Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Slovenia Snags Final Quarterfinal Spot

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

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

Slovenia 67, Finland 60 (Box Score)

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

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

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

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Macedonia Does It Again At EuroBasket

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

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

Macedonia 65, Georgia 63 (Box Score)

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

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

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

Russia 79, Finland 60 (Box Score)

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

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

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

Greece 69, Slovenia 60 (Box Score)

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

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

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

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

USA-Russia: Halftime Notes

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

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

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

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Notes from RUS 78, NZL 56

ISTANBUL — As expected, Russia will be the team the U.S. faces in the quarterfinals of the 2010 FIBA World Championship. It wasn’t pretty, but they took care of business with a 78-56 win over New Zealand in Monday’s nightcap at the Sinan Erdem Dome.

Russia is now 5-1 with a very tough defense, and will be a much tougher test for the U.S. than Angola was.

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Notes From FIBA Day 5

ISTANBUL — Day 5 at the 2010 FIBA World Championship brought some key games, but USA-Iran was not one of them. As expected, the U.S. rolled to an easy win.

Did they accomplish anything other than clinching first place in Group B? I tried to answer that question in the postgame analysis.

Check out the quote near the bottom from Andre Iguodala about defensive communication. They’ll definitely need it against the teams that execute well offensively like Brazil did in the first half on Monday.

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Jerry Colangelo mentioned after tonight’s game that the team had a great meeting in the morning. I don’t know the details, but here’s what Iguodala had to say about it…

“Coach K does a great job of motivating his teams. He showed us the difference between the games we played against Croatia and Slovenia versus the game we played against Brazil.”

And there’s little doubt that the staff made the players aware of the likelihood that they’ll face Greece or Spain in the quarterfinals, because both Iguodala and Rudy Gay admitted to knowing about the scenario that has been playing out in Groups C and D.

“Whether you play them in the first round or the gold medal round, you’ve still got to play your best basketball,” Iguodala said. “It just calls us to key in for the early rounds and hopefully, get wins. And it prepares us for the medal rounds.”

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The big game at the Abdi Ipekci Arena today was the nightcap between Brazil and Slovenia. Brazil was clearly the tougher test for the U.S. and it also got Anderson Varejao back for this game, but it was Slovenia that captured second place in Group B with an impressive 80-77 win.

That puts Slovenia on the more wide-open half of the bracket, the one without the U.S. and likely without Spain or Greece. And now Brazil will play Croatia for third place in Group B on Thursday. If Brazil wins that one, they’ll be on the same half of the bracket as the U.S. and play the loser of tomorrow’s Argentina-Serbia game in the round of 16. No matter which of those two teams it is, that would be a must-watch matchup.

That Argentina-Serbia game could be the biggest of the day, and you can watch it on NBA TV at noon ET. The winner will finish first in Group A and be on the easier side of the bracket. The loser will finish second and likely have to play Brazil on Tuesday.

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After their game was over tonight, the U.S. players caught the end of the Angola-Germany game in their locker room. Germany had a four-point lead with 30 seconds to go in regulation, but couldn’t hold on to it. They lost in overtime and were eliminated from qualifying for the round of 16.

Now, Angola will play Australia on Thursday, with the loser finishing fourth in Group A and facing the U.S. in the round of 16. The winner will finish third and face Slovenia.

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I’ve written and tweeted plenty about the possibility of Spain (as D3) and Greece (as C2) facing each other in the round of 16, but it’s no guarantee. In fact, I think I was wrong when I wrote yesterday that Spain can finish no better than third in Group D.

Check out this scenario: If New Zealand beats France and Spain beats Canada on Thursday, then France, New Zealand and Spain would all be tied for second place at 3-2. The first tie-breaker is head-to-head, but all three teams would have one win and one loss against the other two.

The next tie-breaker would be what FIBA calls “goal average,” which is calculated by points scored / points allowed in the two head-to-head games. Here’s where the three teams stand before Thursday’s action.

France = 72/66 = 1.091 goal average (and would go down with a loss to New Zealand)
New Zealand = 84/101 = 0.832 GA (and would go up with a win over France)
Spain = 167/156 = 1.071 GA

So if New Zealand can upset France and take France’s GA below 1.071, Spain could finish second in the group and avoid that game against Greece.

Greece could also avoid it … if they lose to Russia on Thursday. That game is for second place in Group C.

Of course, if Spain finishes second in Group D and Greece finishes third in Group C, they’d still play each other …  on the other half of the bracket.

That’s a lot to think about …  and a lot of games to watch on Thursday.

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Notes from FIBA Day 1

Takeover mode was not needed on this night. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — Game 1 is in the books. After a bit of a slow start, the U.S. took care of business, handing Croatia a 28-point loss. Here’s the post-game analysis, focusing on the 50-15 run that started when Croatia took its only lead of the night.

