Posts Tagged ‘Croatia’

Ukraine To WCOB, France And Lithuania To Play For Eurobasket Title

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Lithuania and France will meet for the Eurobasket title, thanks to wins in Friday’s respective semifinals. Lithuania beat Croatia comfortably, while France knocked off Spain in an overtime thriller.

Earlier on Friday, Mike Fratello and Ukraine earned a berth to next year’s World Cup of Basketball with a win over Italy in the loser’s bracket. Ukraine will play Slovenia for sixth place on Saturday, while Italy will face Serbia for Europe’s final automatic berth to the WCOB.

The semifinalists already earned their bids, but they were still playing for big stakes. And Linas Kleiza came up big for Lithuania, registering 22 points and 11 rebounds against Croatia. Jonas Maciulis led all scorers with 23 points, including six during 15-1 run that opened things up in the third quarter.

Spain took control of the other semifinal in the second quarter and led by 14 at halftime, but France slowly fought back and took a brief lead on a Tony Parker 3-pointer with two minutes to go in the fourth. The game was tied in the final minute and both teams had a chance to win it, but Rudy Fernandez made an incredible block on a Parker drive and Jose Calderon‘s 3 in the final seconds was off the mark. Spain then shot 2-for-7 and committed four turnovers in overtime, while France made their free throws down the stretch to pull out a three-point win.

Parker led all scorers with 32 points, with none of his teammates scoring more than 10. Marc Gasol led Spain with 19 points and nine rebounds.

There are two more big games to be played in Slovenia. On Saturday, either Italy or Serbia will be the 20th team in the WCOB field. And on Sunday, either France or Lithuania will be the next Eurobasket champion.

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 finalist
16 Lithuania Eurobasket finalist
17 Croatia Eurobasket 3rd/4th place
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th/6th place
19 Ukraine Eurobasket 5th/6th place
20 Serbia/Italy winner Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

Three More Earn World Cup Berths

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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

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 semifinalist
16 Croatia Eurobasket semifinalist
17 Lithuania Eurobasket semifinalist
18 Slovenia Eurobasket 5th/6th place
19 Ukraine/Italy winner Eurobasket 5th/6th place
20 Serbia or Ukraine/Italy loser Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

FIBA Update: Eurobasket Quarters Set

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The Eurobasket quarterfinals are set, and seven of the remaining eight teams will receive automatic berths to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

For the second straight day, the result of the first game sent a team in the second game to the quarters. Greece needed a win in their first game against Croatia to stay alive, and they were able to do that temporarily when Nikos Zisis hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of regulation to send the game to overtime.

Greece had a three-point lead near the end of the first overtime, but Croatia’s Bojan Bogdanovic hit his own contested, step-back 3 to send it to a second OT. And then he took over in the second overtime to send Greece home.

Greece’s loss ensured Spain’s spot in the quarterfinals. So the second game between Italy and Spain was only for seeding. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t a great game. The Pistons’ Luigi Datome sent it to overtime with a driving layup in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter and then Italy ran off an 8-0 run in OT. Datome’s chase-down block on a Victor Claver dunk basically sealed the game and Italy’s spot as the No. 3 seed in Group F.

Of course, Spain’s loss is bad news for Serbia, who won Group E, but will have to face the defending Eurobasket champs in the quarterfinals. Spain has lost three games by an average of 6.0 points and won five by an average of 27.0. So, they’re a bottom seed with the tournament’s best point differential (see below).

Finland beat Slovenia in the third game, which had no bearing on quarterfinal seeding at all. Goran Dragic played just five minutes.

So here are your quarterfinal matchups, with a look at how each team has performed offensively and defensively thus far…

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions

Serbia (E1) vs. Spain (F4), Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET (NBA TV)
Serbia – OffRtg: 107.6 (4), DefRtg: 104.8 (15), NetRtg: +2.8 (8)
Spain – OffRtg: 106.7 (5), DefRtg: 86.3 (1), NetRtg: +20.4 (1)

Slovenia (F2) vs. France (E3), Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Slovenia – OffRtg: 103.8 (11), DefRtg: 105.2 (16), NetRtg: -1.4 (9)
France – OffRtg: 112.6 (1), DefRtg: 104.0 (11), NetRtg: +8.6 (3)

