Posts Tagged ‘Nicolas Batum’

Making A List, Checking It Twice …

We’re making a list, checking it twice. On Christmas Eve, it’s time to remember who’s been naughty or nice in the first two months of the 2013-14 season:

Naughty — Nets — There isn’t enough coal in Newcastle to fill up the deservingly drooping stocking that hangs over a forlorn and underachieving mantle in Brooklyn. Why would anyone think it would make sense to trade for 37-year-old Kevin Garnett, 36-year-old Paul Pierce, 36-year-old Jason Terry as part of $102 million-payroll and put the whole thing in the hands of a guy who had never coached a game in his life? Then Jason Kidd gets extra naughty by intentionally spilling a drink when he doesn’t have a timeout against the Lakers. They have a mediocre offense and the 29th-rated defense. Now they lose Brook Lopez to a broken foot. So it won’t be a Happy New Year either, Billy King.

Nice — LaMarcus Aldridge — From Damian Lillard to Nicolas Batum to Robin Lopez to coach Terry Stotts, there are many contributors to the rousing start to the season by the surprising Trail Blazers with the best record in the league. But no one has done more to elevate his game and his team to the elite level than Aldridge. He labored faithfully through seven seasons with a roster that virtually fell apart around his ears, listened to so much talk of trades and has come back to deliver a magnificent season that has him firmly in the MVP conversation.

Naughty — Knicks — Remember when they used to play basketball in New York? The Manhattan edition of the NBA can’t shoot, doesn’t rebound and Carmelo Anthony is saying the Knicks’ troubles are all in their heads. Would that be the heads of the players and the coach who can’t think to call a timeout in the final seconds to set up a shot? If things don’t turn around fast, Mike Woodson’s going to be the fall guy even though there have been enough injuries to fill an ER and the myth of the Knicks as true playoff contenders entering the season was no more real than a team of flying reindeer pulling a sleigh across the sky.

Nice — Suns — If you went to a Las Vegas sports book during training camp and plopped down a sizable lump of cash on the Suns to beat the over/under prediction of 21.5 wins, you’d probably be only a week or two away from returning to book a penthouse suite with your winnings. First-year coach Jeff Hornacek has his club riding the backcourt pairing of Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic with a rotating cast of other contributors to a 17-10 record and a spot right in the thick of the tough Western Conference playoff race. When the Spurs were in town last week, the entire Phoenix roster had played the same number of NBA games in their careers combined as 37-year-old Tim Duncan.

Naughty — Ricky Rubio — Sure, it’s fun to sit in front of the big screen TV and keep hitting the rewind button on the DVR to replay all of those behind-the-back, no-look, over-the-shoulder, through-the-opponent’s-legs, thread-the-needle, oh-my-gosh, how-did-he-do-that, head-on-a-swivel, slicker-than-a-greased eel passes that get his teammates easy layups and dunks. But come on, two years plus into your NBA career, you’ve got to be able to knock down a wide open jump shot when teams give them to you. Which they do and which you don’t. Which is a big part of the reason why your Timberwolves are healthy and still underperforming.

Nice — Kevin Love — After missing 91 games over the past two seasons to injury, Love’s return to good health and a nightly spot in the lineup has been a sight sweeter than sugar plums dancing in the Timberwolves’ heads. How does a guy who is always a threat to score 30 points and pull down 20 rebounds get better? He becomes a better passer, nearly doubling his assists to 4.2 per game. Outside of The King down in South Beach, there’s just nobody in the league you can count on more every night.

Naughty — Grizzlies — There are more excuses than places to hear the blues in Memphis. But the bottom line is that even before Marc Gasol was sidelined with a knee injury, the Grizzlies were going south. They simply haven’t bought into new coach Dave Joerger, still can’t shoot from the perimeter and Zach Randolph seems to have lost his inspiration. The Grind House was a fun place while it lasted.

Nice — LeBron James — Maybe the only thing that stops him from winning MVP No. 5 — and third in a row — is boredom. Not his. Ours. He’ll never completely win over the entire public the way Michael Jordan did simply because of the times in which we live. The age of social media allows critics to throw stones and pick nits. There has simply never been anyone this big and this strong and this fast and this complete with still such a large part of the meat of his career ahead of him.

