USA plays like that in Barcelona in the coming days against Spain like they did against Brazil, it will not be enough. This team still has some growing to do before it can claim a spot as the best team in the world right now, forget comparing yourself to a team from 20 years ago.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar named Global Cultural Ambassador

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Few people can represent both the diversity and opportunity in the United States like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

So he makes an interesting and smart choice as a United States Global Cultural Ambassador, something Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton named him on Wednesday, the White House announced.

He will soon be going to Brazil in his new role, trying to strengthen already strong cultural bonds with the land of Renaldo and Nene. Next week he will be there meeting with some of the less well off youth of that nation and discuss the importance of education, social and racial tolerance, cultural understanding, and using sports as a means of empowerment. Of course, there will also be basketball clinics, Kareem is the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, six-time NBA champion, six-time MVP, 19-time All-Star, owner of the most devastating shot in the history of the game, and the man behind a legendary movie role as co-pilot Rodger Murdoch.

“I am excited and honored to serve my country as a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. Department of State,” said Abdul-Jabbar in a released statement. “I look forward to meeting with young people all over the world and discussing ways in which we can strengthen our understanding of one another through education, through sports, and through greater cultural tolerance.”

Kareem is a complex person, not one that fits neatly into our predefined boxes of what a sports star should be. That rubs some people the wrong way, and he is not by his nature a person who loves the public spotlight on his private life. But he is a person committed to the promotion of education. He’s an author, helped make a documentary about the Harlem Rens — combining his love of African-American history and hoops — and is a man who has taken advantages of the opportunities granted him to live a full and interesting life. To me, that makes him a great ambassador of our American culture.