Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

U.S. Gets Favorable World Cup Draw

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – FIBA held the draw for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup on Monday. The United States was drawn into Group C with the Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine.

The World Cup will take place from Aug. 30 – Sept. 14 in Spain. Group C will play preliminary games (against each of the other five teams) in Bilbao. From there, the top four teams will advance to the 16-team, single-elimination tournament against teams from Group D.

Group C could be the deepest of the four, with five teams that have a legit shot to make the round of 16. Playing at home, Turkey went 8-0 in 2010 before falling to the U.S. in the gold medal game. Both Finland and Ukraine got some good wins at Eurobasket last year, and the Dominican Republic could have Al Horford if he’s healthy. Games between the Dominican, Finland, Turkey and Ukraine will be huge.

But who’s in their group isn’t of much consequence for the U.S. At worst, they’ll go 4-1 in preliminary-round action. It is noteworthy that the other half of the draw (Groups A and B) is much stronger at the top.

2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup groups

Group A (Grenada) Group B (Sevilla) Group C (Bilbao) Group D (Gran Canaria)
Brazil Argentina Dom. Republic Angola
Egypt Croatia Finland Australia
France Greece New Zealand Korea
Iran Philippines Turkey Lithuania
Serbia Puerto Rico Ukraine Mexico
Spain Senegal USA Slovenia

Group A is certainly the strongest in spots 1-4. France, Spain and Serbia are three of the four strongest teams in Europe, while Brazil (if they bring some of their NBA bigs) is the second best team from the Americas. It’s a distinct possibility that all four of those teams will beat their Group B counterparts in the Round of 16 and face each other in the quarterfinals.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves here, though. The U.S. Team’s group will provide them with some solid competition before they face the pressure of single-elimination play. And we know they won’t have to face Spain, France, or Serbia before the final (or, perhaps, the bronze medal game). The toughest team on their half of the bracket would be Lithuania, the team they beat in the semifinals in 2010.

In 2010 though, the U.S. didn’t have to change hotels for their entire 17-day stay in Turkey. They were drawn into the group that played in Istanbul, where the entire single-elimination tournament was also played.

This time, if they were to make it to the gold medal game, they’d have to travel twice. The round-of-16 and quarterfinal games played between Groups C and D will be played in Barcelona, and the semifinals and finals will be played in Madrid.

Four Awarded World Cup Berths

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – FIBA announced Saturday that Brazil, Finland, Greece and Turkey have been awarded wild card berths to the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, to be played Aug. 30-Sept. 14 in Spain.

The four teams complete the field of 24 (see the full list below), which will be drawn into four groups of six on Monday.

Brazil played awful at the FIBA Americas tournament last summer, but was without all four of their NBA big men (Vitor Faverani, Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Vareajao). If they have point guard Marcelo Huertas, two of the bigs and a shooter or two, they will be one of the better teams in Spain. As the U.S. has won 36 straight games in international competition, Brazil has come the closest to knocking them off. Brazil is also the host of the 2016 Olympics, which was certainly a factor in their selection.

Greece is the last team to beat the U.S., pulling off the upset in the semifinals of the 2006 World Championship. They had top-five finishes in four straight Eurobasket tournaments from 2003 to 2009 (winning in 2005), but the best players from their golden years aren’t playing anymore. They still have a solid roster, but lost in the round of 16 at the 2010 World Championship and also failed to make the quarterfinals at last year’s Eurobasket.

Turkey played great as the home team in 2010, going 8-0 before falling to the U.S. in the gold medal game. But (though most of the roster was sporting fabulous tans) they were a disappointing 1-4 at Eurobasket last summer.

Finland went 5-3 at Eurobasket, with wins over Turkey and Greece. And their wild card big was apparently aided by Finnish video game developer Rovio, which promised to provide free advertising for the national team and the World Cup if Finland was selected. So if you’re angry that Andrew Wiggins won’t be playing in Spain next summer, be angry at Angry Birds.

