In one of the most competitive games yet in the FIBA World Championships, the U.S. edged out Brazil 70-68 and remain undefeated in group play. Spurs fans had a unique reason to take an interest in this one: it was Tiago Splitter's first action against NBA competition. And it all started off on the right foot.
He won the jump ball over Lamar Odom.
All joking aside, Spurs fans should be quite pleased with Splitter's performance today. Against what amounts to an NBA All-Star team, he managed 13 points on 6 of 12 shooting in 30 minutes of play. All of his scoring came from deep inside as he played a post and kick role for Brazil, even picking up three assists on kick out passes to Barbosa among others. More impressively, he pulled down a game high 10 rebounds, including 4 offensive boards.
On the downside, Tiago did struggle to take care of the basketball. He committed a total of 5 turnovers, most of which were simply bad passing decisions - a couple of which came at crucial points in the game for his team (one in particular off of a Splitter steal in which he threw away the outlet pass).
He also picked up a lot of fouls, mostly due to coach Ruben Magnano keeping him in even after he picked up two early fouls, then his his third and fourth in the second half.
Defensively, Splitter spent a lot of time contending with Lamar Odom, a match-up he will repeat many times in a career with the Spurs. He handled it well, holding Odom to only 8 points on 4 of 10 from the field.
It is encouraging to see Splitter, a big part of the Spurs' plan for the future, playing on one of the biggest international stages, against the world's best, and rising to the occasion. Hopefully this is just the beginning.