Naughty — Westbrook critics — Now that Russell Westbrook has recovered from two surgeries, returned to the Thunder lineup and shown not the slightest loss of his swagger, is there anyone who still thinks Kevin Durant and the OKC franchise would be better off without him?

Nice —Kendrick the Bouncer — It had to bring a smile to the face — if not a tear to the eye — of every old school scrapper who’s ever laced up a pair of sneakers and just gone after it when Kendrick Perkins unceremoniously ran Joakim Noah out of the Thunder locker room. That’s enough of the 21st century touchy-feely, we’re-all-buddies atmosphere that persists these days. Not enough get-outta-my-face growling between rivals. A team’s locker room is its castle and the only thing that could have made it better is if Perk dumped him into a moat.

Naughty — Omer Asik — Let’s see. For two seasons in Chicago you were averaging just 13 minutes per game and getting relative peanuts. The Rockets signed you to a free agent contract that pays $25 million over three years and last season you started all 82 games and averaged a double-double. That’s nice. But then they signed All-Star Dwight Howard in July. He’s much, much better. You’re still getting your $25 million. Didn’t you read the line about you better not pout? So we’re making our list, checking it twice and — ho-ho-ho — you’re definitely on it.

Damian Lillard: The New King Of Clutch


VIDEO: Damian Lillard was a man on a mission in Portland’s win over Cleveland

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Damian Lillard is an assassin.

Get this: When Steph Curry buried a buzzer-beater to lift Golden State over Dallas last week, it was the first time the surest shooter in the league had collected a game-winner since … high school? At least that was the last one the fifth-year Golden State Warriors point guard who spent the previous three seasons shooting the lights out at Davidson, could recall.

That puts into perspective what Lillard, the Portland Trail Blazers’ dazzling second-year point guard, has done in the last two games: Consecutive buzzer-beating game-winners.

At Detroit on Sunday with the game tied in overtime at 109, Lillard, with about 12 seconds on the clock, went one-on-one with Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey. Lillard dribbled up top, came around a LaMarcus Aldridge screen but it didn’t free him up. He kept dribbling, spun at the free-throw line to get inside the paint and drained a fallaway with 0.1 seconds left. He finished with 23 points, eight in overtime.

At Cleveland on Tuesday, the Cavs made a furious comeback from 10 down in the final 2:15 to tie the game at 116-116 with 7.1 seconds left in regulation. This time Lillard lulled Cavs defender Alonzo Gee several feet beyond the top of the 3-point arc. With Gee allowing space presumably to protect against the dribble-drive, Lillard rose up and splashed the 3-pointer as the horn blew. The official play-by-play called it from 30 feet. He finished with 36 points — 12 in the fourth quarter — 10 assists and eight rebounds.

“You’re watching a superstar being born right in front our eyes,” were the in-the-moment words spoken by Cavs color commentator Austin Carr, who has the nightly privilege of watching another cool clutch performer in Kyrie Irving.

And just like his stoic reaction at Detroit, Lillard acted as though he expected no other outcome. And why not? He’s now pocketed four game-winners on the season and has established himself as the game’s top clutch-time performer:

In clutch situations (defined as the final five minutes of regulation or overtime and the team ahead or behind by five or fewer points), no one’s been better than the 6-foot-3 reigning Rookie of the Year out of Weber State.

In 49 clutch minutes, he’s scored 55 points in 49 minutes on 15-for-30 shooting from the floor (8-for-16 on 3s), 17-for-19 from the free-throw line, plus seven assists and seven rebounds. No matter how you slice up the situations — three minutes to go in a three-point game, two minutes left in a two-point game, in the final minute and behind by two or tied — Lillard’s point production stands at the top of the list of clutch performers.

His career overtime stats are mind-boggling (courtesy NBA.com/Stats): 45 minutes, 43 points, 15-for-19 from the floor (10-for-10 inside the arc), 8-for-8 on free throws and a plus-31 rating. Portland is 7-1 in those games.

Some of it is simply due to the number of close games a team plays (Portland is 4-1 in games decided by three points or less and 2-0 in overtime), but coming through in such situations rarely occurs at the success rate Lillard has demonstrated over and over.

