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.