The game was supposed to be relatively easy for Brazil. Great Britain was seeing as one of the weaker teams in the Olympics as they only won two of their exhibition games before the Olympics began, not to mention GB had just been beaten by 20 points at the hands of Russia on Sunday.
But on Tuesday, San Antonio Spurs forward Tiago Splitter and Brazil played a different looking British club as Brazil held off GB 67-62 to put themselves at 2-0 in Group B play.
Splitter was the leader for Brazil with 21 points and six rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting, but none of Splitter’s success would have happened had it not been for another spectacular performance from his point guard Marcelinho Huertas, who chipped in 13 points and eight assists.
Luol Deng (12 points), Pops Mensah-Bonsu (13 points), Nate Reinking (13 points) and the rest of the British were competitive from start to finish, but in the end the dominant team prevailed. Here’s the rundown.
First quarter: Brazil (BRA) 4, Great Britain (GB) 11
Player of the quarter (GB): Fans in attendance – For GB, you could semi-call it good defense. But for the fans in attendance, this was an awful quarter. Both teams combined to shoot just 5-of-23; there were a lot of open looks for Brazil and they just could not make anything on the floor. Both teams also combined for nine turnovers in the first quarter.
Splitter spotlight: Splitter scored the first two points for Brazil, then missed his next attempt and grabbed only one rebound in the quarter.
Second quarter: BRA 27, GB 27
Player of the quarter (BRA): Leandro Barbosa/Splitter – After missing their last 16 shots to end the first quarter, Barbosa (7 points) got the Brazilians back on the scoreboard with a quick 3-pointer. His five points in the second quarter would ignite a solid quarter from Brazil. Splitter (8 points at half) was more efficient (4/6 FG at half) as well, supplying six points by working in the paint and receiving passes in the paint. Credit Huertas and Larry Taylor for finding Splitter in those wide-open scenarios.
Player of the quarter (GB): Mensah-Bonsu – With Deng being well guarded throughout the first half, he was forced to pass and found Mensah-Bonsu often, as Deng tallied three assists in the first half. Pops was a workhorse in the second quarter by ending the half with nine points with relentless energy in grabbing rebounds for put-backs, and even hitting an outside jumper.
Highlight (BRA): When Huertas is playing, it’s almost a lock he’s going to put up some spectacular plays. He did just that in the second quarter by driving from the right side of the floor to the left and doing a full 360-spin and hoisting an 8-foot tear drop with a high-slow motion arch that the defenders had no shot at blocking. It was like watching a figure skater in skating on ice in perfect execution. Huertas just glides on the floor.
Third quarter: BRA 48, GB 43
Player of the quarter (BRA): Splitter – Splitter added five points and kept getting to the free throw line but missed the majority of his free throws in the third.
Player of the quarter (GB): Reinking – Reinking kept GB close in the third quarter when Brazil got some separation. Reinking hit back-to-back 3-pointers to keep the British afloat.
Highlight (BRA): Midway through the third quarter, Nene received a pass and took it into the lane for a monster one-handed slam dunk.
Fourth quarter: BRA 67, GB 62
Player of the quarter (BRA): Huertas/Splitter – The two Brazilians guided Brazil in the fourth quarter as Huertas scored with tear drops, got to the free throw line, and found his teammates with unique passes. Splitter was the recipient of most of Huertas’ passes and he converted those into points. He even made some of his free throws in the fourth quarter.
Player of the quarter (GB): Reinking/Deng – Deng and Reinking both did what they could to keep GB in the game whenever Brazil got a slim lead. Reinking reminded me of Gary Neal of the Spurs. They both have a perfected shooting form and hoist up jumpers from anywhere on the floor with no fear of misses.
Highlight (BRA): With 1:32 remaining in the game and Brazil only up four points, Huertas got a steal in the open court, he slowed down his dribble and as it looked like he was about to reset for a play, he threw a quick no-look pass to Nene for a dunk in transition.
Highlight (GB): When the game was getting away from GB, Deng made his own 5-0 run to help GB reclaim the lead. He first stepped back with a defender in his face and knocked down a fade away 3-pointer. Then on the following offensive play, he ran down with the ball in transition and shot a long fade-away jumper with a defender in his face once again. This got the crowd into an uproar.
Splitter, Huertas, and Brazil will face undefeated Russia (2-0) on Thursday as both teams remain undefeated along with Spain in Group B of the Preliminary round of the Olympics.