There were originally 15 applicants for the four wild card spots, but reports had China, Italy, Germany and Russia bowing out. That certainly thinned out the field, but not enough to get Canada into the tournament. Given their NBA-level talent and their numbers from last year’s FIBA Americas tournament, the Canadian National Team (managed by Steve Nash and coached by Blazers assistant Jay Triano) is clearly the biggest snub.

In addition to Wiggins, Canada has a deep core of young talent (Anthony Bennett, Tyler EnnisCory Joseph, Andrew Nicholson, Kelly Olynyk, Tristan Thompson). It would have been great to see that group in Spain this summer, but they only have themselves to blame for not qualifying. After going 4-1 to start last year’s tournament (Bennett, Olynyk and Wiggins didn’t play), they dropped their final three games (by a total of 18 points) to finish sixth, with only the top four teams receiving automatic bids.

So Canada should be rooting for the U.S. in Spain. If the U.S. wins gold at the World Cup, they automatically qualify for the 2016 Olympics and have no need to send a team to the 2015 FIBA Americas tournament, where the top two finishers will receive automatic Olympic bids. But if the U.S. doesn’t win gold this summer, there’s one less spot available for a team from North, South or Central America. There will be an additional qualifying tournament in 2016 before the Olympics (for three more berths), but given the relative strengths of the Americas and Europe, Canada’s best chance at the ’16 Olympics is probably next summer  … as long as the U.S. isn’t there.

Amazingly, Canada had the best defense and best point differential of last year’s FIBA Americas tournament. Here are efficiency numbers from last summer’s FIBA events (FIBA Africa, FIBA Americas, FIBA Asia, and Eurobasket) for all 15 of the original wild card applicants…

2013 stats of wild card applicants

Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK ORK
Nigeria
109.4 1 +18.5 2 93.8 9 +2.9 41 +15.6 5 9
Brazil
94.9 9 -10.2 58 107.4 7 +2.3 38 -12.5 8 54
Canada
107.0 5 +2.0 26 97.6 1 -7.5 10 +9.5 1 12
Venezuela
103.7 6 -1.4 36 100.2 2 -4.8 12 +3.5 6 22
China
110.7 3 +12.4 5 90.2 3 -8.0 9 +20.4 3 6
Qatar
98.8 7 +0.6 32 99.1 7 +0.9 31 -0.3 8 28
Bosnia
101.4 14 -1.3 35 103.0 11 +0.2 30 -1.5 9 29
Finland
97.8 18 -5.0 42 101.1 6 -1.6 21 -3.4 14 36
Germany
106.0 6 +3.2 21 107.7 19 +4.9 48 -1.7 10 30
Greece
110.6 1 +7.8 9 104.0 13 +1.3 33 +6.6 4 17
Israel
98.3 17 -4.4 40 101.2 7 -1.6 22 -2.8 12 34
Italy
105.2 9 +2.4 25 102.5 10 -0.3 28 +2.7 6 23
Poland
95.5 21 -7.3 51 107.9 20 +5.1 49 -12.4 23 52
Russia
97.8 19 -5.0 43 104.5 15 +1.8 36 -6.8 19 42
Turkey
103.5 12 +0.7 30 113.3 24 +10.6 59 -9.9 22 48

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AdjO = Points scored per 100 possessions, compared to event average
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
AdjD = Points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to event average
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
RK = Rank within that event
ORK = Rank among 65 teams in four events

As you can see, Brazil was the worst of the group and Turkey was pretty awful too. But apparently, if you didn’t automatically qualify, it didn’t really matter what you did last summer.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

Team Qualified
Angola FIBA Africa champion
Argentina FIBA Americas champion
Australia FIBA Oceania champion
Brazil Wildcard
Croatia Eurobasket 4th place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 2nd place
Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
Finland Wildcard
France Eurobasket champion
Greece Wildcard
Iran FIBA Asia champion
Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
Lithuania Eurobasket 2nd place
Mexico FIBA Americas 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
Serbia Eurobasket 7th place
Slovenia Eurobasket 5th place
Spain Host
Turkey Wildcard
Ukraine Eurobasket 6th place
USA 2012 Olympic champion

FIBA Wrap: France Takes Eurobasket Gold

.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The gold medal game at EuroBasket was a matchup of the tournament’s second best offense and its third best defense. The offense was better as France won its first ever EuroBasket title with an easy 80-66 victory over Lithuania on Sunday.

