Posts Tagged ‘Mike Fratello’

U.S. cruises past New Zealand


VIDEO: Team USA rolls past New Zealand

BILBAO, SPAIN — This was more like it, what the U.S. National Team was after. Complete control over a clearly overmatched opponent.

Not that the Americans needed much of a confidence booster in pool play. But it never hurts to remind everyone in the FIBA World Cup field that the reigning champs aren’t ready to relinquish their title just yet.

A slow start in Sunday’s win over Turkey coupled with Monday’s off day left plenty of time for people to question this team’s potential and resolve. Their 98-71 smashing of New Zealand on Tuesday should serve as an appropriate response.

They are far from perfect. But in Group C they don’t have to be. They are still working on things, still tinkering with the right combinations and rotations and still trying to find niches for others. Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried continue to pace the U.S., combining for 36 points and 20 rebounds. The Americans overwhelmed New Zealand inside and went to the free-throw line 34 times. New Zealand was just 4-for-7 from the line.

The shooters got in on the act earlier this time around, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were a combined 4-for-6 from beyond the 3-point line by halftime, when the U.S was already comfortably in control 57-35. The U.S. team didn’t finish particularly well from the perimeter — it was just 6-for-16 (38 percent) for the game. But the team’s strength inside enabled the U.S. to shoot 51 percent (35-of-68) overall.

U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski started Derrick Rose after halftime in place of Kyrie Irving, a scoreboard move  that allowed him to get Rose extended minutes in the first of what will be back-to-back-back games.

The U.S. improved to 3-0 with the win and finishes Group C play against the Dominican Republic on Wednesday and Ukraine on Thursday. New Zealand fell to 0-3.

The U.S. ran its streak of consecutive wins in international competitions (World Championship/World Cup/Olympics and exhibitions) to 57.

Group C:  UKRAINE 64, TURKEY 58

Omer Asik finally had a breakout performance, piling up 10 points and 13 rebounds for Turkey in the first half against Ukraine. The New Orleans Pelicans big man owned the space around the basket, dominating in ways that he did not in two previous games.

He finished with 16 points and 20 rebounds, by far his best work of the competition, and got a nod of approval from his new frontcourt mate in New Orleans.

“I love it,” Anthony Davis said as the U.S. team watched the end of the game from the tunnel on the end of the court before taking the floor for their game with New Zealand.

Asik’s work alone wasn’t enough to hold off the Ukraine, still smarting from a tough Sunday loss to Finland. Ukraine got huge contributions from up and down the roster while playing without starting shooting guard Sergiy Gladyr (sprained ankle).

Olexander Mishula led the way with 19 points and was money from deep (5-for-8), Ihor Zaytsev added 12 points (including a clutch late jumper) and Pooh Jeter scored 10 points and dished a game-high six assists.

Ukraine coach Mike Fratello said he spent Monday locked in his room studying tape and looking for ways to finally figure out a way to beat Turkey after struggling against them seemingly every time his team has played them during his four years coaching Ukraine.

That was time well spent, though, as Fratello’s team looked sharp from the start and didn’t allow Turkey to dictate tempo to them the way the U.S. did early on in their Sunday win over Turkey.

“My friends who have been here and fans of the team just say great things about the city,” Fratello said of Bilbao.  “Unfortunately, I haven’t seen a whole lot of it. I’ve been seeing a lot of the inside of the hotel … but I walked, I took a walk late [Monday night]. I went around 11 o’clock, just to think, and what do I do, I run into a bunch of Turkish fans. Just what I needed.”

U.S. forced to work on Day 2


VIDEO: Team USA uses late run to rout Turkey on Day 2

BILBAO, SPAIN — An early wake up call isn’t necessarily what the U.S. was looking for on Day 2 of the FIBA Basketball World Cup.

But that’s exactly what they got Sunday night against a Turkey team they are very familiar with, the same team Steph Curry mentioned late Saturday night after the U.S. team roasted Finland by 59 points in their opener.

Curry was right. A much better effort was needed against Turkey. And for the longest time it was not there. The U.S. didn’t play with their usual energy or effort for much of the game. They were caught flat-footed on defensive rotations repeatedly, caved to Turkey’s deliberate pace early and then had to battle them on their terms deep into the third quarter before pulling away for the 98-77 win.

