Considering the expectations that come with hosting the Olympics and going 5-0 in pre-Olympic exhibitions, Brazil’s elimination in pool play can be considered a disappointment for a team looking to make a run in the knockout rounds.
Despite the Brazilians just barely missing the quarterfinals, Lakers point guard Marcelo Huertas nonetheless used the Games as a platform to showcase his skills, gaining some attention along the way, including from NBA teammates D’Angelo Russell and Tarik Black, who both took to social media to show they were following his games.
As Brazil’s captain in Rio de Janeiro, Huertas efficiently directed the offense with his trademark, creative style. In fact, “Marcelinho” exits the tournament with the third-highest assist average (6.6), behind only Matthew Dellavedova (8.6) and Mantas Kalnietis (8.0).
In spite of his strong overall performance, Huertas’ debut in Rio wasn’t so promising. In his team’s 82-76 loss in the opener to Lithuania, Huertas (five points, three assists) sat the entire second half as Brazil trailed by as many as 30 points. While he watched from the bench, the Brazilians nearly pulled off the unbelievable comeback but fell just short in the final minutes.
However, he followed that with a critical performance against Spain, as Brazil upset the No. 2 team in the world, according to FIBA, 66-65. Huertas finished with 11 points and seven rebounds — both of which were team-highs — plus four rebounds to lead the victory. His key play was actually a miss, as Marcus Vinicius de Souza collected his offensive rebound and scored the go-ahead bucket with 5.5 seconds left.
Unfortunately for Brazil, the momentum didn’t completely carry over to the next game, as it was unable to scratch past Croatia in an 80-76 loss. Huertas was steady again, tallying 10 points, nine assists and two steals, including a layup that cut the Croatians’ lead to three with four minutes left. But Bojan Bogdanovic (33 points) was simply too hot to overcome.
After that was a crucial game against Argentina, and the rival countries did not disappoint, needing double overtime to settle a shootout that Brazil eventually dropped, 111-107. Huertas scored 14 points with three assists and hit a pair of key free throws with seconds left, but Argentina tied the game on a late 3-pointer by Andres Nocioni (37 points, 11 rebounds, eight 3’s) and won after regulation behind Facundo Campazzo (33 points, 11 assists).
Needing a win over Nigeria to avoid elimination, Huertas stepped up to direct the 96-69 victory. He finished with 12 points, six rebounds and 11 assists, while saving his best for the final quarter. With his team up by six, Huertas scored 10 points in the final six minutes to ice it. He also shot 6-of-6 on free throws, which boosted him to ninth on the Olympics leaderboard in foul percentage (88.2 percent; 15-of-17).
This was the second Olympic run for Huertas, who turned some heads back in London as well. He averaged 11.3 points and 6.0 assists in 2012, but it didn’t translate to a ton of team success then either, as Brazil was knocked out by Argentina in the quarterfinals.