Posts Tagged ‘Marcelo Huertas’

Plenty to watch at World Cup


VIDEO: Stephen Curry and Anthony Davis talk about the upcoming FIBA World Cup

GRANADA, SPAIN – The FIBA Basketball World Cup is the best hoops you can get outside of the NBA season. Yes, it’s better than the Olympics.

There are twice as many teams, allowing for more depth from Europe and the Americas. And there’s an extra round of single-elimination, tournament play, giving us 15 win-or-go-home games once pool play is completed.

No, the NBA’s top two players aren’t here. But there are 46 guys currently on NBA rosters, a high for any international tournament. And because Kevin Durant and LeBron James aren’t representing the United States, and because there is so much depth among the second tier of teams, the competition for medals will be captivating.

Along with the U.S., Spain is the co-favorite. As the hosts they will enjoy a home-court advantage, which helped propel Turkey to the final game four years ago. But they also have a ton of talent and experience, both in the NBA and in making the U.S. sweat for a gold medal. The reason U.S. has four centers on its roster is because Spain has Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Beyond the top two, the competition to reach the semifinals could be wide open. Pool play will help sort things out somewhat, but as many as 10 other teams could have dreams of making the semifinals and playing for a medal.

Most of those teams will be on Spain’s half of the 16-team bracket after pool play is completed. In Group A play in Granada, the hosts will face Brazil, with its three NBA big men and terrific point guard, France, the 2013 European champion with five NBA players on is roster, and Serbia, who knocked out Spain in the quarterfinals of this tournament four years ago.

When pool play is completed, the top four teams from Group A (Granada) will match up with the top four from Group B (Sevilla) on the Madrid side of the bracket. Group B features Argentina, Croatia, Greece and Puerto Rico.

The U.S. has an easier path to the final. In Group C pool play in Bilbao, its toughest opponent will likely be Turkey, which has fallen hard since the 2010 World Cup, or the Dominican Republic, which the Americans blew out in New York last week.

Group D (Gran Canaria) features two tougher teams – Australia and Lithuania – which the U.S. will likely face on the Barcelona side of the bracket.

The USA’s history in this event (formerly called the World Championship) is not great. Prior to 2010, it had only won 1954, 1986 and 1994. Yugoslavia, which continued to exist as a basketball team after it dissolved as a nation, won five World Championships.

But Mike Krzyzewski has compiled a 43-1 record and a 36-game winning streak in his nine-year tenure as the USA head coach. He won this tournament four years ago with a roster of 12 guys who had never played a senior-level international game. And the world has yet to experience the defensive of new assistant Tom Thibodeau first hand.

The U.S. won its four exhibition games by an average of 29 points, but could still use improvement, especially on offense. Pool play, beginning with Saturday’s game against Finland (3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) will allow them to work some things out, but it’s doubtful that anything can prepare them for a potential gold-medal game against Spain in Madrid.

Before we can think about that, there is a ton of high-quality basketball to be played and plenty of reasons to watch.

There are key players on NBA contenders — Derrick Rose and Anderson Varejao — looking to get back into basketball shape after injury-riddled seasons.

There is the last stand of Argentina’s golden generation and their beautiful brand of basketball, represented by Andres Nocioni, Pablo Prigioni and Luis Scola.

There’s the continued growth of Greece’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Senegal’s Gorgui Dieng, and Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas

There are six incoming rookies, including Australia’s Dante Exum (Jazz), Greece’s Kostas Papanikolaou (Rockets) and the Croatian pair of Bojan Bogdanovic (Nets) and Damjan Rudez (Pacers), to watch and figure out how they might contribute to their new teams.

There are 2014 draftees like Croatia’s Dario Saric (Sixers) and Serbia’s Bogdan Bogdanovic (Suns), who might eventually be NBA contributors. And there are a few potential prospects, like the Ukraine’s Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (who will play at Kansas next season), to keep an eye out for.

There’s the curiosity of how veteran Euroleague floor generals like Marcelo Huertas (Brazil) and Milos Teodosic (Serbia) would fit in the NBA.

There’s the Dragic brothers racing up the floor at every opportunity for Slovenia. There’s Andray Blatche playing point-center for the Philippines. And there’s the flair of real point guards like Carlos Arroyo and Ricky Rubio.

Seventy-six games over 17 days. If you can’t wait the upcoming NBA season, with Kevin Love joining LeBron in Cleveland, the Spurs trying for their first repeat, and Rose back in a Bulls uniform, the FIBA World Cup should hold you off for a while.

