FIBA 2011

China Escapes FIBA Asia With Olympic Berth

The FIBA Asia championship wrapped up Sunday with two critical games for first and third place that finalized the fields for next year’s Olympic action.

In the final, China edged Jordan 70-69 to become the ninth team in the 12-team Olympic field. Jordan came back in the fourth quarter and tied the game with 1:32 left. But they missed five shots that would have given them the lead, and the difference was a Yi Jianlian free throw with 28 seconds left after Jordan’s Ali Jamal Zaghab fouled him 90 feet from the basket. Yi finished with 25 points and 16 rebounds, while American Rasheim Wright led Jordan with 26 points.

Like Jordan, the Philippines went down in heartbreaking fashion in the third-place game, losing to Korea 70-68Marcio Lassiter missed the second of two free throws that would have tied the game with nine seconds left. And after Korea hit one of two on the other end, Joseph Casio missed a three at the buzzer that would have sent the Philippines to next year’s last-chance qualifying tournament. With their third-place finish, Korea is still alive for the Olympics and will join Jordan in that tournament, which will determine the final three teams in the Olympic field.

With senior men’s FIBA action now wrapped up for 2011, here’s a look at the fields for next summer’s two Olympic events…

Field for 2012 Olympics
Team How
United States 2010 World Champion
Great Britain Host
Tunisia FIBA Africa Champion
Australia FIBA Oceania Champion
Argentina FIBA Americas Champion
Brazil FIBA Americas 2nd place
Spain EuroBasket Champion
France EuroBasket 2nd place
China FIBA Asia Champion
Team 10 2012 Qualifier
Team 11 2012 Qualifier
Team 12 2012 Qualifier
Field for 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Team How
Angola FIBA Africa 2nd place
Nigeria FIBA Africa 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 3rd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Venezuela FIBA Americas 5th place
Russia EuroBasket 3rd place
FYR Macedonia EuroBasket 4th place
Lithuania EuroBasket 5th place
Greece EuroBasket 6th place
Jordan FIBA Asia 2nd place
Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place

FIBA Power Rankings

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – The EuroBasket and FIBA Americas tournaments are in the books, but there’s still some basketball to be played before the 12-team field for next year’s Olympics is set.

The FIBA Asia championship, which wraps up on Sunday, will determine the ninth team to qualify for the Olympics, as well as the final two teams to qualify for the 12-team, last-chance qualifying tournament that will take place next July in a location to be determined. The top three finishers in that tournament will complete the Olympic field.

So once FIBA Asia is complete, there will be 21 teams with a chance at Olympic gold. We rank them below, taking a guess at Asia’s three representatives…

1. USA
In Olympic field – 2010 World Champion
Having qualified for the Olympics by winning last year’s World Championship, the U.S. was happy to take this summer off with a 28-game FIBA winning streak intact. Mike Krzyzewski will be back next summer, leading a new group. And Jerry Colangelo will have the opportunity to select a squad from two groups that have won championships, the 2008 team that won gold in Beijing, and the 2010 team that won in Istanbul.

2. Spain
In Olympic field – 2011 EuroBasket Champion
Spain took the U.S. to the wire in the gold medal game of the last Olympics, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t be right there with them again in London next year. Without their best player, they finished a disappointing sixth at last year’s World Championship, but they were dominant at EuroBasket over the last few weeks. They lost a pool-play game to Turkey (again without their best player), but outscored their opponents by almost 19 points per 100 possessions overall.

3. Argentina
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Americas Champion
Argentina’s golden core showed some signs of age in Mar del Plata and will be one year older in London. But as long as they’re healthy, no group will be more experienced or more cohesive in next year’s Olympics.

4. France
In Olympic field – 2011 EuroBasket 2nd place
After finishing 13th at last year’s World Championship, France brought a bigger group of NBA players to Lithuania. They took them all the way to the final, where they lost to Spain for the second time. This was an offensive group, but they were able to get to the final with defensive wins over Greece and Russia.

5. Russia
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket third place
Russia gave the U.S. it’s toughest challenge in elimination play at last year’s World Championship. And at EuroBasket, they were the only team other than Spain to win 10 games, doing it with a stifling defense that only allowed 95 points per 100 possessions. David Blatt‘s squad doesn’t have an offensive star, but they share the ball as well as any team in the world.

6. Lithuania
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket fifth place
A year ago, a young group of Lithuanians surprised everyone by capturing bronze at the World Championship, with their only loss coming to the U.S. in the semifinal. This year, with EuroBasket in their home country, they were a disappointment, losing to Spain, France, and then FYR Macedonia in the quarterfinals.

7. Brazil
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Americas 2nd place
In the last five years, no team has come closer to beating the U.S. than Brazil did in pool play at last year’s World Championship, coming a contested lay-up away from taking the Americans to overtime. They’ve also played three great games against Argentina in the last two summers. Brazil could have a full complement of NBA players next year in London, but point guard Marcelo Huertas will still be their engine.