France’s offense is a thing of beauty when it’s clicking, and it was doing just that in the final. No big heroics were needed from Tony Parker, who scored just 12 points. Nicolas Batum led France with 17, while Boris Diaw added 15.

A big first quarter from Linas Kleiza had Lithuania up three, but France closed the second period on a 14-0 run to take control. They shot just 5-for-21 from 3-point range, but outrebounded Lithuania 42-35. They knocked off two-time defending EuroBasket champion Spain on Friday and backed that win up with the gold medal on Sunday, the biggest win in French basketball history.

NBA TV will air the final at 5 p.m. ET on Monday and again at 12:30 a.m. ET Tuesday.

Earlier on Sunday, Spain blew out Croatia to win the bronze medal. Spain lost four times, but finished with, by far, the tournament’s best point differential. The four losses were by an average of 5.3 points and their seven wins were by an average of 27.3.

So men’s FIBA action is wrapped up for 2013. Over the course of five events and 237 total games, 18 teams qualified for next year’s World Cup of Basketball. Here’s the field as it stands, with the U.S. and Spain having pre-qualified and four wildcards to be determined later this year…

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
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
15 France Eurobasket champion
16 Lithuania Eurobasket second place
17 Croatia Eurobasket 4th place
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th place
19 Ukraine Eurobasket 6th place
20 Serbia Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

France won the biggest tournament and Spain is still the best team outside the U.S. But the most dominant team this summer was Iran, which went 9-0 at the FIBA Asia championship, outscoring its opponents by more than 42 points per 100 possessions behind the interior defense and rebounding of Hamed Haddadi.

Of course, there were some really bad teams at FIBA Asia (Malaysia shot 27 percent from the field), as well as at FIBA Africa, where Angola went 7-0 and outscored its opponents by over 27 points per 100 possessions. But we can get a decent idea of where teams were weak and strong by looking at their offensive and defensive efficiency numbers.

Overall, FIBA Americas was the most efficient tournament of the four. Here are the OffRtg (points scored per 100 possessions) numbers for each tournament…
FIBA Africa: 90.9
FIBA Americas: 105.1
FIBA Asia: 98.2
Eurobasket: 102.8

(Yeah, be happy you didn’t watch those FIBA Africa games.)

And here are the numbers for the 17 World Cup qualifiers that played at the four big tournaments this summer. We’re not including FIBA Oceania qualifiers Australia and New Zealand here, because they just played a two-game series against each other.

World Cup of Basketball qualifiers, 2013 stats

Event Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK
Africa Angola 104.2 2 +13.3 3 77.0 3 -13.8 5 +27.2 1
Africa Egypt 86.8 9 -4.1 39 89.6 6 -1.3 24 -2.8 8
Africa Senegal 84.9 11 -6.0 46 87.1 5 -3.8 14 -2.2 7
Americas Argentina 110.9 2 +5.9 13 102.9 4 -2.2 19 +8.0 2
Americas Dominican Rep. 108.7 4 +3.6 18 102.8 3 -2.2 17 +5.9 5
Americas Mexico 111.8 1 +6.7 12 104.1 6 -1.0 25 +7.7 3
Americas Puerto Rico 109.5 3 +4.4 16 103.1 5 -2.0 20 +6.4 4
Asia Iran 117.7 1 +19.5 1 75.6 1 -22.6 1 +42.1 1
Asia Korea 111.4 2 +13.2 4 86.8 2 -11.4 6 +24.6 2
Asia Philippines 107.6 5 +9.3 7 95.3 5 -3.0 16 +12.3 4
Eurobasket Croatia 102.0 13 -0.7 34 101.9 8 -0.9 26 +0.2 8
Eurobasket France 110.5 2 +7.8 10 100.6 5 -2.2 18 +10.0 2
Eurobasket Lithuania 104.1 11 +1.4 28 96.1 3 -6.7 11 +8.1 3
Eurobasket Serbia 105.5 7 +2.8 22 108.1 21 +5.4 51 -2.6 11
Eurobasket Slovenia 104.7 10 +2.0 27 104.0 12 +1.2 32 +0.8 7
Eurobasket Spain 109.8 3 +7.1 11 88.7 1 -14.0 4 +21.1 1
Eurobasket Ukraine 100.8 16 -2.0 38 105.7 16 +2.9 40 -4.9 16