Croatia (F1) vs. Ukraine (E4), Thursday, 11:45 a.m. ET
Croatia – OffRtg: 102.4 (14), DefRtg: 97.6 (4), NetRtg: +4.9 (7)
Ukraine – OffRtg: 103.4 (13), DefRtg: 107.3 (19), NetRtg: -3.9 (15)

Lithuania (E2) vs. Italy (F3), Thursday, 3 p.m. ET
Lithuania – OffRtg: 104.5 (10), DefRtg: 94.6 (3), NetRtg: +9.9 (2)
Italy – OffRtg: 109.5 (3), DefRtg: 102.2 (9), NetRtg: +7.4 (4)

By Thursday night, we’ll have at least four (and possibly five, because Wednesday’s losers play Thursday) more automatic berths into next year’s World Cup of Basketball. As long as Spain doesn’t lose its next two games, the biggest game of the tournament will be for seventh place on Saturday, because it will determine which of the eight teams above doesn’t get an automatic berth.

And by the way, you’ll notice that, in terms of point differential, the fifth and sixth best teams in the tournament are going home. They are Greece (NetRtg: +6.6) and Latvia (+5.6).

Greece’s exit will make it that much tougher for FIBA to determine the four wild card spots for the World Cup, which they will do later this year. Other candidates include Brazil, Canada, China, Nigeria, Russia, Tunisia and Turkey.

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 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.

FIBA Update: Greece Stays Alive

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Things got a lot more interesting at Eurobasket on Thursday, as wins by Greece and Slovenia tightened up Group F on its first day of second-round action.

In the first game from Ljubljana, Croatia picked up an easy and important win over Finland, improving to 2-1. Finland had one of the tournament’s worst offenses in the first round and things were ugly early on Thursday. They shot a brutal 17 percent in the first half and couldn’t recover from a 39-20 halftime deficit. Damjan Rudez led the way for Croatia, hitting five threes and leading all scorers with 17 points.

The day’s second game was, by far, the best. Spain led by 10 at the end of the first quarter, but Marc Gasol picked up his third foul near the end of the period. With the tournament’s best player on the bench for the entire second quarter, Greece turned that 10-point deficit into a three-point lead by halftime. Gasol seemed to take over in the third quarter, but Greece fought back and Michail Bramos hit a pair of huge shots down the stretch to give Greece a 79-75 victory.

Had they lost, Greece would be at 0-3 and struggling to stay alive. Now, at 1-2, they’re in the thick of it, with games against Slovenia (Saturday) and Croatia (Monday) remaining.

In the nightcap, hosts Slovenia used a 10-0, third-quarter run to take control and eventually hand Italy its first loss of the tournament. Goran Dragic was the star, scoring 22 points and dishing out six assists for Slovenia.

That result leaves every team in Group F at either 2-1 or 1-2. So every one of Saturday’s games is critical and that Spain has already lost twice in this tournament is evidence enough that anything can happen. After Monday, the top four teams in the group will make the quarterfinals.

Group E returns to the floor on Friday, with Serbia looking to clinch a spot in the quarters and Belgium looking to stay alive. The biggest game should be the nightcap between France and Latvia.

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 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.

12 Teams Move On At Eurobasket


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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The first round of Eurobasket is over. Twelve teams are going home, with another 12 moving on to the second round.

This was the big step. Seven of the remaining 12 teams will qualify (or have qualified, in Spain’s case) for next year’s World Cup of Basketball. So your odds are pretty good from this point on.

The 12 teams will be divided into Groups E and F. Group E will be comprised of teams from Groups A and B, and Group F will include teams from Groups C and D. Starting Wednesday, each team will play the three teams in their new group that they haven’t faced yet. And after that, the top four teams in each new group will make it to the quarterfinals.

Now, games that you’ve already played against teams in your group count in the standings. So in Group E, France is already 2-0, while Belgium is 0-2.

With several second-round spots on the line, here’s how things went down on Monday…

Group A
In the first game, Ukraine clinched its bid to the second round with an easy win over Great Britain. Then Germany clinched a spot for Belgium by knocking out Israel. In a game that was now a second-round matchup, Belgium led France by 12 at halftime, but got outscored 32-9 in the third quarter and lost by 17.