8. Greece
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket sixth place
With Theo Papaloukas and Dimitris Diamantidis retired from the National Team, Greece’s strength is now on the interior. They proved at EuroBasket that they’re still a strong squad, and they’ve certainly got a shot to capture one of the last three spots at the Olympics. But they just don’t have the firepower to compete with the world’s top teams anymore.

9. Dominican Republic
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas third place
It took several games for John Calipari‘s squad to find some consistency, but they looked pretty strong in their last few games at Mar del Plata. At next year’s qualifying tournament, they’ll be playing for their first ever Olympic berth in men’s basketball and lacking the international experience of the other contenders for the top three spots.

10. Puerto Rico
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas fourth place
Puerto Rico was the stronger team for most of the FIBA Americas tournament, but they fell to the Dominican Republic in the bronze medal game. More disappointing was their performance at last year’s World Championship, losing to the Ivory Coast in their final pool-play game and failing to qualify for the 16-team knockout round.

11. Australia
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Oceania Champion
Australia only had to beat New Zealand in a three-game series to qualify for the Olympics. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a solid squad when healthy. They finished seventh at the ’08 Olympics and 10th at last year’s World Championship.

12. FYR Macedonia
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 Eurobasket fourth place
Behind a strong defense and the play of Bo McCalebb, FYR Macedonia was the Cinderella story of EuroBasket. They’re certainly a candidate for grabbing one of the last three Olympic berths at next year’s qualifying tournament, but you have to wonder if they can repeat what they did in Lithuania.

13. Great Britain
In Olympic field – Host
Great Britain lost its first three games at EuroBasket before recovering to beat Portugal and Poland. They should get a lift behind their home crowd next year, but they still might have a tough time making the quarterfinals.

14. Venezuela
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas fifth place
Venezuela took a step forward with their fifth-place finish in Mar del Plata, but it’s hard to imagine them fitting in the top three at next year’s qualifying tournament. Eric Musselman‘s offense was the most efficient (121 points scored per 100 possessions) at the FIBA Americas tournament, but his team’s defense was pretty awful.

15. New Zealand
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Oceania second place
New Zealand got swept by Australia, but this is a team that won three games at last year’s World Championship behind the scoring of Kirk Penney. That included a win over France.

16. Iran
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
Iran won a game at last year’s World Championship and is now looking like the early favorite to capture Asia’s spot at the Olympics, having won its last two games by a total of 179 points.

17. China
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
No longer is it clear that China is the best team in Asia. Wednesday’s game against Japan (also 4-0) will be an interesting test.

18. Tunisia
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Africa Champion
With a (relatively) strong defense, Tunisia is the best team in Africa. But this is still a team that went 0-5 at last year’s World Championship. That included a 13-point loss to Iran.

19. Angola
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Africa second place
Angola won two games (over Jordan and Germany) at last year’s World Championship before getting crushed by the U.S. in the round of 16. They lost by 11 to Tunisia in the FIBA Africa final.

20. Nigeria
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Africa second place
Nigeria looked pretty strong until losing to Angola in the semifinals.

21. Korea
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
With four easy wins, Korea is looking like the third best team in Asia. They’ll play Iran in their final pool-play game on Wednesday.

Field for 2012 Olympics
Team How
United States 2010 World Champion
Great Britain Host
Tunisia FIBA Africa Champion
Australia FIBA Oceania Champion
Argentina FIBA Americas Champion
Brazil FIBA Americas 2nd place
Spain EuroBasket Champion
France EuroBasket 2nd place
Team 9 FIBA Asia Champion
Team 10 2012 Qualifier
Team 11 2012 Qualifier
Team 12 2012 Qualifier
Field for 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Team How
Angola FIBA Africa 2nd place
Nigeria FIBA Africa 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 3rd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Venezuela FIBA Americas 5th place
Russia EuroBasket 3rd place
FYR Macedonia EuroBasket 4th place
Lithuania EuroBasket 5th place
Greece EuroBasket 6th place
Team 11 FIBA Asia 2nd place
Team 12 FIBA Asia 3rd place

Spain Claims Repeat Gold

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a competition filled with exquisite guard play, Spain got the most consistently brilliant effort from one of the world’s best in Juan Carlos Navarro on its way to repeat gold at EuroBasket 2011.

Navarro’s 27 points lifted Spain past France Sunday in Lithuania, punctuating their tournament-long dominance with a 98-85 win over Tony Parker and his crew.

Navarro’s perimeter game was complemented perfectly by the inside presence of Pau Gasol and his younger brother Marc Gasol, who took turns carrying the load for Spain throughout the competition. But it was Navarro’s relentlessness that marked Spain’s run throughout this tournament and throughout Sunday’s title game.