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
AdjO = Points scored per 100 possessions, compared to event average
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
AdjD = Points allowed per 100 possessions, compared to event average
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
RK = Rank within that event
ORK = Rank among 65 teams in four events

Four teams – Egypt, Senegal, Serbia and Ukraine – qualified with negative point differentials. And there were teams that played better overall, but failed to earn an automatic bid.

Wildcard candidates, 2013 stats

Event Team OffRtg RK AdjO ORK DefRtg RK AdjD ORK NetRtg RK
Africa Nigeria 109.4 1 +18.5 2 93.8 9 +2.9 41 +15.6 5
Africa Tunisia 98.8 3 +7.9 8 81.7 4 -9.2 7 +17.1 4
Americas Brazil 94.9 9 -10.2 58 107.4 7 +2.3 38 -12.5 8
Americas Canada 107.0 5 +2.0 26 97.6 1 -7.5 10 +9.5 1
Asia China 110.7 3 +12.4 5 90.2 3 -8.0 9 +20.4 3
Eurobasket Greece 110.6 1 +7.8 9 104.0 13 +1.3 33 +6.6 4
Eurobasket Italy 105.2 9 +2.4 25 102.5 10 -0.3 28 +2.7 6
Eurobasket Latvia 105.3 8 +2.6 24 99.7 4 -3.1 15 +5.6 5
Eurobasket Russia 97.8 19 -5.0 43 104.5 15 +1.8 36 -6.8 19
Eurobasket Turkey 103.5 12 +0.7 30 113.3 24 +10.6 59 -9.9 22

Again, the Africa and Asia teams look the best by the numbers, but Canada, Greece and Italy are probably the most deserving, given the competition that they faced. It’s pretty amazing that three teams in the top six in NetRtg at EuroBasket failed to finish in the top seven.

Brazil played terribly at FIBA Americas, but by adding a few of its NBA players — Leandro Barbosa, Vitor Faverani, Nene, Tiago Splitter and Anderson Varejao — it can make the most upgrades to its roster for the WCOB. Canada, with Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, can make some too.

Along with Brazil (9), Greece (4), Russia (6), Turkey (7) and China (11) all had places in the top 11 of FIBA’s rankings before the summer began. Those rankings will change now, but picking four wildcards will not be easy.

Qualifying For ’14 World Cup Is Wide Open

.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Eurobasket has just begun and we’ve already had plenty of surprises across FIBA’s regional tournaments, with teams looking to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

In Asia, defending champion China was knocked out in the quarterfinals. In Africa, Nigeria and Tunisia — the two teams that repped the continent in last year’s Olympics — both failed to make the semis. And in the FIBA Americas tournament, Brazil lost all four of their first-round games and was sent home after blowing a 10-point, second-half lead to Jamaica on Tuesday.

Thus far, 10 teams have their tickets punched for Spain (see below). Another 10 (four from the Americas and six from Europe) will receive automatic bids in the next 17 days. Later this year, four wild-card berths will be awarded, giving teams like China and Brazil a shot.

And if Brazil is awarded a wild-card berth, they certainly have the potential to rebound from this year’s performance and make some noise at the World Cup. They have four big men in the NBA: Nene, Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Vitor Faverani (signed by the Celtics this summer). But none of the four was in Caracas this week, leaving Marcelo Huertas without a competent big man to run the pick-and-roll with.

