While this was a matchup between two international powers — one established and the other merely on the uptick of their progression, discovering the depths of their play — it felt empty. Empty in sense that it didn’t matter.
Which would make sense considering a loss would be more beneficial than a win, due to the quirky nature of the Olympic draw. The potential route of France and Russia is a much more auspicious path to the gold medal match rather than two comsecutive matchups against Argentina and Team USA.
Brazil was the lucky (unlucky?) party after they defeated Spain, 88-82. Leandro Barbosa led the Brazilian attack with 23 points, 12 coming in the final frame. It was an untimely performance, if you prescribe to the notion of losing to control your route, but a nice one nonetheless.
Yet you can easily poke faults in Brazil’s interior defense which struggled mightily against the Gasol brothers and Serge Ibaka. Granted, that is likely the best frontcourt triumvirate in London but they allowed them to orchestrate the offense from the high post. The Brazilian defense continually broke at the point of attack as their rotations created passing angles that were easily exploited by plus passers in Marc and Pau Gasol.
The trio combined for 59 points, 16 rebounds and 74% shooting from the field. Brazil boasts a strong frontcourt themselves but they were weakened from the onset when Nene sat out with a foot injury. Anderson Varejao and Tiago Splitter scored 18 points while grabbing 13 rebounds.
Brazil and Argentina, assuming they don’t defeat Team USA by enough points, will face off in the quarterfinals. Should Brazil win, they’ll face the winner of the United States and Australia.
Spain draws France and the winner of Russia and Lithuania. They may have lost the battle but the war, or in this case — a medal, looks like a better bet than it was yesterday.