Interior defense continues to be an issue. And it would help if Tyson Chandler could defend without fouling. He’s now picked up four fouls in each of the last three games. That’s 12 fouls in less than 29 minutes of playing time, or about 17 fouls per 40 minutes.

He told me Friday that foul trouble isn’t much of a concern because he’s not playing big minutes anyway, but he’s still giving guys free trips to the line and allowing the opponent to get in the bonus that much earlier.

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The big run allowed Mike Krzyzewski to empty the bench early in the third quarter. And when you have to play three straight days, it helps when nobody has to play more than 22 minutes on Day 1.

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Early in the second quarter, Kevin Durant followed a filthy dunk (plus one) with a shake-and-bake step-back jumper, and I thought he was going to go into takeover mode right there. But it wasn’t needed. Durant led the U.S. with 11 field goal attempts, but every guy took at least two shots, and only Chandler took less than four.

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First-day action in the other three groups was clearly more interesting than here in Istanbul, where Slovenia handled Tunisia 80-56 and Brazil beat Iran 81-65.

The shocker of the day came in Group D, where France beat Spain in Izmir, 72-66. This looked like the weakest group in the competition, and the assumption was that Spain would go 5-0, putting them on the same side of the medal-round bracket as the U.S. should the Americans win Group B.

If Spain finishes second, now a possibility, they would be on the opposite side of the bracket, with the winners of Groups A and C, possibly facing Argentina in the quarterfinals.

The question is: Is there another team in Group D that can go 5-0? Lithuania is the most likely candidate, but they’re still not as good as Spain. So that will be an interesting matchup when those two teams meet on Tuesday. And if Spain wins, they would still win the group (assuming that France doesn’t go 4-1 too).

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That was the only real upset of the day, but a couple of other teams came close to pulling one off.

China put a scare into Greece, led early in the fourth quarter, and had a chance to go ahead again with less than three minutes to go, but Greece stopped them on five straight possessions to hold on for the win.

Yi Jianlian led China with 26 points, but also a costly turnover down the stretch.

The other near-upset came in Group A, where Jordan led Australia by as many as 11 and was up five with just over a minute left. Australia scored six straight points down the stretch to take the lead and on Jordan’s final possession, Zaid Abbaas missed a bunny of a tip-in before time expired. Australia’s win keeps them in position to finish second or third in the group and likely avoid a matchup with the U.S. in the round of 16.

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Two games on Saturday could really have an impact on the final standings. In Group C, Russia beat Puerto Rico, putting them in the driver’s seat to finish third behind Greece and Turkey. And in Group D, Lebanon beat Canada, really hurting the Canadians’ chances to advance to the medal rounds.

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Next up for the U.S. is Slovenia on Sunday (9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2). It took a while for Slovenia to separate themselves from Tunisia today, but a big third quarter put the game away.

Game time is 4:30 p.m. locally, so it will be interesting to see how much energy the U.S. has in the first few minutes. In their two afternoon exhibition games, they got off to slow starts (at least offensively) against China and France.

On Friday, I caught up with former Rocket/Hornet/Net and class act Boki Nachbar. Here’s his take on his Slovenian team.

“We’ve gradually been getting better as a team the last five or six years. This year, we have some key players missing. We probably have three or four players from the starting five missing. We’re not at full strength compared to last year at the European Championship, when I thought we had a stronger team, at least on paper.”

That team finished fourth at Eurobasket last year and lost by just one point to Greece in the bronze medal game (Nachbar missed a half-court runner at the buzzer). The key component that they’re missing this year is 6-11 center Erazem Lorbek, who led the ’09 team with 16.4 points and 7.4 rebounds per contest.

More Boki: “But as always we’re going to have great fan support. A lot of fans will come from Slovenia, because it’s a short flight. So in a way, we feel like we’re playing at home.”

No kidding. I arrived at the arena for the start of the Slovenia-Tunisia game, and while the building was only half full, 95 percent of that half was dressed in green. And those Slovenians were loud. This will be an away game for the U.S.

Boki, part III: “We want to make our best results so far, as far as the World Championship. We’ve never made the top eight before as a national team, so for us to make the top eight would be a good accomplishment. After that, we’ll see what happens.”

Also missing is from this squad is Beno Udrih (though he didn’t play last year), who quit the team last month because he wasn’t happy with his role. But with Jaka Lakovic and the Suns’ Goran Dragic, Slovenia is still strong at the point guard position.

Lakovic shot 28-for-61 (46 percent) from 3-point range at Eurobasket last year, so the U.S. point guards can’t leave him open. Dragic, we know, likes to make plays off the dribble.

Andre Iguodala will likely get the assignment of guarding Nachbar, Slovenia’s best scorer on the wing who shot 4-for-7 from 3-point range against Tunisia. And keep an eye for Miha Zupan off the bench. He’s the Slovenian Brian Scalabrine.

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Question for any Slovenians out there: Why does the team wear green if the Slovenian flag is white, blue and red? E-mail me.

