The United States defeated Brazil by 11 points after staving off a first-quarter scare that put them in an early 10-point hole.
The lead predicated on the ability of Marcelinho Huertas, who tallied 12 assists tonight. Brazil is a dramatically different team aesthetically with their perspicacious floor general at the helm. Huertas’ array of scoop passes and how-did-he-possibly-find-that-angle connections add a deadly facet to their offense.
Huertas orchestrated an impressive first quarter where Brazil parlayed their fast pace into open 3-pointers and, subsequently, a 10-point lead. Huertas called for a flurry of pick-and-rolls in the quarter. Team USA’s athleticism makes it hard to hit the roll man unimpeded, Huerta’s underlying goal as a natural facilitator, but he’s creative enough to find crevices of space to make the difficult pass.
Juxtaposed with a nice floater and potent perimeter game, Huertas keeps his defenders on their heels — with the threat of a pinpoint pass to a cutter or a foray to the rim.
Without Huertas is an entirely different story. Brazil still has plenty of capable talent but they lack a sense of direction, of cohesiveness. They take a precipitous fall to incompetence when Huertas is relegated to the sidelines.
Brazil struggled slightly against a small, relentless lineup consisting of Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook, Andre Iguodala, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. But Huertas was undeterred.
Having played the entire first quarter, Brazil sat down their point guard for the majority of the second quarter. The United States benefited from Brazil’s weakened offense, devoid of their primary shot creator, and thus manufactured a five point halftime lead.
From there the United States simply added to their tally by bludgeoning Brazil’s offense with suffocating pressure which woke up their nominally elite offensive attack. Huertas wasn’t as effective, as Team USA relied on more agile lineups with the proclivity to switch every screen. Brazil could merely hope to keep pace with the No. 1 ranked team in the world.
Aside from Huertas, Tiago Splitter finished the night with a modest six points and six rebounds on 2-of-5 shooting. He logged 20 minutes of action.
Splitter made a pretty difficult fadeaway that sent him spiraling to the floor in the first. He did miss a couple of easier attempts as well. His lack of range does limit his potency in the pick-and-roll against athletic defenses as we witnessed against Oklahoma City. If Splitter somehow develops a reliable 15-footer then he’ll instantly become a nearly impossible roll man to defend. Alas. (Sigh.)
It was a valiant effort but Brazil didn’t have sufficient depth, especially at point guard, to beat Team USA. Their athleticism alone can defeat the majority of teams — though they needed much more than sheer athletic ability when Huertas took the floor.