HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Three more teams earned berths to the 2014 World Cup of Basketball on Thursday. Slovenia, Croatia and Lithuania will be making the trip to Spain next August thanks to big wins at Eurobasket.
Slovenia had to recover quickly from Wednesday night’s disappointing loss to France, playing Serbia just 16 hours later. But they pushed the pace early and got off to a hot start, scoring 30 points in the first quarter. It was the second straight day that Serbia got smoked in the opening 10 minutes. They were able to recover a little better than they did against Spain on Wednesday, but they shot a brutal 2-for-18 from 3-point range and never really made things interesting.
It was Zoran Dragic who led the way for Slovenia with 23 points and nine rebounds, with brother Goran finishing with 15 points and five assists. The win puts the Eurobasket hosts in the WCOB field (see below) and they will play the winner of Ukraine-Italy in the sixth place game on Saturday.
In Thursday’s first quarterfinal, Croatia used a 19-1 run in the second quarter to build a double-digit lead against Ukraine, who could never cut that lead down to less than eight. Bojan Bogdanovic had a relatively quiet afternoon, but Krunoslav Simon picked up the slack, scoring 23 points on just 10 shots from the field. Croatia’s 84-72 win was their eighth straight (after losing their opener to Spain) and put them in the semifinals, with Ukraine being sent to the loser’s bracket, where it will have win one of the next two games to qualify for the WCOB.
The nightcap was the best matchup of the quarterfinals, and it sure looked like it through three quarters. But Italy went scoreless over the first 5:57 of the fourth as Lithuania built a 14-point lead. They held on for a four-point win that sends them to the semifinals against Croatia and makes them the 18th team to qualify for the WCOB. It was a balanced attack for Lithuania, who played small with only one big man on the floor, leaving Jonas Valanciunas on the bench for all but 10:51. Marco Belinelli led Italy with 22 points.
So here’s where we stand with three more days of action left in Slovenia. Early on Friday (8:30 a.m. ET), Italy will play Ukraine for another spot in the WCOB. The winner of that game will play Slovenia on Saturday for sixth place, while the loser will play Serbia for the seventh place and the final WCOB berth.
Also on Friday, we’ll have the two semifinals, both on NBA TV: Croatia-Lithuania (11:45 a.m. ET) and France-Spain (3 p.m. ET). Both are great matchups between teams playing some of their best basketball. The final will be on Sunday.
2014 World Cup of Basketball field
|2||USA||2012 Olympic champion|
|3||Iran||FIBA Asia champion|
|4||Philippines||FIBA Asia 2nd place|
|5||Korea||FIBA Asia 3rd place|
|6||Australia||FIBA Oceania champion|
|7||New Zealand||FIBA Oceania 2nd place|
|8||Angola||FIBA Africa champion|
|9||Egypt||FIBA Africa 2nd place|
|10||Senegal||FIBA Africa 3rd place|
|11||Mexico||FIBA Americas champion|
|12||Puerto Rico||FIBA Americas second place|
|13||Argentina||FIBA Americas third place|
|14||Dominican Republic||FIBA Americas fourth place|
|18||Slovenia||Eurobasket 5th/6th place|
|19||Ukraine/Italy winner||Eurobasket 5th/6th place|
|20||Serbia or Ukraine/Italy loser||Eurobasket 7th place|