Rio Grande Valley Vipers v Sao Paulo preview: Bragging rights for the Americas at stake
TENERIFE (Spain) - The 32nd edition of the FIBA Intercontinental Cup tips off Friday, with the two teams from the North and South America going head to head. Time to find out who's the best in the west.
The Rio Grande Valley Vipers from the United States are going to be the home team in the boxscore, while Brazil's Sao Paulo arrive in Tenerife as the best team south of the Panama Canal.
How did they get here?
The Vipers won the NBA G League title in 2022, storming their way through as the best team in the Western Conference as they recorded a 24-10 Regular Season record. They defeated the Texas Legends in the Conference Semi-Finals, and took down Agua Caliente Clippers in the Conference Finals.
The best-of-three Finals series went their way in a 2-0 sweep of the Delaware Blue Coats. Trevelin Queen had 44 points in Game 1, Mfiondu Kabengele topped the scoring charts in Game 2 with 29.
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Sao Paulo won the Basketball Champions League Americas last season. They swept their way through Group B, winning all six games against Nacional and Quimsa. Sao Paulo then went on to beat Real Esteli in the Quarter-Finals and Minas in an all-Brazilian battle in the Semis.
In the title game, against Bigua from Uruguay. Sao Paulo knocked down 18 three-pointers to put it out of Bigua's reach in a 98-84 win, behind Bruno Caboclo's 29 points and 7 rebounds.
That was last season. Where do they stand in 2022-23?
Rio Grande Valley Vipers are 9-9 in the NBA G League, but don't be fooled by that record, because they had a slow start to the campaign. The Vipers are 7-3 over their last ten games, the third-best record in the entire NBA G League in that span.
Sao Paulo have already played 22 games in the NBB in Brazil. They are currently in third place with a 17-5 record, trailing only Flamengo at 19-2 and Franca who are unbeaten in their 20 games this season.
What will be the key matchup?
Kevin Burleson, the Vipers head coach, is expecting a lot from his starting point guard. Jalen Lecque is enjoying a fine run in the NBA G League, getting 19.1 points, 6.3 assists, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game, but as a young player of 22 years of age, he will have a tough test in facing a much more experienced point guard on the other side.
JALEN IS A FREIGHT TRAIN 🚅@jalenlecque10 pic.twitter.com/9CatHIP0IA— RGV Vipers (@RGVVipers) February 5, 2023
That's because Sao Paulo coach Bruno Mortari has Elio Corazza Neto, better known as Elinho in his lineup. The 33-year-old is the best passer in the NBB, averaging 7.4 assists per game this season, and he knows how to play big games. Elinho's 16-point, 12-assist double-double in last season's BCL Americas Final is evidence of that.
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When and where is the game taking place?
Friday, February 10, at 18:00 local time (GMT) in the Santiago Martin Arena in San Cristobal de La Laguna, Tenerife, Spain