Brazil-Great Britain Preview
Brazil pulled off a slight upset in its first Olympic men's basketball game in 16 years. Its next opponent had a different experience while ending a much lengthier absence.
With help from an experienced frontcourt, Brazil will try to further its chances of advancing to the quarterfinals Tuesday by getting past host Great Britain, which struggled during its first Olympic appearance since 1948.
With one of its four NBA players and captain Marcelinho Huertas leading the way, Brazil held off Australia 75-71 on Sunday. With 16 points, Indiana Pacers guard Leandro Barbosa led FIBA's 13th-ranked team in its win over the No. 9 squad.
Huertas, a point guard currently playing in Spain's top league, contributed 15 points, 10 assists and two free throws with five seconds left.
"It was no doubt a special game," Huertas said. "It is a moment of joy because we started a very difficult competition on the right foot. I am very happy because this win gives us much more confidence for our next game."
That next game will be against a 43rd-ranked British squad that suffered a 95-75 defeat to Russia on Sunday. Chicago Bulls forward Luol Deng, the only player with NBA experience on the roster, had a team-best 26 points on 8-of-27 shooting, including 2 for 11 from 3-point range.
Former NBA player Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored 22 points and Joel Freeland, signed by Portland earlier this month after being drafted in 2006, was the only other player in double figures with 13 points.
Great Britain shot 32.9 percent (25 of 76) and was 4 of 26 from beyond the arc. It also allowed Russia to shoot 62.7 percent.
Britain wasn't awarded the host country's traditional automatic bid until March 2011 after FIBA received assurances that the country planned to invest in the sport following the Olympics.
"(The game) was special," forward Robert Archibald said. "We've never had this in the UK, a crowd this size that's behind the team. It's great. It was a special experience but it's tough because right now, we're focused on getting wins and trying to achieve that goal and get to the next round."
The countries are meeting for the first time since a 76-11 rout for Brazil in 1948. Britain went 0-5 hosting those games, while Brazil won all five of its qualifying contests en route to the bronze, one of its three Olympic medals in men's basketball. It claimed the most recent of those in 1964, also a bronze.
Tiago Splitter will try to help his country move a step closer to another medal by improving on a 2-for-10 shooting performance in Sunday's game. The San Antonio Spurs center had seven points and seven rebounds.
Washington Wizards post player Nene Hilario had eight points and seven boards, while Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao was Brazil's third player in double figures with 12 points.