On this day in 2010: a Brazil scare that triggered the USA’s dominant run in Istanbul

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MIES (Switzerland) – Sometimes all a national team needs to shift into a higher gear at a tournament is a narrow escape.

That’s what triggered a blistering stretch by the USA at the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2010 in Istanbul.  They held on by the skin of their teeth against Brazil, 70-68, and whoosh, they were off!

In the biggest near upset of the Americans during Mike Krzyzewski’s second stint as coach of the national team (he also led the country at the 1990 World Cup in Argentina), the Brazilians were just three seconds away from a shock result but survived after Marcelinho Huertas couldn’t get a short jumper to fall.

Had Huertas scored at the end of  their Group Phase meeting on this day, August 30, things could have turned out very differently.

In Istanbul’s famous Abdi Ipekci Arena, the USA led Brazil by two points when Chauncey Billups misfired from three-point range. Brazil rebounded with just 12 seconds left.

Huertas, the point guard, brought the ball up the floor before spinning into the lane and attempting to score.

Had Huertas scored with three seconds left, he would have attempted a potential game-winning free-throw

Just as the whistle blew for a foul on Kevin Durant, the ball hit the back and then the front of the iron and stayed out.

Huertas went from attempting a potential game-winning free-throw to having to make two just to tie the contest.

He was off target with the first, though, leaving him with no choice but to intentionally miss the second and hope that Brazil would rebound and score.

Huertas threw the ball hard off the rim and it bounce to the left corner, where he chased it down. He then whipped the ball inside to Leandro Barbosa, who put up a shot that cruelly, for the Brazilians, didn’t fall through the hoop.

Brazil’s Barbosa, guarded by USA’s Kevin Love, almost sent the game to overtime but his shot didn’t go in

America’s players breathed a sigh of relief and walked off the court with their Durant having poured in a game-high 27 points.

After that defeat, their first loss in Turkey, Brazil suffered an 80-77 setback to Slovenia and ended up falling to rivals Argentina in the Round of 16.

The USA , meanwhile, used the victory over Brazil as a launchpad for a title run. They finished first in Group B  and routed Angola in the Round of 16, 121-66.

Durant had 33 points in a Quarter-Final triumph over Russia, his tournament-best 38 in a Semi-Final win over Lithuania and then 28 in a World Cup Final victory over Turkey. He was named MVP of the event. 

Durant averaged 22.8 points and had one of the best overall performances in the history of the World Cup 

The USA went undefeated in the years that followed under Krzyzewski, whose last victory came in the Rio Olympics Gold Medal Game romp over Serbia.

American dominance ended last year when they lost to France in the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup in China, and Spain claimed the title.

As for Huertas, who was so close to being the hero against the USA, only to see the potential game-tying shot stay out, he went on to bigger and better things. He helped Brazil get to the Summer Games in 2012 – their first Olympic appearance since 1996.

The Sao Paulo native had a great run as a professional in Spain and then realized a dream by playing in the NBA from 2015-17. He returned to Spain, where he has been one of the league’s top point guards ever since.


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