Brazil looked impressive in spurts in London, enough to warrant consideration for a medal and potentially a gold medal match with the United States.
They finished 4-2 even though they were devoid of Olympic experience, after failing to qualify in Athens and Beijing. Their two losses came to Russia and Argentina by a combined margin of six points. They defeated Spain, too, though that victory can be attributed to circumstance just as much as good play.
They looked strong, they looked weak, they looked capable and then they were just unfortunate. It happens. Their fifth place finish shouldn’t be a finite indictment of their performance, rather a stepping stone for a better showing in the Copa America, a qualifier for the 2014 FIBA World Cup. Brazil coach Ruben Magnano said they could have been better.
“We lacked commitment and fight for better result, but could be better,” Magnano said. “We left the competition with only two losses, one against Russia by a point, and one to Argentina, by five points. Now let’s get to work with focus on the Copa America.”
Copa America will also provide Tiago Splitter, who averaged 10.8 points, 5.3 rebounds and 48.2% shooting in six games, with another worthwhile international experience. On the surface his numbers look fine — and they are — but when you delve deeper, Splitter still has room to grow.
Eliminating his game against Great Britain, where they didn’t have the talent or frontcourt to defend a mobile big like Splitter, his averages dip to 8.8 points and 40% shooting. Against teams who advanced past preliminary play, they drop even further; Splitter averaged eight points while shooting 38.2% from the field. (The implicit caveat here, of course, is that I’m using a six-game sample size.)
He will get the chance to make my point obsolete with a solid showing next year. Along with third-ranked Argentina, the Copa America field will include solid international squads like the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Uruguay. Ideally, he will improve this year with the Spurs, making the transition back to the international game easier.
Perhaps experience, as Leandro Barbosa noted, hurt the Brazilians chances. The difficult road to the semifinals was unprecedented for this squad, who needed to defeat Argentina, the United States and likely Spain or Russia to capture the gold medal.
“The most important thing is that everyone struggled to get a medal,” Barbosa said. “In the Olympics, we learned that the little details separate the success of winning a medal or (finishing) fifth. Personally, I felt the lack of Olympic experience, especially on our debut. After everything was hitting it. We head on. What we presented in London was beautiful.”
Next time, Brazil will need to sustain that kind of production.