Marcelo Huertas had the Brazilian National Team’s offense running smoothly in its third game of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, but the hosts dropped the crucial contest due to an absurd performance from Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic.
Huertas nearly tallied a double-double with 10 points and nine assists, while adding pairs of rebounds and steals. However, Bogdanovic was able to get a bucket seemingly whenever he wanted. The Brooklyn Nets’ shooting guard dropped 33 points — the most in Croatian Olympic history — to push his team to an 80-76 victory.
Huertas, the captain of Brazil (1-2), jump-started the offense early with a 3-pointer and three assists in the first five minutes at Carioca Arena. However, with the Laker sitting for the majority of the second quarter, Croatia (2-1) was able to extend its two-point lead to 41-31 at halftime.
The Utah Jazz’s Raul Neto started at point guard in the second half in place of Huertas, but didn’t get much going for the Brazilians. But with “Marcelinho” back on the floor, Brazil made some moves.
Huertas’ layup with four minutes left capped a 13-5 run that cut Croatia’s lead down to 69-66. Brazil had an opportunity to tie seconds later, but Alex Garcia’s 3-pointer was off the mark and the hosts never came closer.
Always looking to pass first, Huertas finished the game 3-of-5 from the field, while Leandro Barbosa led the team with 16 points (7-of-18). Both Brazilians were overshadowed by Bogdanovic, who shot 10-of-16 from the field and 10-of-11 on free throws en route to scoring the most points of any player at the 2016 Games thus far.
This matchup was a crucial one for both teams, who are fighting to survive in a closely contested Group B.
Of the group’s six teams, four will advance. Argentina and Lithuania have each begun 2-0, while Spain — ranked No. 2 in the world by FIBA — looks to turn around its 1-2 start after falling to both Croatia and Brazil.
Only Nigeria, which is 0-3, figures to be a longshot in the group.
Huertas and co. now look forward to facing their rivals, Argentina, on Saturday at 10:15 a.m. PT, while Croatia takes on the Nigerians later that day at 6:30.
Calderon, Spain Avoid Stunner
The Lakers' other representative in Rio, Jose Calderon, continued to play sparingly while his country barely pulled out its first win of the tournament. Spain — which is ranked No. 2 in the world by FIBA — beat Nigeria 96-87 in a contest that was much closer than the final score would suggest.
Despite trailing by as many as 16 points, the 25th-ranked Nigerians were in range of an upset. They actually led Spain (1-2) by one entering the fourth quarter and trailed by only one with 2:58 left. However, Pau Gasol (16 points, seven rebounds) and Ricky Rubio (15 points) were able to help send the FIBA Africa champions to an 0-3 start in the Olympics.
Calderon only logged six minutes, tallying two assists and a rebound. Nigeria's Chamberlain Oguchi led all players with 24 points.
Spain will continue to look for its rhythm on Saturday at 3 p.m. PT when it faces No. 3 Lithuania.