Their 0-4 performance was still a shock. Brazil gave the U.S. its toughest game at the 2010 World Championship and finished second to Argentina at the 2011 FIBA Americas tourney.

But give credit to Jamaica for it’s comeback, led by former Cav Samardo Samuels, who led all scorers with 21 points and who hit all nine of his fourth-quarter free throws. A pair of freebies by Akeem Scott won the game for Jamaica in the final seconds.

Brazil’s ouster gives Canada a better shot at one of the four automatic berths. The Canadians are without Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk, but went 3-1 in the first round. They still have some work to do, as the eight teams remaining in Caracas will play four games — Thursday through Sunday — against the teams they’ve yet to face, and after that, the top four teams in the standings will qualify for the semifinals and next year’s World Cup. Canada’s most important game could be Saturday against the Dominican Republic.

The lack of NBA players participating has made the FIBA Americas tournament wide open. And the same may hold true at Eurobasket, which tipped off Wednesday in Slovenia. With Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Rudy Fernandez on board, Spain is still the clear favorite. And France, with Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw, is a lock to get one of the other top six spots.

But after that, things will get interesting. And Exhibit A is Finland’s tourney-opening victory over Turkey, the team that made a fantastic run to the gold medal game in 2010 and has a frontline of Hedo Turkoglu, Ersan Ilyasova and Omer Asik.

If you need a basketball fix with another month to go before training camp, there’s plenty of international hoops for you over the next three weeks. NBA TV will have some games, and the others can be seen on ESPN3.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
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 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

* If Spain finishes in the top six, the seventh place team will qualify.

Hawks’ Rookies Find International Connection

x

LAS VEGAS – For Hawks rookies Dennis Schroder and Lucas Nogueira, speaking different languages hasn’t hurt their connection on the court.

Schroder, the team’s German point guard and Nogueira, the big man out of Brazil, connected several times on alley-oops in the team’s five games, giving Hawks fans a glimpse of what could become an exciting pairing at Philips Arena.

“We had a very, very good connection,” Schroder said. “He runs the pick-and-roll very well, so every time he looks at me I know he’s ready for the pass. That’s great for me having a guy like him I can throw it to.”

That connection may have to wait, however. Schroder is signed with the Hawks and will likely see time backing up Jeff Teague this season. Nogueira’s future, though, isn’t as certain. Nogueira, the No. 16 pick who famously — and briefly — donned a Celtics cap on his afro before being traded to the Hawks on Draft night, was a last-minute addition to the Summer League squad and management was using the time here to get a feel for their 7-foot (7-foot-3 with the afro?) big man.

“It was a really good learning experience for both of them,” said Hawks assistant Quin Snyder, who ran the team in Las Vegas. “I thought Lucas got better as the week went on and Dennis had a few really good challenges that he handled really well.”

Schroder showed a patience and ability to find the open man on offense, but shined defensively, where he was constantly hounding opposing point guards.

“I think being a point guard in Summer League is harder than any other position because there’s so much you have to control,” Snyder said. “He did a really good job defensively this week. He works incredibly hard on defense and he’s so long, so he’s tough to play against.”

Schroder finished his run averaging 10.8 points and 5.6 assists (against 3.4 TOs) while struggling a bit with his shot (34 percent overall, 7-for-24 on 3s). Schroder improved with each game, though, and seemed more comfortable offensively as the week progressed. Still, all the 19-year-old German wanted to talk about was his defense.

“The first thing I do is try to play good defense,” said Schroder, who led the Hawks with eight steals in five games. “Hopefully my teammates see that and play hard defense, too.”

Nogueira said he took notice of Schroder’s defense, and had his best game defensively Friday, bringing energy and tallying five of his 12 blocks in the Hawks’ finale.

“I like my progress this week,” said Nogueira, who says he plans to be in Atlanta by August and is preparing as if he’ll be with the team in the fall even though management may choose to keep him overseas. “I started slow, but I’ll go home happy with my progress.”

