Posts Tagged ‘FIBA World Championship’

Elveda from Istanbul

ISTANBUL — If you were just looking for a little competitive basketball to tide you over until the NBA and European seasons begin, the 2010 FIBA World Championship more than delivered. We had late-game drama, brilliant individual performances, beautiful teamwork, and great basketball through and through.

Best of all, we had a gold medal game that put a young and small American team against a huge Turkey squad and their 15,000 ridiculously loud fans.

And the U.S. National Team answered all the questions with an impressive 81-64 victory over the hosts, who may have run out of gas after Saturday’s ridiculously thrilling victory over Serbia.

All the credit goes to Mike Krzyzewski and his team though. As I wrote in my story, the effort on defense and on the boards was incredible. This was for the gold medal and those guys came with more energy than they’d had in any of their previous eight games.

Heading into the game, there were probably some worries that Kevin Durant, after scoring 71 points on 25-for-44 shooting over the last two games, might have an off night. But KD carried them offensively once again, earning that MVP trophy that he was ready to concede to Luis Scola a few days ago.

Lamar Odom also had another big game in a big spot, recording his second straight double-double. And Russell Westbrook brought ridiculous energy and athleticism. Westbrook was thought to be on the roster bubble a few times in training camp, but he turned out to be the guy that best represented the identity of this team: fast, athletic and aggressive defensively.

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Turkey was a fantastic host. Though it would have been nice to visit one of the other three pool play cities, I was happy to spend my 2 1/2 weeks in Istanbul, a beautiful city with much to see and do. The traffic sucked (I joked with some people that Istanbul’s top export is exhaust fumes), but every other aspect of the trip was fantastic.

Well, except for the untimely death of my laptop on Sunday morning, causing me much frustration. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a computer to write my story and post this blog. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to accompany this text with some photos from my trip, because they were lost in the crash.

As beautiful as the sights of Istanbul are, it was equally enjoyable for me, as a basketball nut, to witness the atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Arena for every game that Turkey played. The reaction of the crowd to Kerem Tunceri’s game-winning layup on Saturday is something I’ll never forget. And I honestly got chills every time “12 Giant Men” or the Turkish national anthem was sung by the 15,000 strong.

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Lithuania Wins Bronze

Before the USA-Turkey finale, Lithuania beat Serbia, 99-88 to capture the bronze medal.

The key sequence came in the second quarter, when Lithuania used a 14-4 run to turn a three-point lead into a 13-point cushion. The run included four straight three-point possessions and two straight threes from Linas Kleiza.

After Andre Iguodala shut him down on Saturday, Kleiza broke out for 33 points on Sunday, including 12 in that pivotal second quarter. Nenad Krstic struggled for Serbia, finishing with just five points on 2-for-7 from the field.

Lithuania came here with a young team, and they definitely overachieved, going 8-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the U.S. They will host next year’s European Championship, certainly taking some momentum from this tournament into that one.

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Argentina Takes Fifth

In the afternoon, Argentina outlasted Spain, 86-81 to finish fifth. Spain came all the way back from being down 25 in the middle of the third quarter to tie the game with two minutes left in the fourth. But they missed on a couple of opportunities to take the lead and scored just one point in their final five possessions.

Pablo Prigioni hit the dagger for Argentina, who was led by 27 points from Carlos Delfino and 22 from Scola. Rudy Fernandez led all scorers with 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting.

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All-Tournament Team

Kevin Durant (USA), Linas Kleiza (LTU), Luis Scola (ARG), Milos Teodosic (SER), Hedo Turkoglu (TUR)

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So, Elveda (I think and hope that means “goodbye”) from Istanbul. It’s been a great trip and I hope to be back here again sometime down the line. If you’ve got any questions or comments, please send an e-mail via the link below.

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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 TUR 83, SER 82

The home crowd has carried Turkey to the gold medal game. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The games in this tournament just keep getting better and better. This one was another classic, with Turkey pulling out an amazing 83-82 victory over Serbia to reach the gold medal game.

That sets up the matchup that many have been waiting for: USA vs. Turkey for the gold on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Dome will be absolutely insane, as it was in the closing moments of this one.

Serbia was ahead most of the night, with Turkey cooling off after shooting 67 percent in Wednesday’s win over Slovenia. When Turkey tied the game at 46 early in the third quarter, Milos Teodosic led Serbia on an 8-0 run, which began with a cold-blooded pull-up three when the whistles were at their loudest.

Turkey climbed back to within two early in the fourth, but Serbia answered again and was up eight (72-64) with five and a half minutes to go after another Teodosic pull-up three.

That’s when Turkey scored 14 points in five possessions, with Kerem Tunceri putting them ahead with a pull-up three that nearly blew the roof off the arena.