In a matchup with another one of the world’s most dynamic scoring guards in Parker, Navarro proved up to the task, as did his stellar ensemble cast. Pau Gasol had 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Marc Gasol added 11 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists. Navarro’s backcourt mate Jose Calderon finished with 17 points of his own. Serge Ibaka blocked five shots in his 21 minutes, showing during a five-minute stretch of the second quarter as Spain built a 10-point advantage that would not be surrendered.

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Spain Trying To Defend Title At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The top four spots at EuroBasket 2011 will be decided Sunday with defending champion Spain taking on France in Lithuania. They’ve both already clinched bids to the 2012 London Olympics, but there is still plenty to play for in a rivalry contest such as this one.

This is, after all, the battle for European basketball supremacy.

Russia and FYR Macedonia will battle it out in the bronze medal, having both already clinched spots in next summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament.

There were games played today, though. Consolation games (video above). Host-nation Lithuania edged Greece 73-69 in the fifth-place game. Both teams are headed for the qualifying tournament since the third through sixth-place teams in this competition earn automatic spots there.

Slovenia slipped by Serbia in the seventh-place game, finishing the competition on a winning note even though their Olympic dreams were already dashed.

The marquee matchup of the competition, of course, comes Sunday when global heavyweights Spain and France square off. Both of their rosters are stocked with NBA talent. Spain will be led by Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Juan Carlos Navarro, Serge Ibaka, Jose Calderon, Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio. France counters with a loaded roster that includes Tony Parker, Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Boris Diaw  and Mickael Gelabale.

These two teams have an extensive history of battling each other, having played against each other 18 times in EuroBaskets. Spain has won all but three of those matchups, including a 96-69 win in the second round to win Group E of this competition, a contest that Parker and Noah sat out so they could rest up for the quarterfinals.

“On Sunday, Spain will be clear favorites. They have dominated the EuroBaskets for several years,” Batum said. “It’s the best team in the world behind Team USA. They are strong but not unbeatable. Anything can happen.”

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Spain, France Set To Battle In EuroBasket Finals

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The stage is set. Spain and France will battle it out for the crown of the best team in Europe at EuroBasket 2011, their invitations to next summer’s Olympic games in London are set now.

How’d they get here?

That’s what we (my main man and NBA.com‘s John Schuhmann kicks things off today) are here for …

Spain 92, FYR Macedonia 80 (Boxscore)

From the start of this tournament, we all expected Spain to make the final and earn one of Europe’s two guaranteed spots in next year’s Olympics. But none of us expected FYR Macedonia to be the last team standing between the defending European champs and that Olympic berth.

Getting through this semifinal was no walk in the park for Spain. The defending champs didn’t take control of the game until late in the third quarter when Juan Carlos Navarro caught fire. Navarro scored 19 of his 35 points in the third, at one point hitting a ridiculous running three at the shot clock buzzer, to give Spain a nine-point edge heading into the fourth.

The Macedonia offense, which had struggled all tournament but scored 45 points in the first half, couldn’t keep up with Navarro’s onslaught. And with the Gasol brothers almost outrebounding Macedonia by themselves, Spain was just too much for the underdogs.

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France, Russia Reach EuroBasket Semis

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Hometown and host-nation favorite Lithuania saved its Olympic qualifying bacon with a win over Slovenia in early action Thursday at EuroBasket 2011.

The crowd faves were just the warm up act, however, as France (as noted by my main man and NBA.com’s John Schuhmann) and Russia played their way into the semifinals with wins …

Russia 77, Serbia 67 (Box Score)

There is only one team still playing in EuroBasket that hasn’t tasted defeat in this competition. Russia has won nine straight games and will take that unblemished mark into a semifinal showdown against France. When you have the most versatile player in the competition, do-it-all swingman Andrei Kirilenko, leading the charge every night, it makes sense that Russia continues to wear down the competition. Kirilenko finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.

“Two years ago we played in the same phase against the same group of great players and the same great coach and we lost, as I said then, by a better team,” said Russia coach David Blatt. “We moved forward from there. We provided our players with the kind of teaching and culture it takes to build a successful national team. We got back two of our main players – Kirilenko and [Viktor] Khryapa, who didn’t play in 2009, and you saw tonight how important they are. But the story is the other players who matured and are now a higher level basketball players. It’s a sweet win, but the joy is short, because we play tomorrow in the semifinals. We’ve had a great run so far.”

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Macedonia Shocks Lithuania, Joins Spain In Semifinals At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The quarterfinal round got off to an explosive (and rousing, for one country) start Wednesday, thanks to our friends from Macedonia …

(NBA.com’s John Schuhmann recapped Wednesday’s first game, Spain’s 86-64 win over Slovenia, below.)

