FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Argentina Beats Brazil For Title, Luis Scola Named MVP

Argentina beat Brazil 80-75 on Sunday to take the gold in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship. Both teams earned bids to the 2012 Olympics in London.

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Argentina Beats Brazil To Win 2011 FIBA Americas Championship

Luis Scola scored a tournament-high 32 points when it counted most, as the Houston Rockets forward led Argentina to a home victory in the title game of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship on Sunday, as the Argentines knocked off Brazil 80-75. 

Brazil had a good effort from their own frontcourt, as Marcus Vinicius (a former New Orleans Hornet) scored 17 points and San Antonio Spurs big man Tiago Splitter added 12. But Scola and the Milwaukee Bucks' Carlos Delfino (16 points, nine rebounds) were too much.

Scola was joined on the all-tournament team by teammate Manu Ginobili, the Dominican Republic's Al Horford, Puerto Rico's Carlos Arroyo and Brazil's Marcelo Huertas.

The win is Argentina's second FIBA Americas championship. The last came a decade ago, and represents the start of the nation's incredible run of success. Argentina won gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics and bronze in the 2008 games in Beijing, and is now No. 3 in the world behind just the United States and Spain. Next summer's Olympics in London could represent the end of the road for this patch of Argentine players, as the core of the team is getting up there in age.

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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Brazil, Argentina Punch Tickets To London Olympics With Semifinal Wins

Brazil and Argentina will join the United States in representing the Americas region at the 2012 London Olympics, thanks to wins by the rivals in the semifinals of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship on Saturday. Brazil held off the Dominican Republic 83-76, thanks largely to point guard Marcelinho Huertas, who had eight points and two assists in the fourth quarter and 19 and seven for the game. Huertas was joined by veteran wing Marcelo Machado (20 points in 25 minutes off the bench) atop the ledger.

The Dominicans, who had handed Brazil its only loss in the tournament in the group stage, fell short despite a monster performance by Jack Michael Martinez (18 points, 15 rebounds) and expectantly solid work from Al Horford (18 points, seven rebounds). The D.R. has never made the Olympics in men's basketball; coach John Calipari of the University of Kentucky will now have to qualify via next July's last-chance qualifying tournament, where three bids will be up for grabs.

In the other semifinal, host Argentina just edged Puerto Rico 81-79. The P.R. had given Argentina its only test in the first round (another two-point win for the hosts), and the match lived up to its billing. Argentina took a 77-66 lead on a Pablo Prigioni three-pointer with just under seven minutes remaining, but the Puerto Ricans stormed back, scoring nine straight to pull within two. But Luis Scola scored his final and most important bucket to stop the bleeding with four minutes left; the Rockets forward had 27 on the game.

After buckets were exchanged, Renaldo Balkman blocked a Manu Ginobili shot in the paint, leading to a Daniel Santiago basket to tie it up at 79. But after a Scola miss, Santiago turned the ball over with a shot for the P.R. to take a lead in the final 75 seconds; Ginobili drew a foul and hit one of two. Carlos Arroyo had two shots to give Puerto Rico a lead, but both came up empty. After Prigioni hit one of two with six seconds left to extend the lead to two, J.J. Barea last-ditch shot missed and Argentina moved on to the championship round.

Like the D.R., Puerto Rico will attempt to qualify for London in July's qualifying tournament. Brazil and Argentina will meet on Sunday to play for the Americas championship.

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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Semifinal Bracket Set After Brazil Crushes Puerto Rico

Brazil crushed Puerto Rico on Thursday after Argentina had done the same to the Dominican Republic on the final day of group play at the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in Mar del Plata. Now, the South American powers will swap foes as the semifinal bracket between the four nations gets underway on Saturday.

Brazil is now the top seed in the tournament, having beaten Argentina by two points on Wednesday and Puerto Rico by 22. The Brazilians, missing three of the teams four NBA players, have just one loss in this tournament through eight games. But it came against the team standing between them and a berth to the 2012 London Olympics: the Dominican Republic.

