ISTANBUL — As expected, Russia will be the team the U.S. faces in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. It wasn’t pretty, but they took care of business with a 78-56 win over New Zealand in Monday’s nightcap at the Sinan Erdem Dome.
Russia is now 5-1 with a very tough defense, and will be a much tougher test for the U.S. than Angola was.
These notes are somewhat abbreviated, because I was finishing up my USA-Angola story during the first half. Blame the U.S. players, who don’t do their post-game interviews until after they shower.
New Zealand actually had the third most efficient offense in pool play (behind only Serbia and the U.S.), scoring 113.5 points per 100 possessions. They didn’t shoot particularly well, but they didn’t turn the ball over, got to the line pretty often, and gave themselves second chances. They were the second best offensive rebounding team in pool play, despite starting a center who’s only 6-foot-6 (really).
But the way they looked on Monday, I feel like I need to go back and check the numbers. The Tall Blacks shot just 29 percent from the field in the first half. Still, they somehow trailed by just four points going into the break.
But with New Zealand’s offense continuing to look anemic in the third quarter (they scored on just three of their first 14 possessions), Russia took control. New Zealand never let them really run away with it, but it never got interesting in the second half.
Some more notes…
- As I noted above, I didn’t see much of the first half, but from what I saw, Russia only played man-to-man. I’m pretty sure they played quite a bit of zone in pool play, but coach David Blatt kept the zone in his pocket on Monday. Perhaps he knew he could get past New Zealand playing man, and wanted to keep the U.S. staff from getting a good look at the zone before Thursday’s quarterfinal.
- Russian forward Andrey Vorontsevich had perhaps the best performance of the quarterfinals thus far. He shot 7-for-8 from the field and 3-for-3 from 3-point range to lead Russia with 18 points. And he added 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.
- This was my first look at new Knicks center Timofey Mozgov, and I liked what I saw. He moves very well for a seven-footer, and he can finish at the rim. He picked up two quick fouls in the first half, but played almost all of the second half (backing up Sasha Kaun) and finished with 16 points and seven boards. Of course, it must be noted that New Zealand’s centers are 6-foot-6 and 6-foot-9. Some of Mozgov’s success was due to the fact that he was just much bigger and longer than everyone else on the floor.
- My favorite play of this game was pulled off by Russia’s 21 year old back-up point guard, Dmitriy Khvostov. The kid had a beautiful touch pass on a give and go to Anton Ponkrashov late in the third quarter.
- Victor Khryapa injured his ankle before the World Championship began and has not played in any of Russia’s six games here in Turkey. But he’s on the roster, and it will be interesting to see if he makes it back for Thursday’s game against the U.S.
- New Zealand had only 15 field goals in this game. And almost all of their offense came from Kirk Penney (21 points) and Thomas Abercrombie (13 points). They were down just four when Penney picked up his fourth foul with 6:50 to go in the third quarter, but trailed by 16 by the time he returned late in the period.