Nogueira admitted he didn’t know Schroder’s game before the Hawks took him with the No. 17 pick, but said he watched “all his YouTube movies” to better prepare for Summer League.

“He’s a very good guard, makes great passes and has great vision, so that’s good for me,” Nogueira said with a laugh.

And it could be a good connection – eventually – for the Hawks.

Love Rewards Krzyzewski For Going Big

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – After the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team had completed its five-game exhibition schedule, it was pretty clear that playing small was not a good idea. The U.S. won those five games by an average of 26.6 points, but had barely outscored opponents when playing small (without Tyson Chandler, Kevin Love or Anthony Davis on the floor).

Mike Krzyzewski and his staff seemingly took those numbers to heart. In its five pool play games in London, the U.S. played small for only 7.6 minutes per game, down from 14.9 minutes per game in the five exhibitions.

Love was the biggest beneficiary, seeing his minutes increase from 12.0 per game in the exhibitions to 16.5 per game in pool play. And he paid Krzyzewski back for the increased minutes. Not only has Love shot 24-for-36 in London, but the U.S. outscored its opponents 268-147 with Love on the floor. And that plus-121 was the team’s highest mark in pool play.

Overall, the U.S. is a plus-308 in 288 minutes over 10 games with Chandler, Love or Davis on the floor. And the Americans are just a plus-16 in 112 minutes with no bigs in the game.

USA efficiency with or without bigs (exhibitions + pool play)

On floor MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
At least one big 287.8 84.2 136.6 87.0 +49.6 +308
No bigs 112.2 80.7 113.4 103.9 +9.5 +16
Totals 400.0 83.2 130.4 91.7 +38.7 +324

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

The one time that the U.S. played small for almost half the game was the narrow win over Lithuania. And the results were not good. In fact, in three of the five pool-play games, the U.S. was outscored when it played small. (more…)

Russia Beats Brazil On A Buzzer Beater, Spain Survives Great Britain’s Surge

LONDON – The medals will be handed out when it’s all over, but Russia’s Vitaly Fridzon will leave here having secured at least one spectacular memory from this competition.

Fridzon knocked down an off-balance 3-pointer from the corner, on a brilliantly executed play with four seconds to play to cap a thrilling 75-74 comeback win over Brazil.

“Coach told me if I was open to shoot it,” said Fridzon, who had his legs taken out on the shot by Brazil’s Leandro Barbosa. “I shot it.”

Fridzon’s shot capped a furious comeback from Russia, which squandered an 11-point early only to see Brazil turn the tables on them late. Brazil point guard Marcelinho Huertas scored on a layup with 6.1 seconds to play.

Russia’s coach, American David Blatt, took a timeout after the shot from Huertas, and dialed up the perfect play.

“Good for him, really good for him,” Blatt said of Fridzon. “He made the coach look good. He had to catch and release the ball quickly. More important than the play was the execution. They executed it to perfection.”

Andrei Kirilenko led Russia with 19 points. Timofey Mozgov had 18 before fouling out late. Aleksey Shved, headed to the Minnesota Timberwolves along with Kirilenko, finished with 17 points.

Barbosa led Brazil with 16 points. Larry Taylor added 12 and Nene finished with eight points and 10 rebounds.

SPAIN TOPS GREAT BRITAIN IN A NAIL-BITER

If that Russia-Brazil finish wasn’t wild enough, Spain and the host nation team Great Britain tried to top them in the first game of the evening session, with Spain escaping with a 79-78 win when Jose Calderon dribbled the final seven seconds off of the game clock.

Luol Deng hit an off-balance 3-pointer with seven seconds left to pull within 79-78 and somehow Jose Calderon was allowed to dribble out clock. Deng had four fouls and had facilitated the comeback and did not want to pick up his fifth (five fouls ends your game in international competition).