In the standard definition of a clutch situation (ahead or behind by five points with five minutes to go), Lillard’s plus-minus rating ranks No. 1 at plus-52. It’s little surprise that his teammates — Nicolas Batum, plus-51; Wesley Matthews, plus-50; and Aldridge plus-49 — rank second through fourth. Robin Lopez is seventh at plus-32.

However, in terms of clutch-time points, Aldridge is Portland’s next-highest scorer with 28 points — 27 fewer than the stone-cold Lillard.

How Sustainable Is Portland’s Hot Start?


VIDEO: Wes Matthews discusses the Blazers’ seventh straight win

BROOKLYN – Now that we’re past the hot starts of the Philadelphia 76ers and Phoenix Suns, the Portland Trail Blazers are the surprise team of the early going. Having won seven straight games, they’re 9-2, in second place in the Western Conference. They’re also the only team to have knocked off the 9-1 San Antonio Spurs.

You could argue that beating the Spurs was Portland’s only quality win. But the Blazers are also 5-1 on the road and can complete a 4-0 trip with a win in Milwaukee on Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET, League Pass). Road wins are good wins, especially when you’re a team that might be fighting for a playoff spot come April.

A potent offense has keyed the Blazers’ start. Through Tuesday, they rank third in offensive efficiency, having scored 108.1 points per 100 possessions. They’re the most improved offensive team in the league, scoring 5.4 more points per 100 possessions than they did last season …

Most improved offenses (points scored per 100 possessions)

Team 2012-13 Rank 2013-14 Rank Diff.
Portland 102.7 16 108.1 3 +5.4
Minnesota 100.1 25 104.0 10 +3.9
Detroit 100.9 22 103.5 11 +2.7
Phoenix 98.2 29 100.7 16 +2.5
L.A. Clippers 107.7 4 109.7 2 +2.0

Bonus stat: Charlotte is the most improved defensive team, allowing 9.6 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season.

The question is how sustainable the Blazers’ offense is, because they’re the jump-shootingest (it’s a word around these part) team in the league, with less than 39 percent of their shots coming from the paint. LaMarcus Aldridge already leads the league in mid-range attempts by a wide margin, while Damian Lillard (1st), Nicolas Batum (10th) and Wesley Matthews (17th) all rank in the top 20 in 3-point attempts.

Lowest percentage of shots from the paint

Team Paint FGA Total FGA %Paint
Portland 364 937 38.8%
Washington 341 872 39.1%
New York 332 841 39.5%
Cleveland 391 935 41.8%
L.A. Lakers 440 1,048 42.0%
League total 12,479 26,524 47.0%

Bonus stat: New York had the lowest percentage of shots from the paint last season at 38.0 percent. Coincidentally, they also ranked third in offensive efficiency.

Would it be nice if the Blazers got to the basket more? Sure, but all those guys can shoot. And so can Mo Williams and Dorell Wright, two of the important reserves that the Blazers added this summer. But a few of them are shooting much better than they have over the past few years.

Effective field goal percentage from outside the paint

Player Last 3 seasons 2013-14
LaMarcus Aldridge 41.6% 45.8%
Nicolas Batum 48.7% 49.5%
Wesley Matthews 52.7% 69.1%
Mo Williams 47.6% 56.7%
Dorell Wright 49.3% 59.4%
Combined 47.8% 54.0%

Effective field goal percentage = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA

Bonus stat: Among 122 players who have attempted at least 50 shots from outside the paint, the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala has the highest effective field goal percentage (76.7 percent), having shot 13-for-18 from mid-range and 22-for-42 from 3-point range. Utah’s Alec Burks has the lowest (30.8 percent).

Blazers’ coach Terry Stotts isn’t going to get caught up in the percentages or where the Blazers’ shots are coming. He understands that he’s got a jump-shooting team and just cares about how those shots come about.

“I’m not necessarily concerned about our points in the paint, offensively,” Stotts said Monday. “My concern is that we get good threes. Preferably, we get threes off the pass, in rhythm, and have confidence to shoot them.”