Serbia then answered again, and Marko Keselj put them ahead by grabbing an incredible offensive rebound and hitting a pair of free throws with 28.7 seconds left. But on the other end, Serbia gave Tunceri a wide-open lane and his drive-and-dish to Semih Erden gave Turkey a one-point lead and fouled Nenad Krstic out of the game. Erden missed the free throw with 16.8 seconds left though.

Then Serbia ran a beautiful play to take the lead. Teodosic ran a pick-and-roll with Novica Velickovic. He hesitated a bit, then drove left and dished to Aleksandar Rasic who was cutting along the baseline. Rasic caught the ball and immediately hit Velickovic on the other side of the basket for a layup that put Serbia up 82-81 with 4.3 seconds left.

After Turkey called timeout, they inbounded the ball to Hedo Turkoglu who appeared to fumble the ball, but it went right to Tunceri on the baseline, who had another open lane to the basket. His layup put Turkey ahead one with 0.5 seconds left.

The clock out when Serbia inbounded the ball in the backcourt, and the whole building celebrated. But the referees ruled that Serbian coach Dusan Ivkovic had called timeout, and they put 0.5 back on the clock.

The timeout gave Serbia the ball at the mid-court line, and they gave themselves a good shot at the win when Dusko Savanovic threw a great lob to Velickovic. But Erden was right there to block Velickovic’s layup at the buzzer.

  • More than half of Serbia’s shots (29 of 57) came from beyond the arc.
  • Teodosic finished with 13 points and 11 assists, but made just one of his four shots in the fourth quarter.
  • Turkoglu led Turkey with 16 points on 6-for-14 from the field, but he didn’t have a single assist. In fact, Turkey assisted on just 10 of its 27 field goals.
  • Tunceri scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on all four shots he took in the final period.
  • Turkey almost beat itself by shooting just 20-for-33 (61 percent) from the free throw line.
  • Speaking of free throws, there was an interesting play/manuever/strategy when new Bulls center Omer Asik was fouled with his team up one and 1:18 left in the fourth. Asik, who was 1-for-3 from the line in the game and 15-for-41 (37 percent) in the tournament, laid down on the ground in pain after the foul, holding his face. Turkey replaced him with point guard Ender Arslan, who was just 4-for-10 from the line in the tournament. Arslan made one of the two freebies.
  • Late in the fourth quarter, there were reporters (at least I assume they were reporters) waving their arms and whistling in the media section when Serbia was shooting free throws.
  • Serbia will play Lithuania for the bronze medal on Sunday (noon ET, ESPN Classic).

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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 USA 89, LTU 74

The combination of Durant and Iguodala got it done on both ends for the U.S. (Garrett Ellwood/NBA/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The United States is one win away from winning its first World Championship since 1994. The U.S. advanced to Sunday’s gold medal game (2:30 ET, ESPN) with a 89-74 win over Lithuania in the semifinals on Saturday.

Kevin Durant was the story offensively, outscoring Lithuania (19-18) through the first quarter and a half and finishing with 38 points (a record for an American player in the World Championship) on 14-for-25 shooting. Durant was on fire from the start, and Lithuania could do nothing to contain him.

Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura: “He was unstoppable today.”

Andre Iguodala: “That was beautiful.”

USA coach Mike Krzyzewski: “When a guy is doing that well, you have to keep getting him the ball.”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up in regards to Durant. Even the Lithuanian fans couldn’t help but appreciate the performance, giving Durant a nice ovation when he left the game late in the fourth.

But the USA defense, led by Iguodala was even more dominant in the first half. They allowed Lithuania to score just 27 points on 39 possessions in the first half. They forced just six turnovers in the first half, but had countless additional deflections.

Iguodala was given the assignment of defending Lithuania’s star forward Linas Kleiza, and you can say that Iguodala earned an ‘A’ with his performance. Kleiza has made a living in this tournament by using his strength to back his defender down and get to the rim. He tried to do that early on, but failed every time.

Here are the results of Kleiza’s first four post-ups.

  • Iguodala strips him and the ball deflects out to Jonas Maciulis, who misses a jumper.
  • Chauncey Billups strips him, with the U.S. recovering the ball.
  • Iguodala strips him, with the U.S. recovering the ball.
  • Iguodala strips him, with the U.S. recovering the ball.

After that, Kleiza started settling for jumpers. He finished with as many turnovers (four) as points, making just one of his 11 shots from the field. Iguodala obviously wasn’t the player of the game, but he deserves a lot of credit for the win.

“[Kleiza] is the heart and soul of their offense, and he took him out of the game,” Rudy Gay said afterward.

Lamar Odom also had one of his best games with this team, recording a double-double (13 points and 10 boards), adding three blocks. Krzyzewski called Odom “an unsung hero” after the game, noting that the Lakers forward has adjusted to playing center, “especially defensively.”

