Mon, Sep 03, 2007 - Page 19 News List

Argentina beats Brazil 91-80 in Americas semi-final

AP , LAS VEGAS

Luis Scola scored 27 points and Argentina, playing without four NBA players from the team that won Olympic gold in 2004, beat Brazil 91-80 on Saturday in the semi-finals of the FIBA Americas basketball tournament to earn a berth at the Beijing Games.

Argentina will meet the US in the Americas final after the US later clinched their spot at next year's Olympics by crushing Puerto Rico 135-91.

Scola, who signed with the Houston Rockets, and Carlos Delfino, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, were the NBA stars for this Argentina team, which lost one game in this tournament -- 91-76 to the US in the second round.

The four NBA players from the gold medal team -- Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Andres Nocioni and Walter Herrmann -- are all expected to join Argentina for the Beijing Olympics.

Argentina, the US, host China, the reigning world champion Spain and zone champions Iran, Angola and Australia have all earned berths at Beijing. Two European entrants will be decided this month.

Brazil, Puerto Rico and fifth-place finisher Canada all advanced to a 12-team qualifying tournament next July that will determine the final berths in Beijing.

Brazil, despite losing center Nene to a knee injury four minutes into the game, was able to take a 51-40 lead with 7:13 left in the third quarter on a 3-pointer by Leandro Barbosa.

That's when Scola and Delfino stepped up, proving they were stars of this Argentina team.

With Scola attacking the basket and Delfino finally finding his touch, Argentina closed the quarter with a 25-5 run for a 65-56 lead. Scola had 10 points and Delfino, who missed his first six shots from the field until this run, added seven points.

Just like in their second meeting, which Argentina won 87-69 in overtime, Brazil stayed close, getting within three points twice in the final 1:44.

After two free throws by Alex Garcia brought Brazil within 79-76, Scola drew two defenders to him then made a drop pass inside to Federico Kammerichs for a layup that restored the five-point lead with 1:29 left. Tiago Splitter scored on a putback for Brazil to make it 81-78 with 1:14 left but Paolo Quinteros of Argentina hit his only 3-point attempt of the game with 55 seconds left to start a 7-0 run that put the game away.

Delfino finished with 13 points for Argentina, which will be making its fifth Olympic appearance, with the gold in Athens the Argentines' only medal.

Barbosa, who plays for the Phoenix Suns, had 16 points on 6-for-12 shooting for Brazil. In the earlier meeting, Barbosa, the tournament's leading scorer at 23.5 points per game, had 16 points on 5-for-18 shooting.

Brazil's last Olympic appearance was in 1996.

Later, Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points, Michael Redd had 23 and LeBron James added 19 points and nine assists for the US.

Kobe Bryant scored 15 points and the NBA stars keyed a dominant third quarter stretch that showed why the US team will arrive in China as one of the gold medal favorites. Then they headed to the bench, where they sat while fans chanted their names in the final minutes.

Anthony made four 3-pointers during the near-perfect period, when the US hit 14 of 16 shots (87.5 percent), including all eight 3-pointers while outscoring Puerto Rico 43-28.

The US finished 23-of-36 (64 percent) from behind the arc. Redd was 7-of-8, Anthony hit 6-of-7 and Mike Miller was 4-for-6.

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