In a rare scenario when the winners actually lost and the losers actually won, Brazil beat Spain 88-82 on Monday. With the victory, they will finish second in Group B, meaning their road to the gold-medal game just got a hell of a lot harder.
The Brazilians now must go through Argentina in the quarterfinals, then face the United States in the semis. On the other side of the bracket, Spain will face France in the quarters and Russia in the semis. That’s not any easy path by any means, but anytime you avoid the second-most talented team in the history of international basketball, you’ve got to be happy.
Despite the pre-game worries about tanking, this one was competitive from start to finish. Pau and Marc Gasol dominated throughout for Spain, dissecting Brazil’s defence with surgical precision. Pau finished with 25 points to lead all scorers, while Marc added 20 points and 4 assists, though the second number doesn’t begin to capture his the impact of his passing. The 7’1″, 265-pound Gasol acted like a point guard at times, using his supreme vision and touch to set up teammates for easy scores.
But as good as the Gasols were, they couldn’t keep up with Leandro Barbosa. The streaky 2-guard caught fire in the second half, scoring 20 of his 23 points to lead Brazil back from an 11-point third-quarter deficit. He hit consecutive threes in the fourth to give Brazil their first lead of the second half, and after Marcus Vieira splashed back-to-back treys a few minutes later, Rubén Magnano’s crew was able to pull away.
Both teams will be in action during Wednesday’s quarterfinal round, with the winners advancing to the final four. Look for Toronto Raptors point guard Jose Calderon to be a much bigger factor than he was on Monday (0 points, 4 assists), as he will see increased minutes in the knockout stage.
Austin Green is the editor of Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.