Group B
After Latvia beat Macedonia in the first game, Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to beat Lithuania by at least 10 points to get into the second round. They led by seven in the closing seconds when Mirza Teletovic (who had already scored 31 points) pulled up for a 30-footer. The shot rimmed out and Lithuania survived. They move on with Latvia and Serbia.

Group C
Spain and Slovenia were already in, and Croatia clinched a spot by outscoring the Czech Republic 38-20 in the second half on Monday.

Group D
Finland, Greece and Italy had all clinched a spot before Monday, but Finland, behind 29 points from Petteri Koponen, beat Greece in a big game that will count toward the second-round standings.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Italy – 114.9
2. Greece – 113.9
3. France – 113.2
4. Georgia – 106.5
5. Ukraine – 106.3

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Spain – 77.6
2. Finland – 90.3
3. Czech Republic – 93.9
4. Lithuania – 94.1
5. France – 95.8

Programming note:

NBA TV will have the FIBA Americas semifinals live on Tuesday. At 5:30 p.m. ET, Mexico (1) will play Argentina (4). And at 7:50 p.m. ET, the Dominican Republic (2) will play Puerto Rico (3).

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 Argentina FIBA Americas top four
12 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas top four
13 Mexico FIBA Americas top four
14 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas top four
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.

Notes from Serbia 73, Croatia 72

Krstic came up big for Serbia. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The elimination rounds at the 2010 FIBA World Championship got off to a wild start Saturday night, as Serbia (who won Group A with a 4-1 record) outlasted Croatia (who finished fourth in Group B with a 2-3 mark) and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 73-72 win. This one had some crazy plays and decisions in the final minute. Here’s how it all went down…

Croatia started out hot, shooting 9-for-14 in the first quarter, but they also earned their early lead on the glass. Five offensive boards in the opening 10 minutes turned into eight second-chance points for Croatia, who scored 27 points on 19 possessions in the first.

It should have been 29 points, but Marko Tomas blew an easy fast-break layup at the buzzer. Perhaps that was a harbinger of things to come, because Croatia went stone cold (4-for-17) in the second period. They scored on just one of their first 10 possessions of the second, as Serbia came back to tie the game at 29.

But Serbia wasn’t much more efficient (the two teams combined to score just 24 points on 34 possessions in the second), and Croatia went into the half with a two-point lead.

With Nenad Krstic carrying most of the load, Serbia took the lead in the third quarter, and they were up seven with three minutes to go in the fourth. But Marko Popovic kept Croatia in the game with a pair of threes.

It became a foul-shooting contest in the final minute with Serbia holding the edge until Marko Tomas stole Aleksandar Rasic‘s inbounds pass with 15 seconds to go. Tomas got the ball to Popovic, who was immediately fouled. He had a chance to give Croatia the lead, but missed the first of the two free throws.

So Serbia had the ball with a tie game and 11.6 seconds left. With Croatia failing to put a defender near the basket, Serbia ran a back-screen for Rasic, who put his team up two with an easy layup.

Up two, Serbia chose to foul (a common decision among European teams), thinking that they’d rather go to overtime than risk losing on a three. Popovic hit both free throws with 5.9 seconds left and Serbia inbounded the ball to Rasic, who raced down court.

Davor Kus lost his balance as he was defending Rasic and fouled the Serb in the paint with one second left. Rasic hit the first and intentionally missed the second to give Serbia a crazy win. He ended up the hero, but was almost the goat.

Here are some additional notes…

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Notes From FIBA Day 3

ISTANBUL – With Monday’s 70-68 escape over Brazil, the U.S. is done with the (relatively) difficult portion of their pool play schedule.

It was a tale of two halves tonight. Here’s the analysis and here are the highlights from FIBA.

The U.S. defense really got turned on with its decision to trap the pick-and-roll at halftime, but it did improve incrementally as the game went on. Check out Brazil’s quarter-by-quarter scoring:

First: 28 points on 19 possessions (147 per 100)

Second: 18 points on 21 possessions (86 per 100)

Third: 13 points on 19 possessions (68 per 100)

Fourth: 9 points on 18 possessions (50 per 100)

Overall, it was a strong defensive game for the U.S. (allowing 88 points per 100 possessions), but it sure wasn’t looking that way at halftime.

