The 2013 FIBA Americas tournament has come down to its last day. And what better way to end it than to witness the two best teams fighting it out over the gold medal?
Mexico surprised Argentina 76-70 on the strength of an offense that Argentina simply didn't have an answer to. On the other hand, Mexico overpowered Dominican Republic 79-67. It all boils down to Wednesday's final game where the strongest team in the tournament will be revealed.
2013 FIBA Americas Championship
Mexico was not among the early favourites in the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, but they have surprised everyone with their consistent play. They went 3-1 in the first round, losing only to Argentina, 78-98. They also went 2-1 in the second round, losing only to Canada. They later met Puerto Rico, which was coming off a narrow win over Venezuela, and took advantage of a strong first quarter to get the first spot in the semifinals against Argentina.
Mexico's offense is anchored on an inside-outside game courtesy of Gustavo Ayon, who plays forward for the Atlanta Hawks. Ayon has averaged 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game in the 2013 tournament and outplayed Argentina's Luis Scola. His backcourt buddies aren't too shoddy either -- Orlando Mendez, who played college basketball at Western Kentucky, scores 13.3 points a game and Hector Hernandez adds 11.3. The two guards have made a combined 30 three-pointers in the tournament. If they are able to make their outside shots consistently, space is freed up for Ayon to score inside. Mexico is a scrappy team that deserves to be in the finals, if only for their hustle and toughness.
Preview: Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico was favoured to win the tournament; they are still one of the favorites even after losses to Dominican Republic and Mexico in the second round. The final game will have more than a championship at stake; it is also a grudge match between the two of the hottest teams in the Western Hemisphere. Puerto Rico will like nothing better than to avenge their earlier loss and to hoist the trophy in Caracas.
The Boricuas have three players averaging more than 14 points: JJ Barea, Carlos Arroyo and Renaldo Balkman. The first two are guards with NBA experience; Barea is in active duty with the Minnesota Timberwolves while Arroyo has had stints in seven teams, including a finals appearance with Detroit. However, Balkman has been quite a revelation for Puerto Rico as he has averaged a near-double-double, scoring 17.1 points and grabbing 8.3 rebounds a game.
While Mexico defeated Puerto Rico in the second round, things will be a lot different in the final game. The guard trio of Arroyo, Barea and Larry Ayuso all have big-game experience and should be able to make adjustments on perimeter defense. Ayon will have his usual numbers, but Balkman's athleticism and motor will make life difficult for Mexico's limited frontcourt rotation. In the end, we should see Puerto Rico hoisting the trophy.
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