His belief is that better ball movement leads to more open shots and, therefore, a higher shooting percentage. This dagger three from Batum in Sunday’s overtime win in Toronto is a good example of what he’s talking about …


VIDEO: Blazers showcase solid ball movement against Raptors

That looks like a Spurs possession, and Stotts sees San Antonio as the prime example of how an offense should look.

“The way they move the ball,” he said, “make the extra pass, turn down one shot to get a better shot. And they keep playing throughout the shot clock. When we were in Dallas, we played them in the playoffs a couple of years. Defensively against them, you just had to keep playing, because they were going to keep wearing you down with their passing and ball movement.”

The lineup — Lillard, Williams, Matthews, Batum and Aldridge — that was on the floor for that shot in Toronto would appear to be the Blazers’ best offensive unit. It scored 23 points in a little over nine minutes on Sunday, but just 20 points in about 14 1/2 minutes in seven other games, so its offensive numbers don’t look too good right now.

But overall, the Blazers have been strong offensively — scoring 109.4 points per 100 possessions — in 175 minutes with Lillard and Williams on the floor together.

“The NBA game’s getting more and more about having playmakers on the court,” Stotts said. “So when you’re able to have two guys who can make plays for other people and themselves, it makes our offense more effective.”

Last season, the Blazers suffered both offensively and defensively when they went to their bench. This year, they’ve actually received a boost offensively …

2012-13 Portland lineups

Lineups MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Starters 1,143 93.6 104.1 105.8 -1.7 -28
Other lineups 2,825 93.9 102.2 107.3 -5.2 -232

2013-14 Portland lineups

Lineups MIN Pace OffRtg DefRtg NetRtg +/-
Starters 195 93.6 106.5 101.3 +5.3 +14
Other lineups 337 97.3 109.0 103.9 +5.1 +45

OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions

However, the defense hasn’t been too good with both point guards on the floor. And that, more than ball movement, is Stotts’ biggest concern. After ranking 26th defensively last season, they traded for Robin Lopez and changed their principles.

“For us to be a playoff team, we had to improve our defense,” Stotts said. “We’ve changed our defensive concepts, particularly on pick-and-rolls, to not extend as much.”

The Blazers are trying to mimic the Indiana Pacers’ defense (as well as they possibly can without having Roy Hibbert and Paul George), having the big man sag into the paint on pick-and-rolls to protect the basket, while the ball-handler’s defender attempts to stay attached to his man.

It’s a work in progress. Portland opponents have attempted 35.2 percent of their shots from the restricted area, the fourth-highest rate in the league. But they’ve shot just 57.3 percent on those shots, the ninth-lowest rate.

The stay-at-home-on-the-perimeter aspect of the Blazers’ defense seems to be working just fine. They lead the league in 3-point defense, allowing their opponents to shoot just 28.6 percent from there. Opponents have shot just 13-for-67 (19.4 percent) from 3-point range with Portland’s starting lineup on the floor.

Those are more numbers that aren’t sustainable, so it’s more than fair to look at Portland’s first 11 games with a skeptical eye. But the Blazers should be continue to be an improved defensive team.

If they can eventually settle in the middle of the pack defensively and in the top-10 offensively, they can certainly be a playoff team. The offense will be tested later this week when they face two top-five defensive teams — Chicago and Golden State — on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

“Every team in the league is going to be better four months from now,” Stotts said. “I’m pleased with what we’re doing. Where we got to get better is consistency defensively.

“I think, offensively, we’re going to find ways to score, inside, outside, whatever. Whatever limitations that we have, it’s going to be at the defensive end. And we got to continue to make that a priority.”

Huge NBA Opening Week; And You Wanted To Wait Till Christmas?

VIDEO: The top plays from the NBA’s opening week

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Six nights. That’s all it took to remind yet again why we play the games, all 82, and why any claim of less being more is pure folly.

Why not November? I say.

As the 2011 lockout ushered in a reduced schedule of 66 games starting on Christmas Day and firing off a fan-pleasing crush of games nightly, a spark ignited into a full-blown media/Internet forest fire: Why not start every NBA season on Dec. 25?

Heck, no one’s paying attention in November, let alone a pre-Halloween slate. With the NFL and college football beast roaring, who’s got the attention span to cram in hoops, too?