A Curry 3-pointer from the corner with 1:45 to play in third quarter gave the U.S. a 64-59 lead they would never surrender. But this was not the way anyone expected them to record their 56th straight win in World Cup/World Championship/Olympic and international exhibition competition dating back to 2006, not after watching them play as well as they did just 24 hours earlier.

The U.S. battled Turkey on their own soil to win gold at the 2010 World Championship, a spirited battle Curry talked about. Even with different faces, the history between the two programs remains. And you could feel it from the start Sunday.

Turkey led 40-35 at halftime and the whistling and artificial noisemakers in the stands got louder and louder. But the U.S. showed no signs of panic and methodically worked their way back into control after halftime, turning up the pressure on defense, particularly in the passing lanes.

By the time they were finished, the final score masked what was a much tougher Day 2 outing than anyone expected.

“We learned a lot about ourselves as a team,” James Harden said. “We learned we’re resilient. We knew every game wasn’t going to be a 50-point game. We didn’t panic or anything. We had to grind it out and we did that.”

The U.S. also learned that until their shooters start knocking down shots consistently, the heart and soul of this group will be big men Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, whose combined energy and activity kept them close early and carried them late.

Faried was a force throughout the game, finishing with 22 points and eight rebounds. Davis scored all 19 of his points after halftime and also grabbed six rebounds. The U.S. was outrebounded 21-12 in the first half.

As their activity level cranked up on both ends, the game changed rapidly. The floor opened up and Turkey appeared to finally feel the effects of the second half of a back-to-back against what is equivalent of a NBA team.

“I think we didn’t come ready to play in the first half and we can’t afford to do that if we want to win a gold medal,” Davis said. “So we’ve got to come out ready to play no matter who we’re playing against.”

This group knows what’s at stake every night out, both in reality and reputation. When you’ve won as many consecutive games against the rest of the world, everybody wants a piece of you.

So even the slightest scare, even one that lasts for just two and a half quarters, is enough to get the attention of the rest of the field in this competition. Turkey’s coach Ergin Ataman was ready and his team executed beautifully for as long as they could.

The speech U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski gave at halftime Sunday was required, even if only for the sake of formality. But his team already knew what had gone wrong. A halftime deficit in group play that was not expected to truly challenge this team served as the ultimate wake-up call.

“He didn’t need to say anything,” Davis said of Coach K’s halftime talk. “We already knew.”

Group C: Finland 81, Ukraine 76


VIDEO: Mike Fratello Interview

The Finland team that lost by a staggering 59 points to the U.S. in their opener returned to the building Sunday with a much better effort, holding off the Ukraine before another pro-Finland crowd and then partied outside with their fans after the game.

Shawn Huff led the way for Finland with 23 points and eight rebounds.

“We watched them against the U.S. and we knew that wasn’t the same team we were going to see,” Ukraine coach Mike Fratello said. “That [Saturday night's blowout loss] can happen to you against the United States. The shots they missed against the U.S. they were knocking down today.”

Pooh Jeter led the Ukraine with 24 points. But he lost his backcourt mate, shooting guard Sergiy Gladyr, to a sprained ankle after just eight minutes. They rallied late behind Jeter but never could come all the way back.

“All we’re thinking about now is Turkey [on Tuesday],” Jeter said. “We have to bounce back.”.

Group C: Dominican Republic 76, New Zealand 63

The Dominican Republic needed each and every one of Francisco Garcia‘s 29 points to bounce back on Day 2 and beat New Zealand. Garcia said he didn’t feel the need to force the action but his coach felt otherwise.

“We always need him to be aggressive and think about scoring the way he did today,” Dominican coach Orlando Antigua said. “I can speak for him as his coach when I tell you that.”

Garcia outdueled New Zealand’s Thomas Abercrombie, who impressed with 22 points and four rebounds. Monday’s day off couldn’t come at a better time for New Zealand.

“We know we’re in a tough spot,” guard Kirk Penney said. “But we also know what has to be done.”

 

Turkey, Ukraine win openers

BILBAO, SPAIN — Turkey rallied from an early deficit to defeat New Zealand 76-73 in the Group C opener here Saturday with New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik logging just 10 minutes for the winners.

Asik’s minutes were limited due to the style of play, according to Turkey’s coach Ergin Ataman, who suggested New Zealand’s style of play will cause problems for anyone in the FIBA World Cup, including the U.S., who boast a roster with four big men 6-foot-10 or taller for the first time in the Mike Krzyzewski era.

