Brazil went 6-0 in its pre-Olympics exhibitions, including a victory over third-ranked Lithuania in the final round of the Brazil Super Challenge. However, the Rio Olympics hosts simply weren’t ready for the rematch to open the 2016 Games.
Captained by Lakers point guard Marcelo Huertas, the Brazilians trailed by as many as 30 points early in the third quarter. Huertas — who finished with five points, two rebounds and three assists in 14 minutes — sat the entire second half while his teammates nearly completed a historic comeback.
However, Lithuania managed to survive with an 82-76 victory at Carioca Arena 1.
Brazil head coach Ruben Magnano elected to insert some youth at halftime by having the Utah Jazz’s 24-year-old point guard, Raul Neto, play the second half, which almost brought the team to victory.
Lithuania’s inside game, which had been so dominant in the first half, suddenly sputtered, while Phoenix’s Leandro Barbosa (21 points) and Neto (14) heated up.
Within the final two minutes, Brazil rolled off 12 unanswered points to chop the deficit down to four, but Lithuania managed to halt the rally just in time.
Lithuania shot 72.4 percent in the first half to cement its commanding lead, but Brazil outscored the visitors 47-24 over the final 20 minutes.
Despite Huertas sitting the majority of the game, he did get the ninth-ranked Brazilians off to a nice start.
The Sao Paulo native assisted Barbosa on the game’s first basket, then scored for himself on the next possession. He handed out another assist minutes later and added a layup shortly after. However, he and his team went cold from there, with the Lithuanians ending the quarter on a 15-5 run.
Brazil continues pool play on Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. PT when it hosts Spain, which has won the last two Olympic silver medals. It will be the first meeting between Huertas and Jose Calderon since the latter was traded to the Lakers last month.
Meanwhile, Lithuania — which was led by Mantas Kalnietis (16 points, eight assists) and Paulius Jankunas (15 points, seven rebounds) — will face Nigeria at 3 p.m. later that day.
Spain Falls As Calderon Sits
Calderon did not play as Spain was upset by Croatia in its opener, 72-70. Calderon never came off the bench, while Ricky Rubio (zero points, one assist) and Sergio Llull (nine points, three assists) combined to shoot 2-for-9 as Spain's primary point guards.
Pau Gasol led all players with 26 points (11-of-17) and nine rebounds, but Croatia was able to come back for the victory behind 23 points from Bojan Bogdanovic. The Croatians stole the lead on a 5-0 run with 1:26 left in the game. Gasol had a good look at sending it to overtime with a jump hook, but Dario Saric rose up and swatted the shot away just before time expired.