Of course, the U.S. had a similar, but not so drastic, fall-off offensively. Total points (both teams) by quarter: 50, 39, 31, 18.

***

With it being a tight game early on, Mike Krzyzewski‘s first-half rotation was shorter than usual. Then came the second half…

Billups 20:00, Durant 20:00, Iguodala 17:06, Rose 15:34, Odom 15:05, Chandler 4:55, Westbrook 4:47, Gay 2:30, Love 0:03.

That, ladies and gentleman, is a short rotation. Kevin Durant played all but 36 seconds of this game, and he managed to still have enough energy to talk to Kyle Montgomery and Dennis Scott on NBA TV afterward…

***

Kevin Love was brought in for those final three seconds to secure the game-clinching rebound. He didn’t get the chance, as the ball caromed to the other side of the floor, but he ended up being the only defender near Leandro Barbosa for that final shot. And yes, I got a tweet claiming that Love fouled him.

I didn’t have a good angle.

***

At one point in the second half, a small group of Americans broke out a “U-S-A” chant. Now, there were not many Brazilians in the arena, but that chant was quickly drowned out by boos and (mostly) whistles. The neutrals in the building were most definitely pulling for the underdog (and/or against the USA).

***

I quoted Chauncey Billups plenty in today’s analysis, but here’s more postgame wisdom from the veteran leader…

“We can’t worry about how much we win by, or worry about winning in the same fashion that [other U.S. teams won]. That’s all out the window. All we need to do is get wins.”

And on a scare like this being a good thing…

“Particularly really good for the young guys to have a game like this where you know you’re not invincible, and you can be beat on any night.”

***

In other Group B action today, Slovenia got a big win over Croatia, which sets up a matchup with Brazil on Wednesday to likely determine second place in the group.

And Iran survived a furious comeback by Tunisia to win the de-facto fifth-place game.

In Group A, things went according to plan: Serbia over Jordan, Australia over Germany, and Argentina over Angola, by an average of 33 points.

***

Both Group A and Group B take the day off on Tuesday, with Groups C and D getting back on the floor after their day off.

Neither Iran (Wednesday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN) nor Tunisia (Thursday, 9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2) will provide much of a test for the U.S. The challenge for this team will be finding a way to get better against inferior opponents and somehow using those games to prepare for the elimination rounds.

Whether they get better or not, the U.S. will win those two games, finish pool play with a 5-0 record and hold the B1 seed for the round of 16. That means they’ll play the fourth place team from Group A on Monday (time TBD).

Right now, that opponent could be one of four teams: Angola, Australia, Germany or Serbia.

Angola is 1-2 after today’s loss to Argentina but can finish at 2-3 and win a tie-breaker over Germany if they beat the Germans on Wednesday.

Australia is 2-1 after their easy win over Germany on Monday. With remaining games against Serbia (Wednesday) and Angola (Thursday), the Boomers should finish no worse than 3-2, but it’s possible that a 3-2 record could put them in a three-way tie for second, third and fourth with Germany and Serbia.

Germany is 1-2, but still has Angola (Wednesday) and Jordan (Thursday) left on its schedule. If they beat Angola, the Germans would likely finish 3-2. Serbia is currently 2-1 in Group A, but still has to play Australia (Wednesday) and Argentina (Thursday), so it could finish 3-2 or 2-3.

The U.S. doesn’t quite know who their opponent will be on Monday, but they’ll have a much better idea after Wednesday’s Angola-Germany and Australia-Serbia games.

***

To look ahead a little more (at the risk of being called an arrogant American) … In the quarterfinals, the winner of the B1-A4 game plays the winner of C2-D3. C2 will likely be the loser of Tuesday’s Greece-Turkey matchup and D3 could be France or Lithuania.

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Turkish lesson of the day: Teşekkür ederim = Thank you.

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Notes From FIBA Day 2

Hooked on Love. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – Day 2 of the World Championship is in the books. The U.S. had a bit of a rough stretch between the first and second quarters against Slovenia, but they recovered well for another win by 20-plus.

That ugly stretch and the travel calls, specifically, were the focus of today’s post-game analysis.