The D.R. has struggled since beating Brazil in the first group stage. The 79-74 Dominican victory on Sept. 2 set John Calipari's team as the top seed out of Group A moving into the combined group stage. But at that point, after beating Panama handily, the D.R. struggled to finish off Uruguay and was blown out of the water by Puerto Rico and Argentina to send them to the No. 4 seed. The team's starting frontline -- the Atlanta Hawks' Al Horford and international player Jack Michael Martinez -- have played well. But Charlie Villanueva and Francisco Garcia have been inconsistent (to say the least) and the team seems to be missing Edgar Sosa, who suffered a horrific injury in the win over Panama.

Argentina is the most fully stocked team in terms of NBA talent, with Manu Ginobili, Andres Nocioni, Carlos Delfino and Luis Scola leading the way. The Argentines' sole loss of the tournament came in a two-point defeat to Brazil on Wednesday; the continental rivals also played a classic nailbiter in the Round of 16 at the 2010 FIBA World Championships in Turkey a year ago. No one would have blamed Ruben Magnano's team if it had folded in this tournament, missing Nene, Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejao. But Brazil hasn't let up, and just needs to avenge its loss to the D.R. to claim a spot in the Olympics.

Argentina-Puerto Rico figures to be a screamer, too, provided that the P.R. plays much better than it did against Brazil on Thursday. In the first group stage, Argentina beat Puerto Rico 81-74 behind 23 points from Manu.

Dominican Republic vs. Brazil tips at 6 p.m. ET on Saturday. Argentina vs. Puerto Rico follows. The bronze and gold medal games will be played Sunday, with the championship match scheduled for 8:15 p.m. ET. 

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Venezuela Basketball Earns Berth To 2012 Olympics Qualifying Tournament

Venezuela's men's national basketball team has earned a berth into the last-chance qualfying tournament for the 2012 London Olympics by virtue of a fifth-place finish in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship. Venezuela cinched its spot with a 92-80 win over Uruguay on Thursday.

Coached by Eric Musselman of the NBA D-League's Los Angeles Defenders and starring Memphis Grizzlies reserve Greivis Vasquez, the Venezuelans went 4-4 in the tournament and beat out Canada for the fifth spot. Two other FIBA Americas teams will join Venenzuela in the last-chance qualifying tournament, to be held in July 2012. Those teams will be the losers from Saturday's FIBA Americas 2011 semifinals.

The winners of those semifinal games will advance directly to the 2012 Olympics. Team USA has already earned a berth to London by winning the 2010 FIBA World Championships. The United States did not field a team for FIBA Americas 2011.

The four semifinalists for the FIBA Americas tournament are Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. Seeding and matchups for the semifinals depend on the outcome of Thursday's late Brazil-P.R. matchup, but it's quite likely that unless that game becomes a blowout, Argentina will face the Dominincans and Brazil will take on Puerto Rico in Saturday's semifinals.

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Leo Rautins Resigns As Canada Fails To Make 2012 Olympics Qualifying Tournament

Canada basketball likely didn't expect to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics outright in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Doing so would have required a top-two finish, something pretty clearly out of the reach of a team led by Joel Anthony and Denham Brown. But the program did expect a top-five finish at FIBA Americas, and with it a berth into the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament to be held in July 2012.

Canada didn't get that, either. As a result, head coach Leo Rautins resigned after Thursday's loss to Panama in Mar del Plata.

Rautins, the father of former Syracuse standout and J.E. Skeets lookalike Andy Rautins (now with the New York Knicks), has coached Canada since 2005. In 1983, the Philadelphia 76ers made Rautins the first Canadian to be drafted in the first round. Most of Rautins' professional career was spent in Europe, however. He starred for the Canadian national team as a player before becoming a coach.