Lithuania stayed in the game in the second half with some timely threes and a zone that the U.S. had a hard time scoring against, but Durant just kept going and hit the dagger, a long, left-wing three that gave the U.S. an 18-point lead with 3:52 left.

  • With Krzyzewski choosing to go with more shooting against the zone, starting point guard Derrick Rose played just 12:03. Rose has had some success in the past penetrating the zone, but his first couple of drives on Saturday were a little out of control. He missed all four shots he took.
  • Even with more shooting on the floor, the U.S. shot just 8-for-25 (32 percent) from 3-point range.
  • Final numbers… USA: 89 points on 79 possessions (113 per 100). Lithuania: 74 points on 79 possessions (94 per 100).

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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.

USA-Lithuania Preview

Kleiza and the Lithuanians will be a true test for the U.S. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — The United States is two nights and two wins from a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. But neither of those two wins will come easy. And if it’s not at its best on both Saturday and Sunday, the U.S. will fail to accomplish their goal.

The level of competition takes another step up in the semifinals on Saturday, when the U.S. will meet 7-0 Lithuania.

Lithuania has perhaps been the second best country in international competition since NBA players began participating in 1992. They’ve finished in the top four of every Olympics (with three bronze medals) since then. They haven’t has as much success at the World Championship, but this is a country with a lot of basketball tradition.

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Notes from LTU 104, ARG 85

ISTANBUL – I was writing my USA-Russia analysis during the first half of this game. And by the time I looked up, it was over.

Lithuania slowed down the Luis Scola express and caught fire offensively. They led by as many as 32 points before settling with a 104-85 victory over Argentina. Lithuania remains undefeated and advances to face the United States in the semifinals on Saturday, while Argentina will face Russia in the consolation round on Friday.

Lithuania had much more balance than they did on Tuesday, when Linas Kleiza dropped 30 points on China. Kleiza finished with 17 points on Saturday, one of seven Lithuanians in double-figures.

And in the first 20 minutes of this game, they simply couldn’t miss. Lithuania shot 19-for-32 from the field and 8-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half. They actually made their first eight attempts from downtown before Kleiza missed a pair to end the half.

Argentina, a much older team than their opponent, may have run out of gas after a thrilling win over Brazil just two nights earlier. They missed all nine of their attempts from 3-point range in the first half and finished 4-for-21 from beyond the arc.

Here’s the schedule for Saturday, with both games on ESPN Classic…

USA vs. Lithuania — 7 p.m. local, noon ET
Serbia vs. Turkey — 9:30 p.m. local, 2:30 p.m. ET

I’ll have a preview of the USA-Lithuania game on Friday. It’s a rematch of an exhibition game that the U.S. won 77-61 on Aug. 21. Lithuania beat the Americans up a little bit in that one, holding them to just seven points in the first quarter and taking a one-point lead into halftime.

The U.S. pulled away in the second half, but Lithuania looks like a much stronger team three weeks later. Rebounding will be a critical concern once again, as Lithuania has been the second best rebounding team in the tournament thus far.

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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.

USA-Russia: Halftime Notes

ISTANBUL – After winning its last three games by an average of 42 points, the U.S. National Team is in a tough battle against Russia in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship.

The U.S. trailed by as many as five points midway through the second quarter, but went on a 12-0 run and took a five-point lead into halftime.

  • Rebounding has been as issue for the U.S., allowing Russia to grab nine offensive rebounds (with four more going Russia’s way out of bounds). But Russia has been able to turn those 13 extra opportunities into only seven second-chance points.
  • Kevin Durant leads all scorers with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting. Andre Iguodala and Lamar Odom have five rebounds apiece for the U.S.
  • Guard Sergey Bykov leads Russia with 10 points, while new Knicks center Timofey Mozgov added nine in just 10 minutes of action, thanks to some poor pick-and-roll defense from the U.S.
  • It has been one of the faster-paced games of the tournament, with each team having the ball 38 times in the first half, despite all the offensive rebounds.
  • The U.S. had some issues dealing with Russia’s multiple defenses early on (they scored on just two of 12 possessions spanning the first and second quarters), but the Americans scored on seven of their last eight possessions of the half.
  • The U.S. had a huge advantage at the foul line, hitting 14 of their 18 attempts there. Russia has attempted just three free throws and has made just one.
  • Coming into the game, these were the best (USA, 87.5 points allowed per 100 possession) and fourth-best (Russia, 95.0) defenses in the tournament.

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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 TUR 95, SLO 68

ISTANBUL – Backed by a home crowd that just won’t stop singing, Turkey continues to roll through this tournament. And at this point, there’s no doubt that they have an excellent chance to win gold on their home floor come Sunday.

To get that chance, they’ll have to beat Serbia on Saturday night. But they should be strong favorites to do so after crushing Slovenia in the quarters, 95-68.

