Nene Maintains as Brazil Falls to U.S. in Saturday Night Friendly
#NeneJams, we missed you.
Brazil hung around just long enough to lose by 17 points, 78-95, against Team USA in a Chicago-hosted “friendly” on Saturday night. The game was interesting for the mere fact that Brazil stayed close through three periods—Brazil finished the first quarter down 15-29 but won the second and third quarters 22-16 and 26-23 to stay within five points, 63-68, entering the fourth quarter. The United States then won the final period, 27-15. Brazil is ranked 10th in the world but has the talent to challenge for a medal at this year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain.
The most important notation for the Washington Wizards after the exhibition game: Nene Hilario looks as healthy and as spry as one would expect from someone his age—he’ll be 32 years old in less than a month and is known for not wanting to risk playing with nagging injuries. It was relayed over the ESPN television broadcast that part of Nene’s offseason regimen includes not touching a basketball for three-to-four weeks and taking part in MMA-style training prior to beginning work with Brazil’s national team. He looked rather agile as a result (just look at Nene help contain Stephen Curry in transition).
Nene started the game for Brazil and played a maintained 19 minutes (he didn’t start the third quarter but later made an appearance). He scored 11 points on 4-for-7 shooting and a typical 3-for-7 from the free throw line—not touching a ball for nearly a month will set muscle memory back. Nene also grabbed five rebounds, dished out two assists, swiped three steals, blocked one shot, and did not turn the ball over once.
Nene beat on boards.
He matched up against Kenneth Faried to start while teammate Tiago Splitter matched up against Anthony Davis; Anderson Varejao came off the bench for Brazil. Nene got out-motored by Faried for rebounds a few times in the early going. This is something that Nene can expect to see more and more of during the regular season. Not as willing to play center—somewhat understandable considering the increased wear and tear—Nene was delighted when Washington traded for Marcin Gortat prior to last season. But with the NBA continuing to trend toward 4 men who can either stretch the offense to the 3-point line or who tend to be energetic firecrackers like Faried, Nene’s desire may have bitten off more than he can chew, defensively at least. Still, his intelligence when guarding and strong hands in general go a long way to combat inefficiencies otherwise.
Offense is a different story. Nene’s savvy footwork in the paint and relatively unmovable frame provide him with the upper hand in the post against smaller players. Brazil took advantage several times, just as Randy Wittman’s Wizards did (and will) during the regular season. And when the floor needs to be spaced, Nene can do that, too—although his distance shots weren’t falling on Saturday evening. His ability to hit jumpers wasn’t lost on Chicago fans. Remember: Nene abused Joakim Noah and the Bulls with a barrage of jumpers in Washington’s 4-1 series takedown of Chicago in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and the Windy City expressed its displeasure several times on Saturday with boos in the air. Coach Mike Krzyzewski put Rudy Gay on the court as a stretch 4 for the U.S. and he matched up against Nene for several minutes; the strategy didn’t work out so well for the Americans.
Nene re-post vs. Faried.
Brazil immediately travels to Ljubljana, Slovenia, to compete in three more friendly games as part of the International Tournament of Slovenia that includes matches against Lithuania, Slovenia, and Iran on August 21, 22, and 23. Brazil will then travel to Granada, Spain, to face Mexico in its final friendly on August 26.
Brazil will begin Group A play in the 2014 FIBA World Cup against France (ranked 8th in the world) in Granada on August 30. Group A is likely the toughest overall group and also includes Spain (ranked 2nd), Serbia (11), Iran (20), and Egypt (46).
Nene finish, except the free throw.