Brazil took to the basketball court in the Olympic games for the first time since 1996, when they made it past the preliminary round and immediately lost to the United States after advancing to the championship bracket. 16 years later and the Brazilians are back in Olympic basketball contention with an NBA-heavy roster that has a chance to podium in London.
Brazil’s roster includes four NBA players, with one of them being our very own Anderson Varejao. Joining “Wild Thing” in London to represent Brazil are Nene of the Washington Wizards, Leandro Barbosa of the Indiana Pacers and Tiago Spilitter of the San Antonio Spurs.
Barbosa, Splitter and Varejao all started Sunday in Brazil’s first Olympic basketball game of the preliminary round in a hard-fought 75-71 victory. Brazil took a one-point lead heading into the half, as Brazil held onto a six-point lead until the Aussie Patty Mills converted on an impressive four-point play. After Mills hit the free throw and Joe Ingles drew a foul and made both of his shots from the charity stripe, Australia seemed to be in good shape heading into the final 20 minutes of play.
Varejao came away with a steal, secured four rebounds and made two out of his three shots in the first half. Varejao was very aggressive on the offensive boards, grabbing three of his first-half rebounds while on offense.
After the break Brazil got off to a 6-0 start, resulting in Australiia having to call a timeout to recollect themselves. Even calling a timeout couldn’t prevent the Brazil frontcourt and excellent guard play from Barbosa and Marcelinho Huertas, who combined for 31 points on the day. The Brazilian backcourt helped to increase their lead to 12 points, their largest lead all game.
After losing a double-digit lead in the third quarter, a fast start to the final 10 minutes helped Brazil to get back to a 10-point advantage over Australia. The Aussies came within two points at the very end of the game thanks to the scoring efforts from Mills and Ingles. Brazil held on for the 75-71 win after Huertas hit two free throws to put his team up four with five seconds to go.
Varejao finished with 12 points and seven rebounds, as Andy shot six for seven from the field. A very solid shooting and defensive effort helped Brazil down the stretch, and head coach Magnano Ruben will surely call on Varejao again as the team faces off against Great Britian on Tuesday, July 31 at 11:45 a.m.