The 2013 FIBA Americas tournament has reached the final stage, as Mexico will play Puerto for the gold. After multiple rounds of grueling play, it was the two most consistent teams that remained strong throughout and emerged as the title contenders.
The only question at this point is how can you watch what should be a memorable game?
Mexico upset Argentina in the semifinal, winning 76-70 behind a balanced low-high attack that the opposition simply couldn't counter. Puerto Rico defeated Dominican Republic in the other semifinal match, winning 79-67 behind the backcourt depth that it possesses.
Now, it all comes down to the teams that have remained consistent throughout.
Date: Wednesday, Sept. 11
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Team Preview: Mexico
Mexico wasn't expected to be a finalist at the 2013 FIBA Americas tournament, but it's been one of the most consistent teams from start-to-finish. It was 3-1 during group play and managed to grind out everything from low-scoring defensive battles to high-scoring offensive wars.
Now, all Mexico needs is one more win.
Leading the charge has been Atlanta Hawks power forward Gustavo Ayon, who is currently averaging 17.2 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. During Mexico's 76-70 win over Argentina, Ayon scored 24 points and grabbed 12 boards, shooting 9-of-18 from the field.
By out-dueling Luis Scola, Ayon pushed Mexico into the championship game.
Helping to lead the team is Orlando Mendez, averaging 13.3 points per game, and Hector Hernandez with 11.3 points per contest. Both men have helped to provide a perimeter threat, combining for 30 three-point field goals made through nine games.
Mexico will need both Mendez and Hernandez to be at their beast to beat Puerto Rico.
If they're able to shoot the three-ball with continued proficiency, Mexico will be a tough team to beat. Ayon is a force on the low block, and when the ball is in his hands, good things have been happening.
When you have a low-high attack like Mexico does, that tends to be a trend.
Team Preview: Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is exactly where they were expected to be, using NBA-caliber guard play to reach the championship game. Puerto Rico has been consistent throughout, improving upon every weakness and growing stronger with each passing game.
Now, the favorites are one game away from winning it all.
The star of the entire tournament has been Renaldo Balkman, who is averaging 17.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per game. During Puerto Rico's 79-67 win over Dominican Republic, Balkman led the charge with 24 points, 14 boards and four steals.
How much more could you possibly ask for?
It certainly doesn't hurt that Jose Juan Barea is averaging 13.3 points and 3.8 assists, or that Carlos Arroyo is posting 13.2 points and 3.8 dimes. During Puerto Rico's win over Dominican Republic, Arroyo scored 20 points, while Barea put up 16 and eight assists.
Its guard play is unparalleled and Balkman is the best defender and scorer in the tournament, thus leaving Puerto Rico as the team to beat.
Its balance has Puerto Rico at the top of the food chain. Should they manage to work the duel lead-guard set against Mexico as well as they have throughout the remainder of the tournament, we could be in for a special performance.
Let the game begin.
Mexico has earned its place in the FIBA Americas championship game, and there's no question that they have the firepower to pull off this upset. With that being said, this is being referred to as a potential upset for a reason.
Puerto Rico is the superior team, and they should be viewed as such.
Arroyo and Barea counter everything Hernandez and Mendez will send their way, and do so in a superior manner. Ayon is a monster on the low block, but Mexico doesn't have the athletes necessary to keep Balkman off of the boards.
When it's all said and done, the team with more talent is the safest bet to make.
It'd hardly be surprising to see Ayon take over again, using his interior skills to lead the win. With that being said, Balkman is on an absolute tear on both sides of the floor and should be used to counter Ayon down low.
When it comes down to which team has the better supporting cast, that honor belongs to Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico 79, Mexico 70