Deng finished with 26 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, another valiant effort in defeat for the best player on Great Britain’s team. Joel Freeland played a huge game as well, finishing with 25 points and making three of his seven shots from beyond the 3-point line, as well as seven rebounds in a head-to-head matchup against Spain’s superstar frontline of Pau and Marc Gasol.

Pau Gasol finished with 17 points and five assists and Marc Gasol 12 points and three rebounds, but it was Calderon who did the most damage for Spain. He knocked down the free throws down the stretch and had that heady play to finish the game. He led Spain with 19 points, four rebounds and two assists.

PARKER, BATUM LEAD FRANCE PAST LITHUANIA

Tony Parker scored 27 points, including seven of the last eight of the game, and Nicolas Batum 21 Thursday as France beat Lithuania 82-74.

Parker’s 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter sealed a 10-2 run that gave France the lead for good. Lithuania never got closer than seven points the rest of the way.

And that’s two straight impressive wins for France since their 27-point blowout loss to the U.S. in their opener. Much of that is due to Parker finally finding his rhythm after spending just 10 days in full preparation for the competition after a June nightclub incident left him unable, at the behest of team doctors, go through the normal process.

“I am feeling better and better,” Parker said.  “I feel like I’ve found my legs again, but in the last game (against Argentina) I was already feeling better. I felt like the shots I was taking would go in. Today I felt in rhythm, I tried to be aggressive but patient without getting frustrated and wanting to do too much.”

Boris Diaw had a solid game with 10 points, eight assists and six rebounds. Ronny Turiaf finished with 1o rebounds.

Martynas Pocius led Lithuania with 18 points and Linas Kleiza added 17.

A three-time Olympic bronze medalist, Lithuania is 1-2 heading into Saturday’s showdown with the U.S.

GINOBILI LEADS ARGENTINA PAST PESKY TUNISIA

Manu Ginobili made sure a 40-40 halftime score was a footnote for the Argentina, scoring 24 points to help his team run away from Tunisia for a 92-69 .

He got help from his NBA friends as Carlos Delfino chipped in with 21 points and Luis Scola 20 as Tunisia simply couldn’t sustain their effort against a second straight team stocked with NBA players. The U.S. waxed them by 47 points Tuesday night.

Tunisia’s lead was 14 points after the first 10 minutes but Ginobili went to work in the second quarter, scoring all but three of Argentina’s 15-0 run that completely changed the momentum of the game. He knocked down a 3-pointer to start the second half and Argentina led the rest of the way.

Salah Mejri finished with 19 points for Tunisia. Mourad El Mabrouk had 16.

AUSTRALIA THUMPS CHINA, YI INJURES KNEE

China didn’t just lose the game to Australia, 81-61, Thursday morning. They also lost their best player to injury when Yi Jianlian took a lick above his right knee.

“He took a bang just above the knee, not on the knee,” said China coach Bob Donewald. “We’ll have to see how he is.”

Patty Mills led Australia with 20 points. David Andersen added 17 points for Australia.

Huertas, Brazil Drop Great Britain 67-62

LONDON – Any hopes the host nation team had of pulling off an upset here Tuesday faded in the final two minutes against Brazil, as Marcelinho Huertas upstaged NBA All-Star Luol Deng before a raucous hometown crowd at the Olympic Basketball Arena.

For the second straight game, the Brazilian point guard made the plays down the stretch to preserve his team’s 67-62 victory, much as he did the same against Australia Sunday.

Huertas sealed the game with two free throws in the final seconds and finished the contest with 13 points and eight assists, two more than the rest of his teammates combined and just one shy of Great Britain’s final tally.

Tiago Splitter led Brazil with 21 points on 9-for-11 shooting from the floor. Splitter, Nene and Anderson Varejao — all NBA big men — grabbed six rebounds each.

Deng simply never could get going, finishing just 3-for-13 from the floor and scoring 12 points to go along with his eight rebounds and seven assists. He was just 1-for-11 until he nailed two late jumpers, was 1-for-7 from beyond the 3-point line, and only made four of his eight free throws.