Qualifying For ’14 World Cup Is Wide Open

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 FIBA Americas champion
12 FIBA Americas 2nd place
13 FIBA Americas 3rd place
14 FIBA Americas 4th place
15 Eurobasket champion*
16 Eurobasket 2nd place*
17 Eurobasket 3rd place*
18 Eurobasket 4th place*
19 Eurobasket 5th place*
20 Eurobasket 6th place*
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

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

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

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

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

A quick round-up of the action …

NIGERIA 60, TUNISIA 56:

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

BRAZIL 75, AUSTRALIA 71:

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

SPAIN 97, CHINA 81:

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

RUSSIA 95, GREAT BRITAIN 75:

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

ARGENTINA 102, LITHUANIA 79:

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

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

Brazil A Test For The U.S. On Monday

WASHINGTON, D.C. – From every angle, Spain, featuring a frontline of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka, is the biggest threat to the U.S. Men’s Senior National team in its quest to win a second straight Olympic gold medal.

Argentina, with its generation of international stars playing one last tournament together, is a dangerous threat. France has as much NBA talent as any team outside of the U.S. And Lithuania and Russia are two more tough teams who won’t be eliminated easily.

But the team that gave the United States their toughest game at the 2010 World Championship was Brazil, who the U.S. will play Monday in an exhibition game at the Verizon Center (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2). It’s the U.S. Team’s final action on American soil before they travel to Manchester and Barcelona for three more exhibitions, and then to London for the Olympics.

The U.S. Women will also play Brazil as part of a double-header. The women’s game precedes the men on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET.

The Brazilian men finished ninth in Turkey, but they gave the U.S. a real scare in preliminary round action before falling 70-68 in a game that was inches away from going to overtime. It was also a game that was played without two of Brazil’s best players, Nene (not on the roster) and Anderson Varejao (injured).

Five players on this year’s U.S. Team were there in Istanbul and remember that game pretty vividly. The other seven got a taste of it when the team watched film Sunday morning before practice. (more…)

Venezuela Picks Up Big Win As First Round Wraps Up

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – On the final day of first round action at the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina saw just one matchup of any interest. But it was a very important game regarding the standings and Olympic qualifying.

After a day off, the eight teams remaining will proceed with the second round on Monday. There’s still a lot to be determined, but a clear hierarchy has begun to develop.

Trending up: Venezuela (2-2)
Trending down: Canada (2-2)
Going home: Cuba (0-4), Paraguay (0-4)

Venezuela 103, Canada 98 (OT) (Boxscore)

Other than the two semifinal games next Saturday (which will determine which two teams qualify for the Olympics), this was probably the most important game of the tournament. Here’s why…

  • The teams that finish third, fourth and fifth in the FIBA Americas tournament qualify for next summer’s Olympic qualifying tournament, where the top three teams (of 12) will qualify for the Olympics. A berth in that tournament would be a big step forward for either Canadian or Venezuelan basketball.
  • Now that the first round is over, the top four teams from each group will each play the top four teams from the other group in the second round. So Canada and Venezuela will each play two teams they should beat (Uruguay and Panama) and two teams they shouldn’t (Argentina and Puerto Rico).
  • After the second round, only the top four teams qualify for elimination-round play. Those four teams should be Argentina, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. Fifth place (and that final spot in next year’s qualifier) will be determined only by the round-robin results.
  • A Canada win would have put them two games ahead of Venezuela in the standings and virtually ensured them of that fifth spot. But a Venezuela win ties them with Canada in the standings and gives them the head-to-head tiebreaker, putting them in the driver’s seat for fifth.

Appropriately, this was the most exciting game of the tournament. There was an ugly stretch in the second quarter and both teams botched their final possession of regulation, but it was otherwise entertaining.

In the end, it was probably Canada’s mistakes that made the difference down the stretch. They committed four turnovers in the fourth quarter and another two in overtime. They were down by just one when Greivis Vasquez fouled out with less than three minutes to go, but Venezuela scored on each of its next five possessions to go up six and pick up the win.

  • Vasquez had another huge game, scoring 29 points on 8-for-18 from the field. At one point in the second quarter, he had 15 of his team’s 30 points and had a hand in another seven via three assists.
  • But Vasquez got a lot more help in this game than he did in Venezuela’s previous three. David Cubillan dished out 10 assists and hit a huge three in overtime. And Gregory Echeniquerecorded a double-double that included a couple of put-back dunks down the stretch.
  • But the player of the game for Venezuela had to be Hector Romero, who scored 28 points on 7-of-9 from the field and 11-of-14 from the line. Romero finished great around the basket all night and even drained a three early in overtime. His biggest play was an interception of an Andy Rautins cross-court pass that he took the other way for a dunk that gave Venezuela a six-point lead with two minutes to go.
  • That costly turnover was just part of Rautins’ rough afternoon. He shot just 3-for-9 from the field and missed three crucial 3-pointers down the stretch.
  • Carl English carried Canada in the first quarter, but Jermaine Anderson took over after that. Anderson scored more points on Saturday (28) than he did in Canada’s previous three games combined (23).
  • Joel Anthony had a couple of Canada’s late turnovers, but his defense around the rim was critical in getting them to overtime. Anthony finished with nine points, nine rebounds and four blocks.

