Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Barbosa Leads Brazil over Canada

Phoenix Suns guard Leandro Barbosa scored 30 points, including 18 in the first half, and made several key plays down the stretch after both 6'11" Nene and 6'10" Tiago Splitter fouled out, allowing Brazil to escape with a 75-67 victory over Canada as a pair of Group B participants went at it on the opening day of the FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. Canada overcame poor shooting from downtown with a gritty defensive effort and a 12-2 run in the first 2:48 of the fourth quarter to bring the game back to even at 56. But Splitter scored 4 straight and Barbosa had a couple of sweet looks in transition plus 2 free throws with 3 1/2 minutes remaining to lift Brazil to a five point lead and Brazil held on from there. It didn't look good for Canada early as Brazil went off on a 15-0 run to lead 21-8 as Barbosa had 9 early points, many in transition as the Brazilians took advantage of lax Canadian defensive conversion. Worse still, 6'10" Samuel Dalembert went to the bench early in the first quarter with 2 fouls after getting 2 blocks and 3 rebounds. But 6'7" Juan Mendez got it going, starting a Canadian run by knocking down an open 3 and later 6'5" David Thomas, who had a very solid game for Canada, fed Mendez twice, once in transition and a second time for an "and 1" inside, allowing Canada to bring the game back to down only 3 at 36-33 by halftime. Mendez had 12 first-half points for Canada, which played without Dalembert for all but about 5 minutes of the first half. Canada had a terrible start to the second half as questionable shot selection and some solid work by 6'9" J.P. Batista gave Brazil a 9 point lead and Nene's putback with 3 seconds left put Brazil in front 54-44 after 3. But Canada wasn't finished, as after another Mendez open 3 from 6'4" Ryan Bell and 6 points from Dalembert including a thunderous follow-up dunk tied the score at 56. But then Splitter went to work against Canada's zone and Nene's "and 1" with 5:29 to play gave Brazil the lead for good. Canada hurt themselves going 3-8 from the free throw line after they tied the game in the fourth quarter. Canada had success when they started their offense inside but generally had trouble finding clean looks off their offensive sets. Still, an encouraging start, playing with a team generally regarded as one of the favorites to grab one of the two guaranteed spots to the Olympics. Canada appears likely to have lost 6'5" Andy Rautins to a knee injury that looked serious after he got his feet tangled defending the ball in the first quarter and went down claiming he "heard a pop" in his knee.

No comments: