Host country Brazil will open their campaign against Lithuania in the 2016 Rio Olympics basketball men’s competition on Sunday at Carioca Arena 1. The two teams belong to Group B of this year’s Summer Games.
Brazil are expected to contend for one of the three medals at stake in the tournament. However, the host country suffered a big blow in their preparation for the event.
Golden State Warriors big man Anderson Varejao failed to recover from an ailing back in time for the Olympics. Tiago Splitter was also ruled out several months before the Summer Games.
Veteran point guard Marcelo Huertas admitted that losing Varejao, known for his do-it-all approach, is a big loss for Brazil as well as Splitter’s absence. Huertas said, though, that all players who made the final roster are ready to step up and ride on the energy from their home crowd.
“We’ll have the crowd,” Huertas told FIBA. “We’ll have more people supporting us here than we’ve had anywhere else so I think it’s a big, big chance for them helping us inside the court and bringing extra energy.”
Without Varejao and Splitter, Houston Rockets center Nene Hilario and Chicago Bulls big man Cristiano Felicio will man the frontline for Brazil. Huertas and Phoenix Suns spitfire Leandro Barbosa are expected to provide stability to the Brazilian squad.
On the other hand, Lithuania will also look to silence their doubters. The perennial European contenders will parade a roster bannered by Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas and veteran Jonas Maciulis, who played a big role in EuroBasket 2015.
Maciulis knows that most analysts and fans are already counting them out. However, the 31-year-old small forward, who plays for Real Madrid in Spain, said that they are ready to prove their doubters wrong.
“Our team is ready to play the highest level of basketball,” Maciulis told FIBA. “We have to believe in ourselves and we started to believe in the last friendly games.”
The Brazil vs Lithuania 2016 Rio Olympics basketball match will start at 1:15 p.m. ET. Basketball aficionados can watch the Olympic basketball matches through online live stream via NBC Olympics and NBC Sports Live Extra.
Brazil and Lithuania are expected to go toe-to-toe. It will likely be a close match with Brazil winning by less than five points. The complete 2016 Rio Olympics basketball schedule is available on this link.
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