So congratulations to the NBA for a wholly unpredictable and fascinating opening week that featured scintillating individual performances and take-that victories by teams who’ve been told they stink. And so the games are played. Yes, even in November.

There isn’t a more outrageous narrative than Philly’s 3-0 start that includes takedowns of the Heat and Bulls led by The Kid, Michael Carter-Williams. Our own John Schuhmann couldn’t help but unprecedentedly vault the Sixers from 29th to No. 1 in this week’s Power Rankings.

While all will likely right itself before too long, one week in and we’ve got upside-down standings. The trifecta tankers — Philly, Phoenix and Orlando — are 7-2. Miami, Chicago, Brooklyn and New York are 5-8.

Along with some fascinating upsets and  fast starts, we’ve seen a bevy of fantastic individual scoring and rebounding frenzies.

Here’s a quick look at some of the opening week’s wildly unpredictable highlights:

*  Carter-Williams has to sweep the Player of the Week honors for rookies and everybody else. In his season debut against Miami, he nearly notched a quadruple-double with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals. A fluke? A few nights later against the Bulls and the comeback kid Derrick  Rose, he dropped 26 points and 10 assists. Golden State, in Philly tonight (7 p.m. ET, League Pass), has been warned.

* You can probably name more traded Suns than current Suns, but they’re 2-1 and on Sunday pushed Oklahoma City to the brink in their home opener even with Russell Westbrook supercharging the evening with his unexpected return. By the way, he looked super-fast.

* Let’s not forget the Magic’s supposed bid for massive ping-pong-ball accumulation. Rookie Victor Oladipo has other plans. The Magic aren’t disappearing after two rousing victories over the improved Pelicans and (title-contending?) Nets by a combined 41 points to even their record at 2-2.

* The no-name Lakers bench crushed the star-studded Clippers’ starters in the fourth quarter in both teams’ opener.

* Chris Paul has stat lines of 42 points and 15 assists and 26 points and 10 assists.

* Kevin Love is all the way back, averaging 29.7 ppg, 14.7 rpg and 3.7 apg to help Minnesota start 3-0. He already has games of 31 and 17, and 34 and 15.

* The 2-1 Pistons’ front line is living up to expectations. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond are walking double-doubles. Monroe has a 24 and 16 game under his belt and Drummond already has 15-and-12 and 12-and-16 games.

* Second-year Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson went off for 38 points on 15-for-19 shooting in 31 minutes.

*Kings center DeMarcus Cousins notched 31 points and 14 rebounds against the Nuggets.

* In the same game, Knicks center Tyson Chandler pulled down 19 rebounds and Bulls center Joakim Noah grabbed 15.

* In a battle of point guards, Steph Curry and CP3 combined for 80 points, 11 3-pointers, 24 assists and 17 turnovers.

* Also in the same game, Mavs forward Shawn Marion and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph posted matching stat lines of 21 points and 14 boards.

* Greg Oden dunked on his first offensive possession since Dec. 5, 2009.

* Dwight Howard is averaging 15.0 ppg and 17.0 rpg in three games. His 51 rebounds nearly double his free 26 throw attempts, of which he’s made half.

* Pelicans second-year center/forward Anthony Davis is taking this breakthrough stuff seriously, averaging 23.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg and 4.0 bpg. He has games of 25 points and six blocks, 26 points and 17 rebounds and 20 points and 12 boards.

There are even more big games to get to from Kevin Durant to Paul George to Monta Ellis to Nicolas Batum‘s apologetic triple-double, but in the interest of fair time, we must also get to the surprising (or in some instances the not-so-surprising, but still noteworthy) developments at the other end of the spectrum:

* The Nuggets, 0-2, and center JaVale McGee are not off to inspiring starts. This is supposed to be McGee’s big moment, but the 7-footer has averaged just 11.5 mpg and 5.0 ppg and 2.0 rpg despite starting both games.

* Raptors forward Rudy Gay again has a nice-looking scoring average (17.0 ppg), but just think what it might be if not for shooting 32.7 percent from the floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.

* Rookie Nets head coach Jason Kidd served a two-game suspension stemming from his DUI situation and then got hammered by 21 points in his debut at Orlando.