As you’ll read there, Boki Nachbar thought that there weren’t enough of those travel calls made against the U.S. on Sunday. And from all the whistles I heard, I’d say that the Slovenian fans in the crowd agreed with him.

I was actually asking Boki about the refs calling the game loose, because it seemed to me that the U.S. was allowed to push the Slovenians around a bit defensively (even more contact than you regularly see in FIBA ball). But here was his full response…

“The one thing that bothers me is too many times the refs looked away when they traveled. This is FIBA basketball. In FIBA basketball, you’re not allowed to take two steps before you put the ball down. And too many times, the refs don’t call that when Team USA’s on the floor. That’s the only thing that I have to say. Otherwise, they were good.”

***

Kevin Love is beastly. He’s now got 21 boards in 26:38 of playing time over the last two days. That’s 31.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. Not bad.

“That’s what I do,” he says. “That’s how I make my money.”

He admits, though, that his role is a little different than it is back in Minnesota.

“Playing with all these guys, they definitely open up the floor. I know that if I’m going to stay in the game and play minutes, I have to get out there and get every rebound. That’s kind of what coach tells me. Right before I go in the game, he says ‘get me every rebound.'”

And coach Mike Krzyzewski will probably be telling him that a little earlier in the game on Monday.

***

Things continue to go as planned in Group B, with Croatia beating Iran and Brazil cruising past Tunisia. This group will start to get interesting on Monday.

And Nachbar admitted today that his team is focused on its next two games.

“That wasn’t the most important game in the tournament for us, so we’re not too worried or concerned,” he said after Sunday’s loss to the U.S. “Croatia and Brazil are the most important games. They’re our rivals for the second spot in the group, so those are the most important games for us.”

Slovenia plays Croatia in the first game on Monday.

***

For now, the other groups are where the fun is at.

Group D almost had another shocker, as Canada led Lithuania by 17 points midway through the third quarter before blowing the lead missing on three chances to win or tie in the final minute-plus. The win keeps Lithuania tied with France atop the group.

Puerto Rico put another scare into Greece in Group C, but it was Group A that had the two most thrilling games.

Germany upset Serbia 82-81 in double-OT with the Germans’ final points coming on a ridiculous shot by Jan Jagla and Milenko Tepic missing on a drive that could have won it for Serbia in the final seconds.

So I guess Serbia won’t completely withstand the suspensions of Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic after all.

And in the nightcap in Kayseri, Argentina used a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to come back and beat Australia, but not before they came a hair away from blowing it in the final seconds.

Argentina was inbounding the ball with a two-point lead and 3.5 seconds on the clock, but they threw the inbounds pass away without it touching anyone. Australia then inbounded the ball into the corner, and Adam Gibson’s three went in … and out.

So at 2-0, Argentina is the only team in the World Championship that sits alone atop its group’s standings.

***

The U.S. will conclude their three games in three days with Monday’s matchup vs. Brazil (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Brazil has beaten Iran and Tunisia by almost identical scores (81-65 and 80-65), the only team in the tournament, other than the U.S. to have won two games by 15 points or more.

Essentially, this game is for first place in Group B. If the U.S. wins, they’re on their way to a 5-0 mark. And if Brazil wins, they’re not likely to lose two more, and would have the tie-breaker against the U.S. should both teams finish 4-1.

Anderson Varejao, still nursing a sore ankle, has sat out the first two games. But the word from the Brazilian media is that he will play against the U.S., and maybe against Slovenia on Wednesday if his team needs him.

Monday will be an opportunity for American fans to get a good look at Tiago Splitter, who will be playing with the San Antonio Spurs next season.

***

If the U.S. beats Brazil, then we can start looking ahead to their possible round-of-16 matchups and what other teams will be on their side of the bracket, because neither Iran or Tunisia will have a chance against them.

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Turkish lesson of the day: İyi günler! = Have a nice day!

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Notes from FIBA Day 1

Takeover mode was not needed on this night. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – Game 1 is in the books. After a bit of a slow start, the U.S. took care of business, handing Croatia a 28-point loss. Here’s the post-game analysis, focusing on the 50-15 run that started when Croatia took its only lead of the night.

