Final preview: Who will win the important rematch between Bahamas and Argentina?
LA BANDA (Argentina) – Argentina and Bahamas did their homework, defeating Chile and Uruguay respectively, and will now face each other in the FIBA Olympic Pre-Qualifying Tournament 2023 Argentina Final.
At stake is the big prize: a spot in next summer's FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments.
This is what we could expect to see on Sunday.
Argentina vs. Bahamas
Facundo Campazzo and Buddy Hield are their teams' offensive engines.
The speedy Argentine is averaging 17 points and leading the tournament with 10 assists per game, all while shooting 46/33/76. Hield has been OPQT's top scorer at 21.3 point per game with 48/33/80 splits.
Of the 2, Campazzo is the more natural point guard and the one who will be responsible for keeping Argentina playing at their preferred fast, yet under control pace. The Real Madrid star will also need to balance his scoring and playmaking duties, feed Gabriel Deck at his preferred spots and keep both Juan Fernández and Francisco Cáffaro involved.
Meanwhile, Hield might be saving his best for last. We're talking about a player who once scored 46 in an NBA game. If he's able to get his outside shot going, Argentina will be in a world of trouble.
It's Deandre Ayton. While both Fernández and Cáffaro have done a decent job patrolling the paint through the tournament, neither of them is ready yet at this point in their careers to completely shut down a player of this caliber.
Ayton had 22 points, 15 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals against Argentina on Wednesday for an efficiency rating of 36. Cáffaro did an admirable job, finishing 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks (and a surprising +/- of +10), but Fernández seemed a lot more flustered.
It will come down to which Ayton shows up on Sunday. Just like during his NBA career up to this point, the good version can be dominating and near unstoppable. But if Ayton has another 8-point, 9-rebound showing like he did against Uruguay in the semifinals, Argentina might be able to play him to a stalemate.
Stats don't lie
After playing 3 games each this week, these sit at what could be considered a statistical tie.
Bahamas leads the tournament in scoring at 96.0 per game, but that's just one point better than Argentina. Likewise, their 53.0 percent from the field is only a nudge above Argentina's 51.2. Same for their three-point percentage (41.7), roughly a point above Argentina's (40.6).
Where the South Americans seem to have a slight advantage is in ballhandling and playmaking. Pablo Prigioni's team has averaged 23.7 assists per game (to Bahamas' 19.3) and 12.7 turnovers (to Bahamas' 14.7). That means that Argentina has a much tidier 1.9 assist to turnover ratio than Bahamas' 1.3.
However, Bahamas must feel better about their performance at the charity stripe. While these teams averaged roughly the same amount of free throw attempts (17.3 for Argentina, 17 for Bahamas), the islanders are shooting 80.4 while the South Americans are at 76.9 percent.
Did you know?
Bahamas has never been to a FIBA Basketball World Cup, let alone an Olympic Games, but this might be their best chance yet.
On the other hand, Argentina has qualified for 5 Olympic Games in a row, their longest streak ever. If they were to lose on Sunday, it would the first time they miss out since Sydney 2000.