* Memphis is in transition after the promotion of Dave Joerger following Lionel Hollins being shown the door. Joerger is credited as the architect of the Grizzlies’ stifling defense, yet even with a virtually unchanged roster, the defense is being picked apart, allowing more than 106 ppg.

* Detroit’s active big guys, Monroe and Drummond, are pushing high-dollar free-agent signee Josh Smith out to the perimeter. Smith likes to shoot the long ball, but averaging 7.3 attempts from back there is a bit much, especially when he’s making just 27.0 percent.

And you wanted to wait until Christmas? Bah!

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.

Parker Leads France To World Cup Berth

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – With an impressive, quarterfinal win over hosts Slovenia, France became the 15th team to qualify for next year’s World Cup of Basketball and set up what could be a terrific EuroBasket semifinal matchup with Spain on Friday.

Slovenia and Serbia, who got crushed by Spain, now head to the loser’s bracket. They’ll play Thursday (8:30 a.m. ET) with another WCOB berth on the line. The loser of that game will head to the critical seventh place game on Saturday.

France-Slovenia was a pretty ugly game in the first half, but France took control with a 10-0 run early in the third quarter. Slovenia got back to within three, but couldn’t tie or take the lead. France opened things up again in the fourth quarter behind their NBA big three and held on for a 10-point win.

Tony Parker led the way with 27 points on 9-for-20 shooting, while Nicolas Batum and Boris Diaw combined for 24. Slovenia got 18 points from Goran Dragic, but shot poorly and allowed France too many second chances on the glass.

In the day’s first game, Spain simply ran over Serbia. A big first quarter from Rudy Fernandez, a big second quarter from Sergio Rodriguez and the tournament’s best defense gave Spain a 25-point lead at halftime. They shot 13-for-25 from 3-point range and led by as many as 40 in the third quarter.

The other two quarterfinals will take place after the Serbia-Slovenia game on Friday. At 11:45 a.m. ET, Croatia faces Ukraine and at 3 p.m. ET, Lithuania plays Italy. The winners of those two games will face each other in the semifinals on Friday and join France and the winner of Serbia-Slovenia in the WCOB field.

2014 World Cup of Basketball field

No. Team Qualified
1 Spain Host
2 USA 2012 Olympic champion
3 Iran FIBA Asia champion
4 Philippines FIBA Asia 2nd place
5 Korea FIBA Asia 3rd place
6 Australia FIBA Oceania champion
7 New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
8 Angola FIBA Africa champion
9 Egypt FIBA Africa 2nd place
10 Senegal FIBA Africa 3rd place
11 Mexico FIBA Americas champion
12 Puerto Rico FIBA Americas second place
13 Argentina FIBA Americas third place
14 Dominican Republic FIBA Americas fourth place
15 France Eurobasket semifinalist
16 Croatia/Ukraine winner Eurobasket semifinalist
17 Lithuania/Italy winner Eurobasket semifinalist
18 Serbia/Slovenia winner Eurobasket 5th/6th place
19 Eurobasket 5th/6th place
20 Eurobasket 7th place
21 Wildcard
22 Wildcard
23 Wildcard
24 Wildcard

16 NBA Players Still Going At EuroBasket

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HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – With training camps set to open in less than two weeks, most NBA players are getting back to their places of business and working out with their teammates.

Several guys, however, are in Slovenia, representing their countries at EuroBasket. Sixteen teams have gone home and eight remain, playing for national pride and seven spots in next year’s World Cup of Basketball. EuroBasket has been the best basketball of the summer and the single-elimination action starts Wednesday.

Here’s the quarterfinal schedule:
Serbia (E1) vs. Spain (F4), Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET (NBA TV)
Slovenia (F2) vs. France (E3), Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET (NBA TV)
Croatia (F1) vs. Ukraine (E4), Thursday, 11:45 a.m. ET
Lithuania (E2) vs. Italy (F3), Thursday, 3 p.m. ET

And here are the 16 NBA players still playing, with some notes on how they’ve done so far…

Nicolas Batum (Blazers) – France
His stats: 28.1 MPG, 11.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 2.6 APG, .463 FG%, 7-for-31 3PT
The buzz: Batum has been filling the box score (as he’s known to do). He had 19 points, 10 boards, six assists, a steal and a block in last Friday’s win over Latvia. But he’s had some rough shooting nights from beyond the arc.