Interior defense continues to be an issue. And it would help if Tyson Chandler could defend without fouling. He’s now picked up four fouls in each of the last three games. That’s 12 fouls in less than 29 minutes of playing time, or about 17 fouls per 40 minutes.

He told me Friday that foul trouble isn’t much of a concern because he’s not playing big minutes anyway, but he’s still giving guys free trips to the line and allowing the opponent to get in the bonus that much earlier.

***

The big run allowed Mike Krzyzewski to empty the bench early in the third quarter. And when you have to play three straight days, it helps when nobody has to play more than 22 minutes on Day 1.

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Early in the second quarter, Kevin Durant followed a filthy dunk (plus one) with a shake-and-bake step-back jumper, and I thought he was going to go into takeover mode right there. But it wasn’t needed. Durant led the U.S. with 11 field goal attempts, but every guy took at least two shots, and only Chandler took less than four.

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First-day action in the other three groups was clearly more interesting than here in Istanbul, where Slovenia handled Tunisia 80-56 and Brazil beat Iran 81-65.

The shocker of the day came in Group D, where France beat Spain in Izmir, 72-66. This looked like the weakest group in the competition, and the assumption was that Spain would go 5-0, putting them on the same side of the medal-round bracket as the U.S. should the Americans win Group B.

If Spain finishes second, now a possibility, they would be on the opposite side of the bracket, with the winners of Groups A and C, possibly facing Argentina in the quarterfinals.

The question is: Is there another team in Group D that can go 5-0? Lithuania is the most likely candidate, but they’re still not as good as Spain. So that will be an interesting matchup when those two teams meet on Tuesday. And if Spain wins, they would still win the group (assuming that France doesn’t go 4-1 too).

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That was the only real upset of the day, but a couple of other teams came close to pulling one off.

China put a scare into Greece, led early in the fourth quarter, and had a chance to go ahead again with less than three minutes to go, but Greece stopped them on five straight possessions to hold on for the win.

Yi Jianlian led China with 26 points, but also a costly turnover down the stretch.

The other near-upset came in Group A, where Jordan led Australia by as many as 11 and was up five with just over a minute left. Australia scored six straight points down the stretch to take the lead and on Jordan’s final possession, Zaid Abbaas missed a bunny of a tip-in before time expired. Australia’s win keeps them in position to finish second or third in the group and likely avoid a matchup with the U.S. in the round of 16.

***

Two games on Saturday could really have an impact on the final standings. In Group C, Russia beat Puerto Rico, putting them in the driver’s seat to finish third behind Greece and Turkey. And in Group D, Lebanon beat Canada, really hurting the Canadians’ chances to advance to the medal rounds.

***

Next up for the U.S. is Slovenia on Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2). It took a while for Slovenia to separate themselves from Tunisia today, but a big third quarter put the game away.

Game time is 4:30 p.m. locally, so it will be interesting to see how much energy the U.S. has in the first few minutes. In their two afternoon exhibition games, they got off to slow starts (at least offensively) against China and France.

On Friday, I caught up with former Rocket/Hornet/Net and class act Boki Nachbar. Here’s his take on his Slovenian team.

“We’ve gradually been getting better as a team the last five or six years. This year, we have some key players missing. We probably have three or four players from the starting five missing. We’re not at full strength compared to last year at the European Championship, when I thought we had a stronger team, at least on paper.”

That team finished fourth at Eurobasket last year and lost by just one point to Greece in the bronze medal game (Nachbar missed a half-court runner at the buzzer). The key component that they’re missing this year is 6-11 center Erazem Lorbek, who led the ’09 team with 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.

More Boki: “But as always we’re going to have great fan support. A lot of fans will come from Slovenia, because it’s a short flight. So in a way, we feel like we’re playing at home.”

No kidding. I arrived at the arena for the start of the Slovenia-Tunisia game, and while the building was only half full, 95 percent of that half was dressed in green. And those Slovenians were loud. This will be an away game for the U.S.

Boki, part III: “We want to make our best results so far, as far as the World Championship. We’ve never made the top eight before as a national team, so for us to make the top eight would be a good accomplishment. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

Also missing is from this squad is Beno Udrih (though he didn’t play last year), who quit the team last month because he wasn’t happy with his role. But with Jaka Lakovic and the Suns’ Goran Dragic, Slovenia is still strong at the point guard position.

