In a rivalry that transcends sports, Argentina-Brazil lived up to its billing in Rio.
Argentina came away with a wild double-overtime 111-107 win in front of one of the rowdiest crowds in the entire Olympics.
The atmosphere was simply electric from the moment fans arrived; so much so that Luis Scola and Marcelo Huertas spoke to the crowd before the game and encouraged the fan bases to exhibit sportsmanship throughout the game.
"We're Latin American brothers," Huertas said, "and we're counting on you to have a celebration within the Olympic spirit."
"On behalf of my team, I want to ask you to cheer for your team, to have fun in a civilized manner and with a lot of respect," added Luis Scola.
The two teams played basket-for-basket in the first half, with Argentina holding the edge in the first quarter, but Brazil responded with a 33-point explosion in the second. They led 52-44 going into halftime.
Argentina’s Andres Nocioni, playing in his fourth Games, rose to the occasion, scoring an Olympic career-high 21 points in the first half alone. He finished with a game-high 37.
The two teams continued to play evenly through the third, with Argentina chipping away at Brazil’s edge until Argentina held a one-point lead towards the end of the fourth quarter.
Brazil responded and slowly built a lead of their own, with a powerful post-move by Nene expanding the advantage to eight points with 2:41 left in the game. Argentina again responded with an 8-0 run, pulling within just one point with 22 seconds remaining.
Two fouls shots by Huertas extended the Brazilian lead to three, giving Argentina a chance to tie the game with 20 seconds remaining.
Manu Ginobili missed a game-tying attempt, but Argentina corralled the offensive rebound. Nocioni Facundo Campazzo found Nocioni free in the corner, who nailed a triple to knot the game at 85 with three seconds left.
But the game would head to overtime after Brazil’s game-winning attempt wouldn’t fall.
The extra period mirrored regulation with Brazil taking a six-point lead before Argentina replied with a 5-0 run of their own. A clutch Campazzo layup tied the game at 95 with 38 seconds left. Both teams came up empty in the remaining seconds, prompting a second overtime.
Campazzo got hot in the second overtime, making two threes to give Argentina an early advantage. Brazil battled back and whittled the Argentine lead to just one with less than a minute left. Even after missed free throws by Argentina, Brazil could not find a way to pull back even in the waning moments and the Argentine Golden Age clinched one last trip to the knockout round.
Campazzo came up huge for Argentina in the fourth quarter and overtime, scoring 20 of his 33 points in the final three frames. Ginobili was solid, though not spectacular, adding 13 points, 3 rebounds and four assists. He shot 0-8 from three-point range.
Nene was the pace-setter for Brazil, netting 24 points and 11 rebounds in the contest. Barbosa, who hit a huge three-pointer in the second overtime to keep Brazil in it, finished with 11.
In a game in which two Argentina starters fouled out – Nocioni and Scola – their bench was almost useless. They scored just four combined points, compared to Brazil’s reserves who combined for 44.
With one game left to play for each team in the preliminary round, the win has huge implications on which teams will move on to the medal round.
Argentina plays Spain, the reigning silver medalists who got their first win of the tournament on Thursday, in their final game, while Brazil will play Nigeria, who is winless in the tournament and plays Croatia tonight. Brazil will need to win their final game, and for Spain to lose one of their last two games to secure a spot in the quarterfinals.
If Croatia wins tonight against Nigeria, they will clinch a spot in the knockout round. Otherwise, it will get much more complicated for Spain, Brazil and Nigeria.