Marco Belinelli (Spurs) – Italy
His stats: 31.6 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 2.4 APG, .369 FG%, 11-for-34 3PT
The buzz: Belinelli is Italy’s primary ball-handler, a different role than he’s played in the NBA. He’s had some big games, but will be facing one of the tournament’s toughest defenses in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Jose Calderon (Mavs) – Spain
His stats: 23.4 MPG, 9.4 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.0 APG, .458 FG%, 18-for-37 3PT
The buzz: Sharing the backcourt with Ricky Rubio, Calderon has been playing a lot of two guard for Spain. But that’s OK, because every team needs a secondary ball-handler and he’s also a great shooter. He has a 24/8 assist/turnover ratio and has hit three or more 3-pointers in four of Spain’s eight games.

Victor Claver (Blazers) – Spain
His stats: 17.9 MPG, 4.9 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 0.9 APG, .412 FG%, 5-for-15 3PT
The buzz: Claver is a terrific rebounder starting at power forward and doing the dirty work for Spain. He’s averaging almost 11 boards per 36 minutes at Eurobasket and had 11 in just 24 minutes before fouling out against Greece. He has drained a few threes, but probably spends a little too much time hanging out on the perimeter.

Luigi Datome (Pistons) – Italy
His stats: 29.9 MPG, 14.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.3 APG, .488 FG%, 15-for-36 3PT
The buzz: The Pistons’ rookie has had a couple of big games and sent Monday’s thriller against Spain to overtime with a driving layup at the buzzer. He can shoot and will be a decent role player in the league, but will need to play off Detroit’s playmakers. He’s not very mobile or skilled off the dribble.

Nando De Colo (Spurs) – France
His stats: 20.3 MPG, 8.8 PPG, 1.9 RPG, 0.9 APG, .413 FG%, 11-for-26 3PT
The buzz: Coming off the bench for France, De Colo shot well early in the tournament, but has cooled off of late.

Boris Diaw (Spurs) – France
His stats: 28.1 MPG, 10.1 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.4 APG, .508 FG%, 3-for-12 3PT
The buzz: Tony Parker is the star in France, but it’s Diaw’s passing from the high post that can really make the French offense click. Though Parker has the ball in his hands more, Diaw has almost as many dimes.

Goran Dragic (Suns) – Slovenia
His stats: 23.3 MPG, 15.3 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 4.4 APG, .392 FG%, 8-for-32 3PT
The buzz: Dragic is a terror on the break and has had some big games for the tournament’s hosts, including 28 points in a win over Greece on Saturday. The shooting numbers look ugly, because he missed his first 11 threes of the tournament. His matchup against Parker could be the best of the quarterfinals.

Marc Gasol (Grizzlies) – Spain
His stats: 29.5 MPG, 13.8 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, .521 FG%, 3-for-6 3PT
The buzz: Though Gasol had 32 points and 10 boards in Monday’s overtime loss to Italy, his offensive numbers don’t make it clear that he’s one of the two best players in the tournament. But he’s anchored Eurobasket’s No. 1 defense, which has allowed 16.5 fewer points per 100 possessions than the tourney average.

Mickael Gelabale (Wolves) – France
His stats: 25.5 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.6 APG, .449 FG%, 8-for-23 3PT
The buzz: Like De Colo, Gelable shot well early on (7-for-15 from 3-point range in the first round), but has since cooled off (1-for-8) in Round 2. He’s in France’s starting lineup for his defense, but can provide some scoring off the ball.

Viacheslav Kravtsov (Suns) – Ukraine
His stats: 17.9 MPG, 6.6 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 0.8 APG, 1.4 BPG, .436 FG%
The buzz: Ukraine’s only NBA player is its fifth leading scorer. Kravtsov is a big body who needs more polish in the post.

Donatas Motiejunas (Rockets) – Lithuania
His stats: 11.6 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.3 APG, .486 FG%, 4-for-12 3PT
The buzz: Lithuania is deep up front and Motiejunas was barely playing  earlier in the tournament (he picked up three fouls in eight minutes against Bosnia). But he totaled 23 points in 39 minutes in Lithuania’s last two games, helping them secure a spot in the quarters.