Unfortunately for Rautins, the nation's talent pipeline is finally looking up. Toronto's Tristan Thompson (who did not play in Mar del Plata) was the No. 4 pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, and Canada has prospects like Myck Kabongo, Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer and -- most notably -- Andrew Wiggins approaching national team age soon.

RaptorsHQ has more on Rautins.

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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Brazil Beats Argentina, Puerto Rico Handles Dominican Republic

The knockout round in the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship is still a few days away, but the four teams who will meet there are set, and they all hooked up on Wednesday in Mar del Plata, Argentina, to start to sort out seeding for the semifinals. The two teams that make the championship game will earn automatic bids to the 2012 London Olympics.

In one of Wednesday's group games, Brazil earned a tight 73-71 win over previously unbeaten Argentina. Brazil is missing three of its four NBA players (Nene, Leandro Barbosa, Anderson Varejao), and the fourth -- Spurs big man Tiago Splitter -- had an awful game. Argentina, meanwhile is chock full of NBA talent: Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Andres Nocioni and Carlos Delfino lead the way. But Brazil maintained a lead throughout and came away with a big victory.

In the late game, Puerto Rico upended rival Dominican Republic 79-62. J.J. Barea of the Mavericks broke out with 14 points as P.R. star Carlos Arroyo struggled with his shot (4-13). No one struggled more than the Kings' Francisco Garcia, though; El Flaco shot 1-10 from the floor and 0-7 on three-pointers. 

Unless the Dominicans beat Argentina Thursday in the final day of the second group stage, the two teams will meet again in the No. 1 vs. No. 4 match-up in the semifinals on Saturday. Brazil and Puerto Rico also play on Thursday; if Argentina beats the Dominican, Brazil and Puerto Rico will hook up again on Saturday with an Olympic spot on the line. If Argentina loses to the D.R., the winner of Thursday's Brazil-P.R. game would move into the No. 1 seed and likely face the Dominicans. The loser would meet Argentina. (Point differential is the tiebreaker in FIBA play; Argentina is way ahead of everyone, and the D.R. is way behind. The Dominicans are essentially stuck in fourth place, barring an amazing blowout.)

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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Argentina Vs. Brazil Important For Semifinals Seeding

The 2011 FIBA Americas Championship semifinal round is already set. That doesn’t mean the final two days of second round pool play isn’t important, however, as teams are still vying for the top seed as they look to qualify for the 2012 London Olympics.

On Wednesday, the top two teams in the tournament will face each other when the Argentina Vs. Brazil game tips off at 5 p.m. EST. The two teams have split their last four match-ups, but it would seem Brazil is coming in as the underdog considering Argentina’s impressive performance thus far in the tournament.

Argentina is undefeated following an impressive shooting performance on Tuesday against Venezuela and Brazil has only dropped one game, against a solid Dominican Republic team, but a recent article on FIBA’s website shows that the two teams are respectful of each other’s game.

Brazil’s Tiago Splitter, an international star and role player for the San Antonio Spurs, will need to control Argentina’s Luis Scola — property of the Houston Rockets — if his team is able to compete in Wednesday’s game that will also play host to numerous other NBA players littering the rosters of both teams.

Splitter knows what he’s up against, though, when it comes to his team’s international rival.

“They have very few weaknesses,” Splitter said. “Watching them play is like watching an opera. It’s good the way they pass the ball, opening spaces to score twos and threes.”

Along with Argentina and Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico have also clinched a spot in the semifinal round. All four teams will be looking to improve their seeding on Wednesday and Thursday before an off day on Friday prior to the semifinals.

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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Second Round Set

The second group stage of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship in Mar del Plata, Argentina, has been set after Saturday's official elimination of two teams: Cuba and Paraguay. In the second group stage, wins by the remaining eight teams over those eliminated are removed from consideration. The final eight will now play four games apiece, with the top four teams in composite points at the conclusion of that round moving on to knockouts.

