Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

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

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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.

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.

FIBA Update: Three More Earn Bids

Luis Scola, now with the Pacers, had a major impact on Argentina's win over Canada.

Luis Scola, now with the Pacers, had a major impact on Argentina’s win over Canada.

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Three more teams punched their tickets to next year’s World Cup of Basketball on Sunday. The Dominican Republic, Argentina and Mexico will be in Spain next summer, thanks to the results of the first two games at the FIBA Americas tournament in Caracas.

In the first game on Sunday, the Dominican used a 9-0 run spanning the third and fourth quarters to take control against Uruguay. They held on for their fifth straight win, earning the country its first berth in a major international hoops tournament since 1978. Al Horford didn’t play this summer, but he could join Francisco Garcia and company next summer in Spain. He certainly seems excited about the possibility…

In the second game, Argentina finished the third quarter on a 20-6 run to turn a nine-point deficit into a five-point lead. Behind a huge game (28 points and seven rebounds) from Luis Scola, they held on to beat Canada and get back to the world stage. And it will be interesting to see if veterans like Manu Ginobili, Carlos Delfino and Pablo Prigioni will join them for one more run next summer in Spain.

For Canada, this was a brutal end to the tournament. They won four of their first five games, but then lost their last three (by an average of six points) to get sent home. When Argentina made its third-quarter run, the Canadians simply couldn’t handle the pressure.

Cory Joseph (16.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.4 assists), Andrew Nicholson (15.0 points on 53 percent shooting) and Tristan Thompson (11.6 points and 10.0 rebounds) all had their moments during the tournament, but consistency was an issue.

If they finished in the top four, the trio (along with Joel Anthony) could have been joined by Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett and Kelly Olynyk at the World Cup next summer. With four wild card invitations to be handed out later this year, that possibility still exists, but there’s already a strong list of wild card candidates — including Brazil, China and Nigeria — who will be joined by a few solid European teams.

The Argentina win also clinched a spot for Mexico, who owned the tiebreaker over Venezuela. Mexico went on to make things doubly official with a win over Puerto Rico, who rested Carlos Arroyo, Renaldo Balkman and J.J. Barea, having clinched a top-four spot on Saturday. So we should be seeing the the Hawks’ Gustavo Ayon (averaging 16.4 points and 8.0 rebounds) next summer in Spain.

The FIBA Americas semifinals, which will be largely ceremonial, take place Tuesday.

Eurobasket field thins out after Monday

After Day 5 of Eurobasket, only one team remains unbeaten and, surprise, it’s Italy. Led by 42 combined points from the Spurs’ Marco Belinelli (23) and the Pistons’ Luigi Datome (19), the Italians beat Greece in a matchup of 3-0 teams on Sunday. Both teams, along with Finland (3-1) are on their way to the second round as Group D’s three representatives.

The other unbeaten teams going into Sunday’s action were host Slovenia and Mike Fratello‘s Ukraine squad. Slovenia held a 13-point lead in the third quarter over Croatia. But Croatia came back and won in overtime to join Spain and Slovenia at 3-1 in Group C. The Czech Republic has a shot to crash the party if they can beat Croatia on Monday.

Ukraine was knocked off by France (Tony Parker had 28 points), leaving things still up in the air in Group A, where Ukraine-Great Britain will be Monday’s big game. Similarly, Bosnia-Lithuania could shake things up in Group B.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Greece – 115.6
2. Italy – 114.2
3. Georgia – 112.2
4. France – 111.2
5. Germany – 105.4

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through Sunday (4 games):
1. Spain – 76.0
2. Finland – 86.3
3. Lithuania – 90.6
4. Czech Republic – 92.2
5. Italy – 95.2

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.

FIBA Update: Spain Upset, Puerto Rico Stays Unbeaten

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Thursday was a big day in FIBA qualifications, with the second round of FIBA Americas getting started and Day 2 at Eurobasket seeing a thrilling upset.

Down goes Spain

The story of the day was Slovenia coming back from 10 points down to beat Eurobasket favorite Spain. The Suns’ Goran Dragic led the way for the tournament’s hosts, registering 18 points, six rebounds, seven assists and two steals.

The game was more important for Slovenia, who now looks like a strong candidate to earn one of Europe’s six automatic berths to next year’s World Cup, than Spain. The two-time defending Euro champs have finished first (2011 Eurobasket, 2009 Eurobasket, 2006 World Championship) or second (2012 Olympics, 2008 Olympics, 2007 Eurobasket) in six of their last seven international competitions (the exception being the 2010 World Championship), despite losing preliminary-round games in almost all of them.

But there wasn’t any clear gamesmanship on Spain’s part. Marc Gasol played all but three minutes on Thursday.

Down to the wire

Slovenia-Spain was a great game, and it wasn’t the only thriller on Thursday. Latvia edged Montenegro on a jumper by Kristaps Janicenoks in the final seconds, Croatia beat Georgia on a Ante Tomic, pick-and-roll layup, and Belgium outlasted Germany in overtime.

The ends of these FIBA games can be really fun, because there are fewer timeouts in the final possessions. You’re not allowed to call a timeout on a live ball.

What happened to Turkey?

As someone who witnessed Turkey’s magical run to the 2010 World Championship gold medal game first-hand, it’s disappointing to see how much they’ve fallen off. They’ve been a mess offensively without long-time point guard Kerem Tunceri (whose absence on the roster was the coach’s decision, according to my Turkish friends on twitter) and with Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova combining to shoot 11-for-38 (29 percent).