This looked like another one of those all-offense games early on, with each team getting off to a hot start. But Turkey stayed hot while holding Slovenia scoreless on its last seven possessions of the first quarter. The resulting 10-0 run gave them a 13-point lead heading into the second, and they had yet to use their vaunted 2-1-2 zone defense.

They finally went to the zone midway through the second quarter, with a big frontline of Kerem Gonlum (6-foot-10), Oguz Savas (6-foot-10) and Semih Erden (6-foot-11).

And that was nothing, because a couple of possessions later, they brought in Hedo Turkoglu to play shooting guard. So, with Ender Arslan at the point, they had a lineup that looked like this: 6-3, 6-10, 6-10, 6-10, 6-11.

That is HUGE. And all of those guys, with the exception of Savas, move well. The big Turkey zone was not used all that much on Wednesday, but it can be a dangerous defensive weapon in the final rounds of this tournament.

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Notes from Serbia 92, Spain 89

ISTANBUL – Another classic at the Sinan Erdem Dome.

Milos Teodosic was the hero, pulling up for a loooong three with 3.1 seconds left to win the game for Serbia. Spain, the defending world champions, will not medal here in Istanbul. They will move to the consolation bracket now, with Serbia advancing to Saturday’s semifinals, where they will play the winner of tonight’s Slovenia-Turkey game.

Many will call this an upset, but I don’t really see it that way. Serbia had the most efficient offense in pool play, and through the round of 16, they were the third best team in the tournament statistically (behind the U.S. and Turkey), ranking second offensively and third defensively.

Spain, with as much talent and experience as they have, just hadn’t played that well.

Of course, this game was won by the narrowest of margins. It’s not like Serbia was far and away the better team on Wednesday.

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Lost In Translation?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you are in need of a late summer basketball fix, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann has a wicked handle on all the goings on at the 2010 World Championship.

And after Tuesday’s outlandish performance by Argentine star and Rockets forward Luis Scola, it seems the spotlight has shifted even more to the international game as the competition heads toward the gold medal showdown.

Scola’s showcase inspired a round of questions here at the hideout, mainly from folks who want to know why more of these guys that make such bold statements during international competition cannot duplicate that work during the NBA season.

As Schuhmann pointed out via Twitter this morning, Scola’s (FIBA and NBA) peers know that he’s a star:

Kevin Durant has conceded the World Championship MVP to Luis Scola. “He’s a beast … the MVP by far in this tournament, win or lose.”

That won’t stop the avalanche of prickly messages and one-liners suggesting that performances like the one Scola turned in can only be done against international competition and not in the NBA.

I can’t tell you how many emails that hit the hideout inbox included the tired line, “If he’s so great why doesn’t Scola play like that in the NBA?”

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Notes from ARG 93, BRA 89

Scola pointed the way to the quarterfinals. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The round of 16 concluded with the best game of the 2010 World Championship thus far. From start to finish, this was a beautiful display of basketball, and it’s a shame that one of these two teams had to go home early.

That team is Brazil, with Argentina advancing to the quarterfinals with a 93-89 victory on Tuesday night. Both of these teams executed brilliantly in a win-or-go-home situation, and in the end, Argentina had Luis Scola, and Brazil did not.

Scola has clearly been the MVP of this tournament thus far, and apparently his 29-point average in pool play was just an appetizer for the medal rounds. He dropped 37 on Brazil, to go along with nine rebounds, three assists and two steals.

One of Scola’s biggest shots of the game was a post-up, fadeaway turnaround over Anderson Varejao, but we really didn’t see much of Scola in the post in this game. In fact, when he did post up earlier in the night, he turned the ball over a couple of times.

Most of his production came off pick-and-roll or pick-and-pop action with point guard Pablo Prigioni. But he also had a gorgeous running bank shot off a slip-and-dish from Carlos Delfino. Then there was a great weak-side cut down the middle of the lane off a Prigioni-Fabricio Oberto pick-and-roll.

The biggest bucket of the night was a pick-and-pop 18-footer that gave Argentina a five-point lead with 24 seconds to go. Brazil never got a chance to tie or take the lead after that.

On the other end of the floor, Brazilian point guard Marcelo Huertas was almost as brilliant as Scola. Huertas wasn’t dishing out assists like he did in the first half against the U.S. last week, but rather was getting to the rim off high screen-and-rolls. He also hit a few pull-up threes when the Argentine defenders backed off, finishing with 32 points on 10-for-16 shooting.

It was a ridiculously efficient game overall, with the two teams combining to shoot 56 percent from the field and score 182 points on 131 possessions, which translates to 139 points per 100. As a reference, the overall efficiency of the tournament before Tuesday’s games was about 105 points per 100 possessions.

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