Argentina, as expected, is on top of the table, now at 3-0 after going unbeaten in the first group stage. Three teams are now tied at 2-1 after the elimination of Cuba and Paraguay: Puerto Rico, Brazil and the Dominican Republic. In addition to holding off the next four teams -- Venezuela, Canada, Uruguay and Panama -- those three will want to avoid a semifinal clash with Argentina.

Why? The two teams that land in the championship game win automatic bids to the 2012 London Olympics. The other two semifinalists and No. 5 team from this second group stage will be added to the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament to be held next July.

The games for the second group stage begin Monday. Venezuela vs. Puerto Rico is the most intriguing match-up, assuming Canada vs. Argentina ends up as a big win for the host nation.

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FIBA Americas 2011: Brazil Upends Misfiring Canada

In the late set on Day 2 of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship, Brazil had the biggest match of the evening against Group A rival Canada. The teams are expected to fight for a decent seed out of the group and, given Brazil's depleted roster, perhaps one of the precious spots in the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament to be held next July. (The top two finishers at FIBA Americas advance straight to the Olympics, the next three teams are added to the qualifying tournament.)

Brazil won the first battle along those lines, beating Canada on Wednesday 69-57. The Canadians, who have three NBA players in Joel Anthony, Andy Rautins and Cory Joseph, were abysmal on offense, hitting just 31 percent of their two-pointers and registering just seven assists on 21 makes. Brazil, meanwhile, survived a deflating effort from its only NBA player in uniform, as Tiago Splitter registered just five points to go with 10 rebounds. Brazil is now 2-0 in Group A, tied with the Dominican Republic for the lead. Canada is 0-1, and has a huge matchup with the Dominicans on Thursday.

In Group B late action, Argentina pounded Uruguay 86-51 with Luis Scola racking up 18 points in 22 minutes. Puerto Rico smacked Paraguay 101-55 as Bimbo Carmona racked up 19.

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FIBA Americas 2011: Dominican Republic Narrowly Defeats Venezuela

Venezuela was the underdog who best threatened a power on the first day of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship on Tuesday, and it might earn that moniker again on Wednesday. Venezuela fell 92-89 to the Dominican Republic in Group A action in Mar del Plata on Wednesday thanks to a 11-point fourth quarter comeback by the D.R.

Venezuela led 74-63 over the Dominicans entering the fourth, but the D.R. outscored Venezuela 29-15 in the final frame. The Hawks' Al Horford led the D.R. with 19 points and 10 rebounds, while frontcourt partner Jack Michael Martinez added 18 points and 14 rebounds (seven offensive). The Pistons' Charlie Villanueva comes off the bench for John Calipari's Dominican team; he scored just five points in 16 minutes.

Oscar Torres led Venezuela with 19 points, and the Grizzlies' Greivis Vasquez added 16, with all three of his makes coming from long-range. Venezuela fell to 0-2 in group play, but can likely get to the second stage of the tournament with a win Thursday over Cuba. The Dominicans are looking to win a strong seed heading into the quarters, and face Canada on Thursday.

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Favorites Hold Up On Day 1 Of FIBA Americas 2011

The opening day of the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship featured no upsets, and just one close call. Three of the four games ended with margins of 30 points or more, as the gap between the best and worst of the region was in full view.

The only close match came between a Brazil team lacking three of its four NBA players and a Venezuela squad led by Greivis Vasquez and coached by Eric Musselman of the D-League's L.A. Defenders. Venezuela led for much of the game, but the Brazilians took control behind the Spurs' Tiago Splitter and Barca point guard Marcelinho Huertas late to finish with a 92-83 victory. Splitter had 17 points and 11 rebounds. Vasquez, who plays for the Grizzlies, finished with 26 points and seven assists.