More disappointing is the Turkish defense, which was dominant in 2010 and has allowed about 108 points per 100 possessions in their two games this week. With their size, they can extend their 2-3 zone out beyond the 3-point line, but they didn’t really go to it until the third quarter on Thursday. And when they did, Italy just picked it apart.

The good news for Turkey is that Hedo’s tan looks fabulous.

Greece back on top

The bad news for Turkey is that, after a day off, they next face Greece, who has the tournament’s best point differential after two games. Greece had a couple of down years (they didn’t qualify for last year’s Olympics), but has looked strong in wins over Sweden and Russia.

Greece is one of seven unbeaten teams. The most surprising of the seven has to be Finland, who has been led by former first-round pick Petteri Koponen. Also unbeaten is the Ukraine, coached by TNT’s Mike Fratello.

Big wins for Canada, Puerto Rico

While Spain can brush off Thursday’s loss, every game at the FIBA Americas tournament is critical right now, because the top four teams after this round of games will earn the automatic bids to next year’s World Cup of Basketball.

So Canada’s 89-67 win over Mexico, putting them in second place with three games to play, was huge. The Spurs’ Cory Joseph, now averaging 16.6 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.8 assists, has been one of the best players in the tournament.

Also big was Puerto Rico’s win over Argentina. Puerto Rico trailed by 16 midway through the second quarter, but came back and took control with a 13-0 run late in the third. They haven’t clinched a top-four spot just yet, but as the only undefeated team in the tournament, they’re in great shape.

Former Knick and Nugget Renaldo Balkman has been huge for P.R., averaging 20.6 points and 8.4 boards through five games.

Action in FIBA Americas and Eurobasket continues Friday.

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.

Macedonia Shocks Lithuania, Joins Spain In Semifinals At EuroBasket

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

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

Macedonia 67, Lithuania 65 (Box Score)

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

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

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Slovenia Snags Final Quarterfinal Spot

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

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

Slovenia 67, Finland 60 (Box Score)

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

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

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

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Macedonia Does It Again At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Macedonia’s magical run in Lithuania continued during Day 2 of the second round at EuroBasket 2011, one of three games on the schedule in Group F action.

We’ve been talking up Bo McCalebb and his boys for a while now and they’re making it hard to stop talking about them …

Macedonia 65, Georgia 63 (Box Score)

While he is far from a one-man show, McCalebb did everything humanly possible to secure victory for Macedonia in this matchup. The final two of his game-high 27 points came with :00.2 to play in a nail-biter. McCalebb has become every bit the force for his team that Tony Parker has been for France in this competition, proving virtually unstoppable at times throughout the past nine days. McCalebb, the only player on the Macedonia roster to score more than eight points in this game, also finished with four assists and four steals.

Without Zaza Pachulia (calf injury) in uniform to man the middle, Georgia seemed completely out of sync for most of this game. Nikoloz Tskitishvili picked up the slack, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Viktor Sanikidze added 15 points and seven rebounds but also committed seven of Georgia’s whopping 20 turnovers.

They haven’t officially sealed the deal yet, but the quarterfinals look like a very realistic expectation for Macedonia at this point. Staying completely in the moment and handling the opponent at hand while not thinking about trying to make history has worked for Macedonia to this point, so there is no reason for them to look beyond Saturday’s game against Slovenia.

Russia 79, Finland 60 (Box Score)

Not every game in this competition is going to be a fair fight. And this certainly was one of those games that appeared unfair from very early on. Russia was simply better than Finland in virtually every aspect. The two-headed monster of Andrei Kirilenko (14 points, four rebounds and four steals) and Viktor Kryhapa (11 assists) led the way for powerful Russia.

Russia’s dominance inside was evident early on and executed by the likes of Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Russia outscored Finland a staggering 52-18 in the paint. Russia’s lead reached 20 points after halftime and they cruised down the stretch.

If you need an illustration of just how powerful this Russia team can be, they won going away while making just one of their 10 three-pointers. They were also careless with the ball (19 turnovers), yet they still managed 22 assists to Finland’s nine.

Greece 69, Slovenia 60 (Box Score)

Greece showed some serious finishing kick, outscoring Slovenia 25-14 in the fourth quarter to seal this extremely important win and move a step closer to making their way to the quarterfinals. Nikolaos Zisis had the big game for Greece, draining two huge 3-pointers down the stretch to help the winners finish this one off. Zisis scored a game-high 19 points and was the only player from Greece to finish in double figures. But he received plenty of help from a deep bench, including seven points and a team-high nine rebounds from Kostas Koufos.

This game wasn’t the prettiest one played in this competition, particularly for Slovenia. They never did find the right shooting touch. they made just 38 percent of their shots from the floor, and that includes a dismal 24 percent (6-for-25) effort from beyond the 3-point line. Erazem Lorbek and Goran Dragic were a combined 6-for-17 from the floor and just 1-for-8 from distance.

Long-distance shooting is essentially what won this game for Greece. They made nine of their 17 shots from long-range and nailed them down the stretch, those two from Zisis and another dagger from Antonios Fotsis to put the game away late. The very best teams in this competition have shown an ability to win games when they are clicking from deep and by going inside if they are not. Greece has the ability to do both.

*** Friday’s slate of games in Group E should be as explosive as any we’ve seen so far in this competition. Spain and Serbia, Germany and Turkey, and Lithuania and France get after each other to finish the work week. ***