With his team on the brink of elimination, Lakers point guard Marcelo Huertas turned in his best performance yet at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Huertas racked up 12 points, six rebounds and 11 assists, directing the high-flying Brazilians to an 86-69 victory over Nigeria.
The captain of Brazil (2-3), Huertas stepped up when the Nigerians came within in striking distance of an upset. The Rio hosts led by six midway through the fourth quarter before Huertas took the game into his own hands.
Via a series of layups and free throws, the Sao Paulo native scored 10 points in the final six minutes at Carioca Arena to prevent his team from behind knocked out of the tournament.
While he was the go-to scorer at the end of the game, Huertas spent the majority of the contest setting up his teammates, including Nene (19 points), Alex Garcia (13) and Rafael Hettsheimeir (12) — all of whom received three assists each from “Marcelinho.”
The Brazilians led by as many as 20 points but were only up by seven entering the final period. However, led by Huertas — who also shot 6-of-6 on free throws and snagged three offensive rebounds — they outscored Nigeria (1-4) in the fourth, 27-17.
However, Brazil only managed to stave off elimination for a few hours. In order for the Brazilians to make it to the quarterfinals, they needed some help from their rivals, Argentina, which could have eliminated Spain by beating it later that day.
However, the Spaniards instead cruised to a 92-73 victory behind Rudy Fernandez (23 points, 8-of-10) and Pau Gasol (19 points, 13 rebounds).
Argentina never truly threatened, leading for only three minutes all game and trailing by as many as 22 points.
Spain's wide margin opened up some playing time for Huertas' new teammate on the Lakers, Jose Calderon, who logged seven minutes at point guard. Calderon hasn't gotten off the bench much in Rio, but he made the most of his opportunity this time by recording six points and a steal.
Spain now faces France (3-2) on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m., while Argentina takes on the United States (5-0) later that day at 2:45.