Turkish lesson of the day: Bu bey/bu hanım, her şeyi ödeyecek = This gentleman/lady will pay for everything.

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More USA Basketball coverage: Analysis | Blog

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

World Championship Eve

ISTANBUL — Day 2 in Turkey. And with Game 1 of the World Championship just 24 hours away, the U.S. National Team had a light, no-contact practice at the Abdi Ipekci Arena. They went over their offense and defense and then got in some shooting.

Rudy Gay: “Today, we really got into detail. We were trying to go over our sets and make sure when we go into the real games that we know what we are doing.”

Croatia should provide a decent test for the U.S. on Saturday (Noon ET, ESPN Classic). They finished sixth at last year’s Eurobasket even though they were missing two of their most talented players, Marko Tomas and Bojan Bogdanovic, a 21 year old draft prospect on the wing.

NBA fans should remember point guards Roko Ukic (85 games with the Raptors and Bucks) and Zoran Planinic (three seasons with the Nets), who can both get into the lane and make plays. Tomas will likely be their top scorer for the tournament, but big man Ante Tomic will be the guy that the U.S. will have to worry most about.

Tomic, who was drafted in the second round by the Jazz in 2008, is 7-foot-2 and has solid offensive skills, but he’s not too strong. A Tomic-Lamar Odom matchup could be fascinating to watch.

Coach Mike Krzyzewski on Croatia: “We have a lot of respect for them. Their guard play is outstanding. Ukic is one of the best international guards and (Marko) Popovic is just a veteran. There size is a concern, they have five guys who were 6-11 or above so we don’t have as big of team. They have a rich tradition and we have a lot of respect for who they are.”

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Need a preview of the World Championship? Here’s a written version and here’s a video version…

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Saturday’s game of the day looks to be the Russia-Puerto Rico matchup in Ankara at 11:30 a.m. ET, which could decide third and fourth place in Group C.

NBA TV will have Greece-China at 9 a.m. ET and France-Spain at 2 p.m. ET. If you’re in the U.S., you can watch every game on ESPN3. Elsewhere, you can watch them at fibatv.com.

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The U.S. team had a three-car police escort to practice today. It wasn’t quite the experience the 2008 team had in Shanghai (when police blocked every entrance to the highway for several miles on the way to the airport), but a three-car escort for practice is still impressive.

Of course, the police escort took the long way to the arena.

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The Anti-Atkins Diet.

After practice, I went with the NBA Entertainment crew for an authentic Turkish family-style lunch, which was terrific.

If you’re on the Atkins diet, Istanbul is not the place for you. The meal started out with big plates of bread (round rolls with seeds) and a variety of sauces and concoctions for you to eat the bread with (see the photo to the right). Great stuff.

And then came the main course, plates of four different types of meat (beef, spicy beef, chicken and pork), served with peppers, rice and fries.

Most of us in the group are passing on dinner tonight, because lunch was so filling.

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Remember the beard-growing contest a few years ago between DeShawn Stevenson and Drew Gooden? I think Rudy Gay and Andre Iguodala are doing something similar, except with the hair on top of their heads. Both are letting it grow out this summer, but I think Rudy is winning.

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In case you missed it yesterday, FIBA handed out suspensions for the Greece-Serbia brawl. Nenad Krstic (Serbia) got three games, while Milos Teodosic (Serbia), Antonis Fotsis (Greece) and Sofoklis Schortsanitis (Greece) got two games each.

Both teams should be able to withstand the suspensions fairly easily. Serbia’s first three games are against Angola, Germany and Jordan, the three weakest teams in Group A. Greece’s first two games are against China and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is tough, but their best players are in the backcourt, so the absences of their two big men shouldn’t hurt too much.

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Turkish lesson of the day: Anlamıyorum = I don’t understand.

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John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. Send him an e-mail or follow him on twitter.

Avery Goes To Russia

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Posted by Sekou Smith

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — If you’re like most of us here at the hideout, the mere mention of the Avery Johnson and trip to Russia sends an electric charge through your body.

Seriously, we love everything about the idea of the New Jersey Nets’ coach making trips to faraway lands where his accent can duel with the accents of the locals in an epic linguistics battle for the ages.

While we haven’t seen any video of the Johnson family’s first trip to Russia, the fine folks at Nets.com have provided us with a photo gallery that allows us to imagine what might have been said by all involved.

Like all great personalities, Johnson doesn’t really have to say anything to get us going. Just having him in the room and anticipating what he might say is enough to fire us up. He doesn’t really have to say anything in particular. And when he’s in red-light mode (the camera’s on), there’s nothing better.

Just watch the video above and check out that Hollywood look he shoots back and forth at the camera and Chris Carrino at the start of the interview. Priceless.

We don’t often pick out games we want to watch because of the coaches involved, but Johnson on the sideline = Must See TV!

We will be tuning in this year whenever we get the chance.

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