USA Basketball: USA Narrowly Escapes Brazil in Their Toughest Test of the Tournament to Date

Team USA was fortunate to hang on for a 70-68 win over Brazil today, making it three in a row. USA leads Group B in the preliminary round of the 2010 FIBA World Championship in Turkey.

Although Kevin Durant had another huge 27-point performance, this was the USA’s sloppiest showing so far this summer. They had no ball movement offensively; they went to one-on-one play way too often; and they did not bring the same defensive intensity we saw in their previous matchups.

Credit Brazil for having an outstanding game and making huge shots. They put forth a great effort, but looks like the fatigue factor may have set in during the second half as Brazil didn’t come close to making the same number shots as in the first half. They certainly could have used the help of Anderson Varejão, who continues to rest a sprained right ankle.

Game 3 was a nail-biter up until the very end, when Leandro Barbosa missed a layup at the buzzer that would have tied up the game and forced overtime. Team USA’s lack of defensive intensity combined with the high number of turnovers nearly cost them the game. But thanks to their perseverance and a little luck, USA remains undefeated.

Fortunately Team USA can use their day off tomorrow to regroup and get their legs back under them before facing Iran on Wednesday. And the fledgling team will get a couple more international games under its belt before facing some of their more dangerous adversaries.

Fratello’s Fantasy Pick: Anderson Varejao

Photo by Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

After a shaky start the Cavaliers pulled out a win over the Celtics at the Garden last Thursday – their first in over three years. However they lost Shaq to a serious thumb injury in the second quarter and will have to fend without him for the remainder of the regular season. With Shaq and Z out of the mix, look for Anderson Varejao to log more minutes against opposing centers.

Perhaps underrated, Varejao is a good all-around player who does a little of everything and hustles to get a hand on the ball at critical moments. His quickness and aggressive defensive play were big factors in his team’s win over the Celts. Like a bird of prey, Varejao will suddenly swoop out of thin air to grab rebounds and tip boards.

And Varejao’s productivity has been steadily increasing ever since he first joined the Cavs in 2004. Last week he averaged 13 ppg and over 8 rebounds per game. His numbers don’t always fill out the box score, but fortunately for Cleveland the scrappy Varejao turns it out to fill the gaps when they need him most. So I expect he’ll continue to contribute and frustrate his opponents down the backstretch.