In the Dominican Republic's 90-60 romp over Cuba, the Hawks' Al Horford made his case as the best player in the tournament. Horford finished with 24 points and nine rebounds in 29 minutes of action, and was joined by Jack Michael Martinez (16 points, 10 rebounds).

In Group B, Argentina beat up on Paraguay as expected. The Argentines pulled out an 84-52 win with Paolo Quinteros racking up 19 points. Manu Ginobili played just 21 minutes in the blowout, finished with 10 points. Luis Scola popped in 14 points and six rebounds in 22 minutes.

Argentina's only challenger in Group B, Puerto Rico, took care of Panama 99-66. Surprisingly it was Bimbo Carmona -- not Carlos Arroyo or J.J. Barea -- who led the P.R. in scoring with 16 points. Arroyo scored 11 and Barea added eight.

The most intriguing match on Wednesday's docket is a meeting between Canada and Brazil in Group A. The Canadians aren't expected to win an Olympic berth outright in this tournament, but are much stronger top-to-bottom than Venezuela and could test the Brazilians. In other action, the Dominicans will meet Venezuela, Paraguay will take on Puerto Rico and Argentina will face Uruguay.

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FIBA Americas Championship 2011: Argentina An Overwhelming Group B Favorite

With the 2011 FIBA Americas Championship tipping off on Tuesday, host nation Argentina has to feel extremely confident about its chances of winning one of the tournament's two Olympic bids ... especially with the United States sitting out the competition. (Team USA has already earned a spot in the 2012 London Olympics.) But what about the rest of Argentina's Group B? Below, we preview the Argentines and the four teams joining them for the first group stage in Mar del Plata.

OVERWHELMING FAVORITES: ARGENTINA

It'll be a shock if Argentina doesn't win the tournament. The nation has the best talent (Manu Ginobili, Luis Scola, Carlos Delfino, Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni, Fabricio Oberto), the most stable program and home-court advantage. Anything less than gold is a disappointment, in my view.

If anyone can trip up Argentina in Group B, it'd be solid Puerto Rico. In the tournament as a whole, Brazil (coached by former Argentina head Ruben Magnano) and the Dominican stand the best chance of taking one from the Argentines. But even then, it'd be a major upset.

A CUT ABOVE: PUERTO RICO

Behind Argentina, Puerto Rico's the only other strong team in Group B. The P.R. took silver in 2009 over Argentina, Canada and the Dominican as the host nation; Brazil beat Puerto Rico in the championship game. But Puerto Rico struggled in 2010 at the FIBA Worlds, finishing 17th of 24 teams, shockingly failing to get out of group play ahead of China after a stunning loss to Cote d'Ivoire.

But Puerto Rico has some real firepower in Carlos Arroyo, J.J. Barea and new add Renaldo Balkman. Daniel Santiago has the task of dealing with Argentina's frontline and, eventually perhaps, the D.R.'s Al Horford. Puerto Rico should certainly land one of the three coveted spots in the last-chance Olympic qualifying tournament, if not one of the two outright spots in the Games. But overcoming Argentina should prove difficult.

THE OTHERS

Uruguay: Uruguay is a solid mid-rung team in the region, having finished sixth in the past two FIBA Americas tournaments. Unfortunately, that's not good enough to make a dent in the region's structure. Uruguay, on the considerable back of Esteban Bautista, should easily advance to the second group stage over Paraguay or Panama, but beyond that, it's difficult to see success.

Panama: Panama finished eighth in 2009 and ninth in 2007, so I suppose we can expect a seventh place finish in Mar del Plata, right? You'll actually recognize some names here, like the Nuggets' Gary Forbes and former North Carolina point guard Ed Cota. Panama needs to beat Uruguay or Paraguay to get out of group, and that's a manageable task. But like Uruguay, moving on against the top three teams in Group A or top two in Group B seems unlikely.

Paraguay: Paraguay hadn't qualified for FIBA Americas since 1989 before earning a spot in the 2011 edition last summer. A single win would be a raging success.

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