Uruguay 79, Paraguay 66 (Boxscore)

Uruguay may be the team that can take that fifth place standing away from Venezuela. And they’ll get a chance in the next round after finishing third in Group B. Esteban Batista recorded his third straight double-double in this game that was never really close after Uruguay took an 11-point lead early in the third quarter.

Paraguay finished 0-4 and can look back at Guillermo Araujo‘s missed free throws at the end of Thursday’s loss to Panama as the reason they’re going home.

Brazil 93, Cuba 83 (Boxscore)

The final score of this was closer than it should have been, but the result was never in doubt. Brazil led by 15 at the half and by 22 at the end of the third quarter, allowing both Tiago Splitter (four points in 10 minutes) and Marcelo Huertas (six assists in 15 minutes) to get plenty of rest.

Like Paraguay, Cuba goes home without a win. They lost their four games by an average of 24.8 points.

Argentina 90, Panama 71 (Boxscore)

This was another game that was never in doubt and another display of Argentina’s terrific teamwork. The hosts didn’t shoot particularly well, but had five guys in double figures and assisted on 24 of their 34 field goals. Luis Scola led the way with 19 points and 14 rebounds and Pablo Prigioni made Panama pay for leaving him alone on the perimeter, connecting on five of his seven attempts from 3-point range.

Panama advances to the second round thanks to that narrow escape over Paraguay on Thursday, but looks destined to finish eighth in the standings.

Argentina, P.R. Continue To Dominate

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – Day 2 of action at the FIBA Americas Championship 2011 in Mar del Plata, Argentina, featured a near-upset, a couple of blowouts, and a critical game between two teams who have a shot at the top five (and a spot in the Olympics or the Olympic qualifying tournament next summer).

Trending up: Venezuela (0-2)
Trending down: Dominican Republic (2-0)

Dominican Republic 92, Venezuela 89 (Box Score)

For the second straight day, Venezuela looked poised to pull off an upset. This time, they were up by as many as 17 points early in the third quarter and by 11 heading into the fourth. But the Dominican Republic turned up the defensive intensity in the final 10 minutes, swarmed Greivis Vasquez whenever he came off a pick, and pulled out a three-point victory.

More notes from Dominican Republic vs. Venezuela:

  • For most of the game, the Venezuela zone kept Edgar Sosa out of the paint and Al Horford out of the post. But Horford was able to find opportunities near the rim by moving without the ball. He finished with 19 points on 6-for-7 shooting, adding 10 rebounds.
  • Jack Michael Martinez, the Dominican’s starting center and their version of Ben Wallace, added 18 points and 14 rebounds. A lot of those points followed his seven offensive boards.
  • The Venezuela offense was a little more balanced than it was on Tuesday, but Vasquez still filled the box score. He came one assist short of a triple-double, finishing with 16 points, 10 rebounds and nine dimes.
  • Once again, both Francisco Garcia and Charlie Villanueva were largely disappointing. Garcia was mostly invisible and Villanueva looked sluggish. There’s talk of Villanueva being under the weather, but the only good thing about him through these first two games has been the way the FIBA announcer pronounces his name.
  • With the game going down to the wire, neither Garcia nor Villanueva were on the floor for the Dominican Republic.
  • Luis Flores was on the floor, and he hit two big jumpers in the closing minutes.
  • After trailing by six with 45 seconds left, Venezuela had a chance to tie with a three on their final possession. But the play that ex-Warriors and Kings coach Eric Musselman drew up in the timeout was not executed on the floor and Vasquez drove baseline and had no one to pass it to.
  • By playing well against both Brazil and the Dominican Republic, Venezuela has been a pleasant surprise in this tournament. They might have a shot at finishing fifth, but they need to start turning those fourth-quarter leads into Ws. They’ve got Cuba on Thursday and then a huge game against Canada on Saturday.
  • The Dominicans looked strong against Cuba on Tuesday, but took a step backward on Day 2.

Puerto Rico 101, Paraguay 55 (Box Score)

Not much to see here. Neither Carlos Arroyo nor J.J. Barea needed to play more than 20 minutes in this blowout. Through two games, Puerto Rico has an effective field goal percentage of 0.582. They’ve got another mismatch (Uruguay) on Thursday before facing Argentina on Friday night.

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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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