Editor’s Note: Artur Mascarenhas is a Brazilian Suns fan who watched all of Brazil’s games in the FIBA Americas Championship. ValleyoftheSuns.com asked him to write up his thoughts on Leandro Barbosa’s sparkling performance in the tournament.
SAO PAULO, Brazil — “Whew!” That’s what a whole country gasped when Carlos Arroyo’s last shot hit the rim after Puerto Rico trimmed a 16-point Brazilian lead only to fall short, 61-60, against Brazil in the gold medal game of the FIBA Americas Championship Sunday night.
The Brazilians dominated the first three quarters of the match thanks to a lot of Puerto Rico turnovers and lack of offensive tactics. Against a strong defense, the hosts had to live with a 2-for-13 effort on 3-pointers in the first half of the game.
LB, once again, was amazing. He stretched the defense and drew a lot of attention, leaving the court open for his teammates, and he was the player to carry the Brazilian offense during Puerto Rico’s run in the last quarter.
Leandrinho finished the game with 24 points, and he averaged 21.1 ppg for the tournament. Playing more like a small forward for a good chunk of the time, he shot an astonishing 71.1 percent on 2-point shots (54-for-76) in this tournament while playing almost 33 minutes a game (a FIBA game has 40 minutes).
His role on the Brazilian squad is exclusively to score. And that’s what he is amazing at. He didn’t carry the ball, he didn’t call the plays and he wasn’t a defensive stopper. In the exact moment an opponent’s shot hit the rim, LB started to run to the offensive end to catch a long pass, stretch the defense and lead the fast break.
He was basically a (excellent) catch-and-shoot or catch-and-pass kind of guy. He drove A LOT to the basket and scored at will on infiltrations. There was nobody that could have stopped him.
And that’s what I like to see Leandro doing. He is not a point guard, he’s not a defensive player (even though he should try to use his wingspan more to at least put a hand on the face of his man) and he’s not a floor general. He’s an executioner. You give him the ball and he will find a way to make the points.
I would like to see the Suns look for LB more often this season and try to run a few more plays for him. And that’s a little down for LB. He won’t demand anything. Gentry will have to look for him, because he is a shy and passive guy. I don’t think he is as comfortable in Phoenix as he is on the Brazilian national team.
I think this whole tournament did a lot for LB’s confidence in his game after a shaky season under different coaches and styles of play, and I guess he will be back at his max to bring the Suns back to the top if he is given space.
Follow Artur Mascarenhas on Twitter @arturbm.