Round of 16 features four big games


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MADRID — It’s fine to assume that the United States and Spain will face off in the gold medal game of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Sept. 14. But it wouldn’t be wise to wait until then to pay attention to the action in Barcelona and Madrid, because there’s plenty of good basketball to be played between the 16 remaining teams.

The knockout rounds get started with eight games on Saturday and Sunday, and there will be at least four good teams packing their bags before the weekend is done. It’s win-or-go-home time, there are still 47 active NBA players in the tournament, and the games are only 40 minutes long. Anything can happen, including an upset of one of the two favorites.

Don’t be looking for that this weekend, though. Appropriately, USA and Spain play two of the worst teams remaining. But there are four games – three in Madrid and one in Barcelona – that could go either way. And for NBA fans, there are more reasons than that to watch.

Pace = Possessions per 40 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

USA (5-0) vs. Mexico (2-3)

Barcelona – Saturday, 10 a.m. ET, ESPN2

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Things won’t get interesting for the U.S. until at least the semifinals. But there are still things to work on before then. The defense could be tighter, the half-court offense could definitely be sharper, and Derrick Rose needs more court time to start finishing plays better.

This will be free agent Gustavo Ayon‘s last (and best) chance to audition for NBA teams. Mexico also has Nets back-up point guard Jorge Gutierrez and was one of the best offensive rebounding teams in group play, grabbing 37 percent of available offensive boards.

Croatia (3-2) vs. France (3-2)

Madrid – Saturday, 12 p.m. ET, NBA TV

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This game features a couple of fascinating matchups between French vets and Croatian young guns. On the wing, we’ll see the Blazers’ Nicolas Batum vs. incoming Nets rookie Bojan Bogdanovic, who has been the tournament’s sixth leading scorer at 20.0 points per game. And at the four, we’ll have the Spurs’ Boris Diaw vs. Sixers draft pick Dario Saric, one of the most intriguing young talents we’ve seen in Europe in a long time.

A more important matchup could be between two NBA draft picks at center. France’s Joffrey Lauvergne (rights held by Denver) will be outsized by Croatia’s Ante Tomic (Utah), but could use his quickness to make things tough on the seven footer.

Croatia has been inconsistent, but has a ton of talent, including incoming Pacers rookie Damjan Rudez. France is the safer pick here and beat Croatia without Diaw a month ago, but Croatia might have the higher ceiling on a good night.

Slovenia (4-1) vs. Dominican Republic (2-3)

Barcelona – Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, NBA TV

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Slovenia had the No. 1 offense in group play, even though it continued to be rather conservative with Goran Dragic‘s minutes. He had a ridiculous effective field goal percentage of 69.6 percent in his team’s five games, but is just the tournament’s 10th leading scorer.

The Dominican Republic features Francisco Garcia (20.2 points per game), some solid role players, and a decent defense. It got through via a tiebreaker and didn’t have any quality wins in Group C, but if Garcia and fellow gunner James Feldeine get hot, this could get interesting, because Slovenia hasn’t proven it can get stops.

Spain (5-0) vs. Senegal (2-3)

Madrid – Saturday, 4 p.m. ET, NBA TV

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Spain’s point differential wasn’t as big as USA’s, but it had more impressive wins in Group A, beating Brazil, France and Serbia (all medal contenders) by an average of 19.7 points. The hosts have been a more cohesive unit with more depth.

Their success starts with their huge frontline, featuring Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who will play all of the team’s meaningful minutes at the four and five (sorry, Victor Claver fans). But their guards have done a fine job of providing ball pressure and pushing the ball in transition, where this team is a highlight machine.

Senegal, with the Wolves’ Gorgui Dieng leading the way, was one of the feel-good stories of group play. But that story comes to an end Saturday night in Madrid.

Lithuania (4-1) vs. New Zealand (2-3)

Barcelona – Sunday, 10 a.m. ET, NBA TV

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Despite losing point guard Mantas Kalnietis in its last exhibition game, Lithuania has been one of the best teams in the tournament. It avoided the U.S. until the semis with Thursday’s big win over Slovenia and, therefore, should be considered the team most likely to play for the bronze medal.

Donatas Motiejunas and Jonas Valanciunas are the names NBA fans know, but this is a deep and experienced roster that likes to grind it out at a slow pace.

That slow pace could help New Zealand hang around for a while. But this team lacks the talent and size to match up with a European power.

Greece (5-0) vs. Serbia (2-3)

Madrid – Sunday, 12 p.m. ET, NBA TV

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You might remember the infamous bench-clearing brawl, featuring Nenad Krstic throwing a chair at Giannis Bourousis, that these two teams had in a 2010 “friendly” game. And therefore, you might be curious to see what happens when they meet again.

Extracurriculars aside, this should be one of the best games of the weekend. Serbia is obviously the best team with a losing record, having lost to France by a point and having held a seven-point lead over Brazil in the fourth quarter. Giannis Antetokounmpo is reason enough to tune in to see Greece, but this team’s talent goes well beyond his long arms and strides. It went undefeated in Group B for a reason.

Turkey (3-2) vs. Australia (3-2)

Barcelona – Sunday, 2 p.m. ET, NBA TV

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This is where Australia wanted to be, seemingly throwing away Thursday’s game vs. Angola in order to avoid the U.S. until the semifinals. Doing that though, they put themselves in the best game of the Barcelona side of the bracket.

Neither Aron Baynes (who’s still a restricted free agent) nor Joe Ingles (who might get an NBA contract before Baynes does) played against Angola, but have been Australia’s best players. Jazz rookie Dante Exum has had a limited role behind the Cavs’ Matthew Dellavedova.

