ISTANBUL – Tuesday was a day off in Groups A and B at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. For the U.S., it was a true day off, as coach Mike Krzyzewski canceled practice after three straight days of games. So it was a day for sleeping late, relaxing by the pool and getting some laundry done.
In Ankara and Izmir, however, big things were going down as the two nightcaps in Groups C and D have truly shaken up the tournament.
In Group C, Turkey defeated Greece behind a huge game (26 points, 6-for-6 from 3-point range) from Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. The win gives Turkey the inside track to finish first in the group, with Greece likely to finish second.
In Group D, Lithuania came back from 11 down at the end of the third quarter to shock Spain, with the Raptors’ Linas Kleiza getting the go-ahead bucket in the final minute and Marc Gasol missing two critical free throws on the next possession. Spain is now 1-2, and with both of the teams they lost to a 3-0, they can finish no better than third in Group D.
Check out the replay of Spain-Lithuania at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday on NBA TV.
Spain has Lebanon (Wednesday) and Canada (Thursday) left on their schedule, so they are very likely to finish third.
In the round of 16, the third-place team in Group D plays the second-place team in Group C, which is likely to be Greece. And who would the winner of that game play?
If the U.S. wins its first elimination game, it would be them.
So we are looking at the very distinct possibility of Greece, Spain and the United States — the three favorites to win this tournament before it began — all being in the same quarter of the bracket, with two of the three being eliminated before the semifinals.
Buckle your seat belts.
Who would be on the other side of the bracket, with an easier road to a medal? Argentina (A1, unless they lose to Serbia on Thursday), Brazil (B2, unless they lose to Slovenia on Wednesday), Turkey (C1, unless they lose to both Puerto Rico and China) and the loser of Wednesday’s France-Lithuania game (D2).
But imagine that Serbia beats Argentina and Australia in the next two days, while Slovenia beats Brazil on Wednesday. Then Argentina and Brazil would be on the Greece/Spain/USA half of the bracket too.
Also on that half will be the winner of the France-Lithuania game.
The U.S. takes on Iran on Wednesday at noon ET on ESPN. There is some political significance to this game, because the two countries have never faced each other in basketball court. But there won’t be much to it from a basketball standpoint. Iran will be completely overmatched in terms of both size and talent.
It is a chance to see Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi play something other than NBA garbage time. Haddadi is averaging 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks through Iran’s first three games. He’s even shooting 33 percent (4-for-12) from 3-point range.
The big game in Group B will be Brazil-Slovenia, which you can watch live on NBA TV at 2:30 ET. That one’s essentially for second place in the group and the chance to play on the more open side of the bracket.
Turkish lesson of the day: Doğum günün kutlu olsun = Happy birthday!