“[Asik] is fine,” Ataman said when asked if there was a reason Asik played just 10 minutes and 30 seconds. “New Zealand doesn’t play like any other team in Europe. The quickness for the big men is an issue. So Asik did not play as much. That will be an issue for other teams, including the United States.”

Playing small in recent international competitions was simply a part of the program for Krzyzewski, who always finds ways to adjust his lineups and rotations depending on how he wants his team to play. Coach K and his staff have seen every scheme imaginable during his tenure, so whatever they see here should not surprise them.

And Turkey needed Asik’s rim protecting help, even if it came in limited minutes, to rally in the first half against New Zealand. He scored just one point but blocked two shots and altered a couple of others before Turkey settled into a groove.

They closed the game on a 15-1 run to complete the comeback, negating Corey Webster‘s 22-point game for New Zealand.

The U.S. plays New Zealand Tuesday.

UKRAINE 72, DOMINICAN REPUBLIC 62: Pooh Jeter scored a team-high 16 points to lead the Mike Fratello-coached Ukraine team past the Dominican Republic in the Group C opening game here in Bilbao.

Slava Kravstov added 13 points and Sergi Gladyr 12 for the Ukraine. Francisco Garcia (Houston Rockets) led the Dominican Republic with 18 points.

Hang time podcast (episode 161) featuring The Czar Mike Fratello

By Sekou Smith, NBA.com


VIDEO: Mike Fratello joins the crew to talk about how the Thunder compensate without Serge Ibaka

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Don’t mess with Cleveland!

Not when the NBA Draft Lottery is going on.

Because no one does the Lottery like Cleveland, winners of three of the last four, including Tuesday night’s affair that gives them the trump card in what projects to be one of the deepest Drafts in recent memory.

TNT and NBA TV’s Mike Fratello, The Czar of the telestrator, knows exactly what we’re talking about, having coached the Cavaliers for six seasons.

But as much as we’re focused on the June Draft and the future, we’re locked in on the conference finals and the battles within the battle going on between the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference and the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference.

Toss in the ongoing coaching carousel, which includes Steve Kerr taking over for Mark Jackson in Golden State, and we’ve got plenty to discuss with The Czar on Episode 161 of the The Hang Time Podcast. 

We also introduce you to “DeBron Wade” and “Lex Morrison” (don’t ask, just watch –below — and listen) … on yet another wild episode with the crew.

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Jarell “I Heart Peyton Manning” Wall.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

Off Season – Trailer from Vuguru on Vimeo.

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

FIBA Update: Three Teams Clinch Berths In Eurobasket Quarterfinals

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Things got a little clearer at Eurobasket on Friday, as Group E continued to sort itself out with three games.

In the first game, Lithuania used a huge second quarter (26-9) to blow past and eliminate Belgium. Jonas Valanciunas made the most of his 13 minutes, registering 12 points, 10 rebounds and a block.

In Game 2, Ukraine stayed alive by handing Serbia its first Group E loss. The difference was a 14-2 run early in the third quarter, led by Maxym Korniyenko, who finished with 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting.

In the final game on Friday, France came out on fire, scoring 31 points in the first quarter, and held on to beat Latvia and clinch a spot in the quarterfinals. France can be a lot of fun to watch when they’re playing well and they got big games from Tony Parker (23 points), Nicolas Batum (19 points, 10 rebounds and six assists) and Boris Diaw (16 points, nine rebounds) on Friday.

So here’s the deal in Group E: France, Lithuania and Serbia are all 3-1 and in the quarterfinals. Belgium, 0-4, has been eliminated. And the group’s fourth spot in the quarterfinals will go to either Ukraine (2-2) or Latvia (1-3).

Latvia won the head-to-head matchup, has the tiebreaker, and has a decent shot at earning the tie on Sunday, because they play play Belgium, while Ukraine must face Lithuania.

Before we get there, Group F will play three big games on Saturday.

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: Latvia, Lithuania Pick Up Big Wins At EuroBasket

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – EuroBasket’s second round tipped off with a couple of important games on Wednesday. We’ve got 12 teams playing for eight spots in the quarterfinals and then six or seven spots in next year’s World Cup of Basketball field.

Though this was the first day of the second round, each team brought two first-round results into the standings. That’s why the day’s first game between Latvia and Ukraine was critical. Mike Fratello’s Ukraine team came in at 1-2, in fourth place in Group E. Latvia was 0-2, in fifth place. And since four teams from each group make the quarterfinals, this game could be the one that ultimately makes the difference.