Turkey has had, by far, the biggest free throw attempt differential (plus-71) in the tournament, in part because opponents hack Omer Asik whenever he gets the ball near the basket. But their zone defense also keeps opponents out of the paint and off the line.

Australia ranked last in group-play 3-point attempts, but made 52 percent of the ones they took. That shooting vs. Turkey’s zone could determine who plays Lithuania on Tuesday.

Brazil (4-1) vs. Argentina (3-2)

Madrid – Sunday, 4 p.m. ET, NBA TV

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FIBA knows how to save the best for last. These two teams ranked third and seventh in pace-adjusted point differential in group play.

If this matchup looks familiar, it’s because these two teams faced each other in this same round in the 2010 World Championship, in the final of the 2011 FIBA Americas tournament, and in the quarterfinals of the 2012 Olympics. Each time, Argentina won by five points or less. The 2010 game, in particular, was an early-round classic.

So Brazil is out for a little revenge, and has arguably been the third best team thus far, picking up quality wins over France and Serbia. Argentina, of course, has #FIBAScola.

If you’ve only watched Luis Scola play in the NBA, then you’ve been missing out. The Scola that plays for his national team is a scoring machine. Brazil’s NBA trio of Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao will try to slow him down on Sunday.

Brazil’s own offense, fueled by a crafty backcourt of Marcelo Huertas and Leandro Barbosa, has picked up of late. It’s a shame that, for the third straight major international tournament, one of these two teams won’t make it past the first knockout round.

22 Comments

  1. ela says:

    “Only if Turks get on their bus, you’ll know the game is over..” Christiano Ronaldo, FİFA Eurocup 2008
    Yeah, still the same in FIBA Spain 2014. Admit it, we bring Cinderalla to the last chapter of your bestselling book and play it with our hearts…

  2. peja stojakovic says:

    Did anyone saw how the serbian team dismantled greece in pieces?
    watch for TEODOSIC,BOGDANOVIC…first one would be be a lock for the starting job in NBA..

  3. wooderson says:

    ryan broekhoff, remember that name, he was torch turkey and NBA teams should be scouting him hard

  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLjFds7_Fbg says:

    lousy band

  5. harriethehawk says:

    I agree, Greece will definitely provide some competition. But win the gold? Not.

  6. celentano says:

    antartica will be the champ of galaxy! just forget about the gold,that’s just some antics here!lol.

  7. fontas says:

    After some years at last we the Greeks have a good hardnose TEAM again.
    I am very proud for this team whaterer is the final result.
    The Feature for this team is bright and i thing if we do not miss Skortsianitis and Koufos we surtenly have big potential at least for the 3rd place.
    Pame omadara mas kanate gia alli mia fora perifanous

  8. Denver says:

    BRAZIL WILL WIN THE WORLD CUP LEANDRINHO BARBOSA WILL BE THE MVP

  9. Reminder says:

    Do not forget:

    Friday, September 1, 2006
    2006 Fiba World Championship
    Semi Finals
    Greece 101 – USA 95

    USA Team (full of NBA All Stars and Superstars):
    Paul, Wade, Anthony (Carmelo), James (LeBron), Howard, Bosh, Johnson, Miller, Battier, Heinrich, Bowen, Jameson, Arenas.

    Greek Team:
    Papaloukas, Diamantidis, Τsartsaris, Hadjivrettas, Vasilopoulos, Schorchianitis, Papadopoulos, Kakiouzis, Fotsis, Dikoudis , Spanoulis.

  10. pffff says:

    How many times do we have to explain it people? Greece is taking Gold this year, D Rose might as well save his knees for the season.

  11. Manuel Pineda says:

    It’s really a pity that NBA fans couldn’t see Scola at his best. When he was playing in Vitoria was almost unstoppable with all that bunch of moves he has. But as usual a foreigner player starts as a role player and unfortunately keeps it that way. Same goes for Nocioni, who was a real beast on his pre-NBA days in Vitoria.

    As for the games ahead, USA,Lithuania and Slovenia are where I expected them to be, and I think they are gonna have easy wins, ending in a Lithuania-USA semifinal; and I’m really eager to see a semifinal between Spain and Greece, by far the most solid teams on that side, but, and it’s a big but, there’s too much “fire” on that side of the bracket to be sure of anything there. I’m quite happy the way Katsikaris (Greek national coach) is driving this new generation of greek players.

  12. Benjamin says:

    USA and Spain have been dominant so far. Greece looks strong and Lithuania have experience speaking for them. Those are the best team. Brazil will advance because Argentina looks a bit weak this time.

    I wish Senegal could surprise Spain and maybe not win but give them a really good game. Mexico also will hopefully offer USA some difficulty. If not to win but at least to have the USA players tested before the real challenges come.

    USA will have it tough against Spain but will win. Maybe an overtime thriller?

  13. loam moody says:

    new Zealand will win by 50 points and win gold Argentina will win silver

  14. harriethehawk says:

    I hope Gustavo Ayon gets picked up by a team. Best wishes cause the Hawks don’t want him back.

  15. Paulo says:

    This time Argentina will go back home and Brazil will go on!!! This is the best Brazilian team of the last 20 years, …and we have the best argentine coach of the history on our side, Ruben Magnano!!! 🙂 Going for a medal!!!!

  16. Tremill says:

    Brazil France
    Spain USA
    These are some good teams.
    These teams could compete with teams in the nba. Spain is an nba team. They could make the playoffs in the nba.

  17. nonos says:

    spain, usa, greece. choose the order
    (brazil is a so so team, argentina the same)