Pops Mensah-Bonsu (13 points, 12 rebounds) led the way for Great Britain inside, while Nate Reinking knocked down three of his shots from deep and also finished with 13 points.

Brazil, Spain, Russia, Argentina And Nigeria Impress In Olympic Openers

LONDON – The U.S. Men’s Senior National Team wasn’t the only crew to walk away from the first day of Olympic competition with an impressive win, theirs coming in a 98-71 thumping of France in the third game of the day.

There were familiar faces (to NBA fans) on the court all day and night, as Brazil, Spain,Russia, Argentina and Nigeria all made good first impressions at the Olympic Basketball Stadium.

A quick round-up of the action …

NIGERIA 60, TUNISIA 56:

The Aminu brothers, Alade and Al-Farouq combined for 25 points and 18 rebounds as Nigeria, the last team to qualify for this 12-team field, held off a late rally from the African champions in the first game of the day. Ike Diogu added 13 points and 10 rebounds. Amine Rzig scored 15 of his 18 points in the second-half to lead Tunisia in what was the Olympic debut for both teams.

BRAZIL 75, AUSTRALIA 71:

Leandro Barbosa scored 16 points but it was his backcourt mate, Brazilian captain Marcelo Huertas, who played the hero as they held off a late push from Australia on two free throws from Huertas with five seconds to play. David Andersen scored all 14 of his points after halftime and Patty Mills led Australia with a game-high 20 points, but it wasn’t enough.

SPAIN 97, CHINA 81:

Pau Gasol was dominant, scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Serge Ibaka added 17 points, as the silver medalists and two-time European champs whipped China. Yi Jianlian was impressive in defeat, scoring a game-high 30 points for China, which had no answer for Spain’s depth and quality backcourt duo of Juan Carlos Navarro (14 points) and Jose Calderon (12).

RUSSIA 95, GREAT BRITAIN 75:

The gracious hosts were no match for the Minnesota Timberwolves-bound duo of Andrei Kirilenko (35 points) and Alexey Shved (16 points and 13 assists, who sparked Russia’s dominating performance. Luol Deng scored the first basket of the game, the first for the British in the Olympics since 1948, and finished with 26 points. But he and Pops Mensah-Bonsu (22) couldn’t help the home team overcome Russia or an ugly 4-for-26 effort from beyond the 3-point line.

ARGENTINA 102, LITHUANIA 79:

Luis Scola scored 32 points, Manu Ginobili finished with 21, 10 rebounds and six assists and Carlos Delfino added 20 points for the 2004 gold medalists, who struggled in their exhibition run-up to this competition but celebrated Ginobili’s 35th birthday in style. Linas Kleiza scored 20 points to lead Lithuania, which defeated Argentina in the opener for both teams four years ago in Beijing.

***

For a look at Tuesday’s schedule, click here!

James, Defense Help U.S. Beat Brazil

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In front of President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden, the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team picked up an 80-69 exhibition victory over Brazil on Monday.

As the score indicates, the win was neither easy nor pretty. Brazil led 27-17 after the first quarter, and the U.S. scored an even 80 points on 80 possessions, not too efficient given all the offensive talent on the roster.

Shooting was the issue. The U.S. shot just 9-for-33 (27 percent) from outside the paint and players not named LeBron James shot just 4-for-21 (19 percent) from 3-point range. Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Durant, three of the U.S. Team’s four best scorers, combined to shoot just 9-for-31 overall.

James picked up the slack though, scoring 30 points on 11-for-20 shooting and adding six rebounds and four steals. And while he flourished in transition, he also took advantage of several matchups with the 6-3 Alex Garcia.

Except when it came to LeBron, Brazil had the matchup advantages inside. Big men Tyson Chandler and Kevin Love combined to play less than 25 of the 40 minutes, so the U.S. went small for almost half the game, and wings Andre Iguodala, Bryant and Durant often found themselves matched up with Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Nene in the paint.

U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski believes that the defensive matchups were partly responsible for the offensive struggles. (more…)