That’s good news for Latvia, who controlled the game from the tip, had a 42-22 lead by halftime, opened the game up even more in the third quarter, and cruised to a 34-point win. They shot less than 33 percent from 3-point range in the first round, but hit 15 of their 29 3s on Wednesday. Ukraine, meanwhile, couldn’t buy a bucket after finishing the first round with a top-five offense. To get back in the top four of Group E, they’ll have to upset either Serbia (Friday) or France (Sunday).

Though the second game was closer than it should have been, Serbia eventually took care of business against Belgium. Nenad Krstic led the way with 17 points and five assists and, at 3-0, Serbia is looking good for the quarterfinals.

So does Lithuania, who handed France its second loss of the tournament (and first in Group E) in Wednesday’s third game. Lithuania’s top-five defense bettered France’s top-five offense, as Tony Parker was held to just 11 points on 4-for-8 shooting and Nicolas Batum added just eight more.

Group F gets under way on Friday, with the Finland-Croatia game being another one that could ultimately determine who goes to the quarterfinals and who doesn’t.

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: 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.

Air Check: Where Bismack Biyombo Is Top 5

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – For NBA fans like us, there’s nothing better than League Pass. Having the ability to watch every game every night (and then again the next day) is heaven.

Of course, with local broadcasts, you get local broadcasters, which can be good and bad. It can be good, because these guys know their teams better than most national broadcasters. It can be bad, because these guys love their teams more than most national broadcasters. And they’re usually not afraid to show that love.

The national guys aren’t perfect either. And if they’re not careful, they may be featured here, where we highlight the best and worst of NBA broadcasts.

We’ve got a Clippers and Nets theme this week, so let’s start with the Clippers and Nets…

1. They don’t call him the Czar of the Telestrator for nothin’

Game: Brooklyn @ L.A. Clippers, March 23
Broadcast: Brooklyn


This is a great use of the telestrator by … you guessed it … Mike Fratello.

Late in the game, the Clippers try to get Brook Lopez (and his slow feet) to defend Chris Paul in a pick and roll. But, as Fratello explains, the Nets switch assignments as Blake Griffin goes to set the pick, having the more mobile Reggie Evans hedge the screen.

It’s a pretty simple concept, but something that many viewers wouldn’t have picked up on when watching the play live. And all it takes is a quick explanation from Fratello to make us all a little smarter.

2. Another one-liner from JVG

Game: L.A. Lakers @ L.A. Clippers, April 7
Broadcast: ESPN


Jeff Van Gundy always bring the coach’s perspective…

Mike Breen on Jamal Crawford: “He’s had 16 head coaches in his career, 16 in his 13 years in the league.”

Van Gundy: “Are you saying he’s got a lot of people fired?”

Classic JVG.

3. Is Tommy Heinsohn calling Kings games now?

Game: L.A. Clippers @ Sacramento, March 19
Broadcast: Sacramento


Kings color man Jerry Reynolds doesn’t like this foul call, even though the replay shows that Pizza Guy Isaiah Thomas was all in Chris Paul‘s space and hit him on the arm as he rose for the shot.

“Are you kidding me?,” Reynolds says. “What a bail out.”

And then he hits us with the big one: “I guarantee you if that had of been Isaiah Thomas shooting the ball and Chris Paul defending, that would not have been called that way. That is my take on it and I’m tired of it.”

But good for play-by-play guy Grant Napear for calling Reynolds out for going a little to far: “Jerry Heinsohn working with us today.”

Reynolds: “I know. I get carried away every now and then. I can’t match up to my man Tommy Heinsohn, though. I can’t do it.”

Napear: “I don’t think anybody can.”

4. Rolls off the tongue

Game: Charlotte @ Brooklyn, April 6
Broadcast: Brooklyn


Ian Eagle and Jim Spanarkel have been working together for almost 20 years. So Spanarkel knows how much Eagle likes calling the game’s most unique names. (If you ever meet Eagle in person, just ask him about that forward who played for Stanford from 2002 to 2006.)

Bismack Biyombo is clearly among Eagle’s favorites.

Eagle: “High-low … Bi-YOM-bo!”

Spanarkel: “Top-5 name for you, possibly?”

Eagle: “I enjoy it. I can’t deny it.”

Foul called.

Spanarkel: “Who was that foul on?”

Eagle: “That’s Bi-YOM-bo.”