Macedonia 67, Lithuania 65 (Box Score)

Vlado Ilievski‘s 3-pointer (off an assist from Bo McCalebb) with 11 seconds left pushed Macedonia ahead and they held on to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in EuroBasket history, knocking off host nation Lithuania before a raucous crowd in a hostile environment. Ilievski (12 points) and McCalebb (23 points) had plenty of company in the heroes corner in the Macedonia locker room after the game. Vojdan Stojanovski who didn’t miss a single shot, he was 5-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line, finishing with 15 points.

“This is a huge win for us. We are very happy,” Stojanovksi said. “I think we played very well and we deserved this win. I have to thank our playmakers because they put me in a position to have open shots. I was confident of making them. Spain will be a tough team but we have proved that we can beat good teams in this tournament.”

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The Numbers Game: Eurobasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – Sixteen teams have gone home from EuroBasket, their Olympic hopes dashed. Eight teams remain, playing for two Olympic berths and four spots at next summer’s last-chance qualifying tournament.

Russia is the only undefeated team entering the quarterfinals, but Spain remains the favorite and, statistically, was the most dominant team in pool play. Each team has only played eight games, so we’re dealing with small sample sizes here. But when we look at offensive and defensive efficiency, we can get a good idea of how each team qualified for elimination-round play.

Eurobasket Efficiency
Team W L Pace Rank OffRtg Rank DefRtg Rank NetRtg Rank
France 7 1 72.0 12 111.1 3 105.3 13 +5.7 6
FYR of Macedonia 6 2 69.0 21 98.8 17 93.5 3 +5.3 7
Greece 6 2 68.0 22 103.6 12 97.9 7 +5.7 5
Lithuania 6 2 72.5 8 116.9 1 105.7 14 +11.2 3
Russia 8 0 69.3 20 108.0 7 91.4 1 +16.6 2
Serbia 5 3 72.6 7 110.3 5 107.6 17 +2.7 9
Slovenia 5 3 67.5 24 100.3 15 96.6 5 +3.7 8
Spain 7 1 73.0 6 113.2 2 95.9 4 +17.3 1

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

The numbers show that there’s a clear delineation between the top three teams (Spain, Russia and Lithuania) and the rest. But all eight teams deserve to be where they are, finishing pool play in the top nine in point differential.

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Slovenia Snags Final Quarterfinal Spot

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Six teams put the finishing touches on second round play at EuroBasket 2011 Monday in Lithuania.

But there was only one quarterfinal spot remaining in Group F play …

Slovenia 67, Finland 60 (Box Score)

The directive was simple for the Slovenia, win or go home. They did exactly what had to be done against Finland, aesthetics be darned. Sure, it wasn’t one of the prettier games played in this competition. But it was a win. And those have been tough to come by for Slovenia lately. Uros Slokar turned in a near-flawless effort off the bench with 13 points, eight rebounds and no turnovers in 22 minutes to spark Slovenia. Erazem Lorbek (14 points and six rebounds) and Zoran Dragic (10 points and four rebounds) delivered as well.

“Before the game we just told ourselves to relax and think how we can enjoy the game again,” Slokar said. “Go on the floor and try to be more relaxed. I think that’s something we managed to do. Finland played good but we kept them on a low score and that’s the key for our wins. Spain is favorite against any team in this tournament, but our goals are different than theirs. We will try to win and give 100 percent to win. If that would be enough it’s great, and if not we’re still going to be happy with the result because we gave 100 percent.”

With the win Slovenia earned a date against defending champion Spain, winners of Group E. So the challenge for Slovenia remains. And they’ll have to stay focused the entire way to have a chance against Spain, something they struggled to do against Finland. It took six straight points from Lorbek to hold off a Finland rally in the fourth quarter.

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Argentina Tops Brazil For Title

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If the championship game of the FIBA Americas didn’t really mean anything, since both teams had already locked up their Olympic bids, someone forgot to tell the players from Argentina and Brazil. Because Sunday night’s game in MarDel Plata, Argentina didn’t look anything like a friendly exhibition.

Luis Scola scored a tournament-high 32 points to lead Argentina to the 80-75 win and their second FIBA Americas title, their last coming a decade ago. Scola earned MVP honors after carrying his team in a tight game for the win. Carlos Delfino added 16 points and nine rebounds for the winners. Marcus Vinicius led Brazil with 17 points and Tiago Splitter added 12.

Scola was joined on the All-Tournament team by his Argentina teammate Manu Ginobili, the Dominican Republic’s Al Horford, Puerto Rico’s Carlos Arroyo and Brazil’s Marcelo Huertas.

By virtue of making the title game, Argentina and Brazil earned spots in London next summer for the Olympics. Horford led the Dominican Republic with 23 points as they topped Puerto Rico 103-89 in the third-place game. The Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico and Venezuela all earned invites to the qualifying tournament next July with their top five finishes in this competition.