Lakovic shot 28-for-61 (46 percent) from 3-point range at Eurobasket last year, so the U.S. point guards can’t leave him open. Dragic, we know, likes to make plays off the dribble.

Andre Iguodala will likely get the assignment of guarding Nachbar, Slovenia’s best scorer on the wing who shot 4-for-7 from 3-point range against Tunisia. And keep an eye for Miha Zupan off the bench. He’s the Slovenian Brian Scalabrine.

***

Question for any Slovenians out there: Why does the team wear green if the Slovenian flag is white, blue and red? E-mail me.

Turkish lesson of the day: Bu bey/bu hanım, her şeyi ödeyecek = This gentleman/lady will pay for everything.

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

World Championship Eve

ISTANBUL – Day 2 in Turkey. And with Game 1 of the World Championship just 24 hours away, the U.S. National Team had a light, no-contact practice at the Abdi Ipekci Arena. They went over their offense and defense and then got in some shooting.

Rudy Gay: “Today, we really got into detail. We were trying to go over our sets and make sure when we go into the real games that we know what we are doing.”

Croatia should provide a decent test for the U.S. on Saturday (Noon ET, ESPN Classic). They finished sixth at last year’s Eurobasket even though they were missing two of their most talented players, Marko Tomas and Bojan Bogdanovic, a 21 year old draft prospect on the wing.

NBA fans should remember point guards Roko Ukic (85 games with the Raptors and Bucks) and Zoran Planinic (three seasons with the Nets), who can both get into the lane and make plays. Tomas will likely be their top scorer for the tournament, but big man Ante Tomic will be the guy that the U.S. will have to worry most about.

Tomic, who was drafted in the second round by the Jazz in 2008, is 7-foot-2 and has solid offensive skills, but he’s not too strong. A Tomic-Lamar Odom matchup could be fascinating to watch.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski on Croatia: “We have a lot of respect for them. Their guard play is outstanding. Ukic is one of the best international guards and (Marko) Popovic is just a veteran. There size is a concern, they have five guys who were 6-11 or above so we don’t have as big of team. They have a rich tradition and we have a lot of respect for who they are.”

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Need a preview of the World Championship? Here’s a written version and here’s a video version…

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Saturday’s game of the day looks to be the Russia-Puerto Rico matchup in Ankara at 11:30 a.m. ET, which could decide third and fourth place in Group C.

NBA TV will have Greece-China at 9 a.m. ET and France-Spain at 2 p.m. ET. If you’re in the U.S., you can watch every game on ESPN3. Elsewhere, you can watch them at fibatv.com.

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The U.S. team had a three-car police escort to practice today. It wasn’t quite the experience the 2008 team had in Shanghai (when police blocked every entrance to the highway for several miles on the way to the airport), but a three-car escort for practice is still impressive.

Of course, the police escort took the long way to the arena.

***

The Anti-Atkins Diet.

After practice, I went with the NBA Entertainment crew for an authentic Turkish family-style lunch, which was terrific.

If you’re on the Atkins diet, Istanbul is not the place for you. The meal started out with big plates of bread (round rolls with seeds) and a variety of sauces and concoctions for you to eat the bread with (see the photo to the right). Great stuff.

And then came the main course, plates of four different types of meat (beef, spicy beef, chicken and pork), served with peppers, rice and fries.

Most of us in the group are passing on dinner tonight, because lunch was so filling.

***

Remember the beard-growing contest a few years ago between DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden? I think Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala are doing something similar, except with the hair on top of their heads. Both are letting it grow out this summer, but I think Rudy is winning.

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In case you missed it yesterday, FIBA handed out suspensions for the Greece-Serbia brawl. Nenad Krstic (Serbia) got three games, while Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Antonis Fotsis (Greece) and Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Greece) got two games each.

Both teams should be able to withstand the suspensions fairly easily. Serbia’s first three games are against Angola, Germany and Jordan, the three weakest teams in Group A. Greece’s first two games are against China and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is tough, but their best players are in the backcourt, so the absences of their two big men shouldn’t hurt too much.

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Turkish lesson of the day: Anlamıyorum = I don’t understand.

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.