Nemanja Nedovic (Warriors) – Serbia
His stats: 26.0 MPG, 9.0 PPG, 2.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, .368 FG%, 11-for-38 3PT
The buzz: With the absence of Hang Time favorite Milos Teodosic, Nedovic – the No. 30 pick in the 2013 Draft – has been starting at point guard for Serbia. He’s solid and can shoot off the dribble, but he doesn’t have the quickness to be much of a threat on the pick-and-roll. But he doesn’t need to be a real floor general with a team like Serbia, that moves the ball pretty well.

Tony Parker (Spurs) – France
His stats: 27.9 MPG, 17.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, .532 FG%, 7-for-26 3PT
The buzz: The best offensive player in the tournament is leading the No. 1 offense. Parker has been a terror on the pick-and-roll (no surprise there), but his pull-up jumper has been a little shaky. France has a lot of work to get through Slovenia on Wednesday, but a semifinal matchup against Spain could be the game of the tournament.

Ricky Rubio (Wolves) – Spain
His stats: 21.4 MPG, 8.3 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, .446 FG%, 3-for-7 3PT
The buzz: Against defenses that are packing the paint (there’s no defensive three-second rule in FIBA), Rubio isn’t as dynamic a playmaker as he is in the league. He’s done a decent job of making opponents pay for going under the screen, stepping up and knocking down the mid-range jumper. But shooting is probably why Calderon has played more minutes.

Jonas Valanciunas (Raptors) – Lithuania
His stats: 17.4 MPG, 7.9 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 0.0 APG, 1.0 BPG, .697 FG%
The buzz: Continuing his excellent play from Summer League, Valanciunas has made 23 of his 33 shots and is averaging 16.3 points and 12.4 rebounds per 36 minutes. But Lithuania is deep up front, so his playing time has been somewhat limited. He had a double-double in just 13 minutes against Belgium on last Friday. We’ll see if he gets more minutes in the elimination rounds.

FIBA Update: Ukraine Advances With Help

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – Group E wrapped up action at EuroBasket on Sunday, with Ukraine earning the group’s final spot in the quarterfinals.

Well, they didn’t actually earn it on Sunday, because Latvia’s loss to Belgium in the day’s first game is what got them there. It was an ugly game throughout and it was tied early in the fourth quarter. Belgium took control with a 7-0 run, but Latvia still had two chances to take the lead in the final minute. They missed them both, along with a three to tie in the closing seconds, sending them home.

Latvia had crushed Ukraine on Wednesday, but couldn’t beat anyone else in Group E, so Ukraine didn’t need to beat Lithuania in the day’s second game to reach the quarters. And they didn’t, with Linas Kleiza leading Lithuania to a 70-63 victory.

In the day’s final game, Serbia took Group E’s top seed with a win over France. Tony Parker and Nicolas Batum both shot poorly and Nenad Krstic led Serbia with 19 points.

So Serbia (4-1) is the No. 1 seed from Group E and will play the fourth-place team in Group F in the quarterfinals, which begin Wednesday. They’re followed by Lithuania (4-1), France (3-2) and Ukraine (2-3).

With one more day of action in Group F, we know that Croatia (3-1) and Slovenia (3-1) are in the quarterfinals. And we know the winner of Monday’s second game between Italy (2-2) and Spain (2-2) is also in.

If Spain wins, Italy is also in, because they beat both Greece (1-3) and Finland (1-3). Spain would lose a (head-to-head) tiebreaker with Greece, so a Croatia win over Greece in the day’s first game would help them in case they lose to Italy.

Eurobasket top offenses (points scored per 100 possessions) through Sunday:
1. France – 112.6
2. Greece – 112.2
3. Italy – 111.1
4. Spain – 108.7
5. Serbia – 107.6

Eurobasket top defenses (points allowed per 100 possessions) through Sunday:
1. Spain – 83.7
2. Czech Republic – 93.9
3. Lithuania – 94.6
4. Croatia – 96.8
5. Latvia – 99.7

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 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.