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.)