Vlado Ilievski‘s 3-pointer (off an assist from Bo McCalebb) with 11 seconds left pushed Macedonia ahead and they held on to pull off one of the most shocking upsets in EuroBasket history, knocking off host nation Lithuania before a raucous crowd in a hostile environment. Ilievski (12 points) and McCalebb (23 points) had plenty of company in the heroes corner in the Macedonia locker room after the game. Vojdan Stojanovski who didn’t miss a single shot, he was 5-for-5 from beyond the 3-point line, finishing with 15 points.
“This is a huge win for us. We are very happy,” Stojanovksi said. “I think we played very well and we deserved this win. I have to thank our playmakers because they put me in a position to have open shots. I was confident of making them. Spain will be a tough team but we have proved that we can beat good teams in this tournament.”
Serbia needed this win to secure their ticket to the quarterfinals and to keep their Olympic hopes alive. They also needed an Ersan Ilyasova miss in the final seconds to escape Turkey in a thriller that went down the final tense moments for both teams. It helped that Milos Tedosic finally returned to form, finishing with a game-high 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
This loss is a wicked blow for Turkey, the runner-up (to the U.S. team) at last summer’s World Championships on their home soil. ”We are very sad,” said Turkey coach Orhun Ene. ”We were second at the last World Championship and we had big expectations for this tournament. We didn’t show our potential throughout the tournament. We promised the Turkish people that we would try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, but we lost too many games. This was our last chance and we lost the game in only one possession.”
They won’t have to search hard to find reasons why didn’t succeed. Making just 55 percent (16-for-29) of your free throws in a game decided by the thinnest of margins is certainly a recipe for disaster. Remember, they made a paltry 45 percent (10-for-22) of their free throws Friday in a six-point loss to Germany. Serbia shot an impressive 81 percent (13-for-16) from the free throw line and also grabbed three more rebounds (38-35) than Turkey.
“This was very tough. Everybody was under pressure as the winner would go to the quarterfinals,” said Serbia’s coach, Dusan Ivkovic. “We controlled the game in the first half but our concentration went down in the second half. We led the game for almost 40 minutes only to allow Turkey to have the last shot. We deserved this victory because we were better on the night.”
The top spot in Group E belongs to the defending champions, courtesy of their win over a France team that played without both Tony Parker and Joakim Noah (both given a day of rest). Without two of their biggest stars, France struggled to keep the game close after halftime. Spain used a 27-4 run in the third quarter to blow the game open and then cruised to the finish. The loss ended France’s seven-game win streak.
The difference in approach to this game was interesting, with France easing up and Spain going all out. ”It was a weird game but we wanted to respect our opponent as well as other teams who are playing in this tournament to define the final positions and especially for ourselves, we believe there is nothing better than a good game to improve and get better,” said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo. ”This was our motivation. Everybody gave something. We get to the point with the do-or-die competition starts. We know we start from zero but it’s better to get there in the right way.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The three matchups in Group E action Friday at EuroBasket 2011 did not disappoint. Defending champion Spain flexed its muscle yet again, Germany bowed up to the challenge against Turkey and France and Lithuania delivered on the promise of an absolute thriller.
On top of that, spots in the quarterfinals were clinched in the process …
Any questions about Pau Gasol‘s complete recovery from his struggles during the NBA playoffs should be clear to anyone watching him in this competition. He joined his younger brother Marc Gasol in punishing Serbia from start to finish as Spain secured its ticket to the quarterfinals in a runaway. Pau finished with 26 points, 15 in the first half, while Marc countered with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
While this wasn’t necessarily a rematch of the 2009 gold medal game, won going away by Spain, it was a reminder for Serbia and every other team in this competition just how powerful Spain can be when they have two healthy Gasols and our main man “TheStockbroker,” Juan Carlos Navarro, clicking along with the rest of a deep and talented roster. Navarro finished with 14 points.
Serbia knocked off Spain in the quarterfinals at last year’s World Championships in Turkey, when Pau Gasol was out injured. It wasn’t even close this time around. ”We played a great game for 40 minutes,” Spain point guard Jose Calderon said. ”We were concentrated from the start. Everybody was ready to help each other. ”We all wanted to stop (Serbia point guard Milos) Teodosic and we did that. It was a great victory. We have to be proud of holding a great team like Serbia to 59 points, but we have to continue to work hard because we have more games to play.”
Two of Spain’s other NBA players, Calderon and Rudy Fernandez, joined the Gasols and Navarro in the starting lineup. Calderon played a turnover-free 20 minutes and finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists. Fernandez showed off his versatility, with five rebounds, three assists two steals and the play of the game, a wicked first-quarter block of a Milan Macvan layup.
The hero’s cape is usually reserved for Dirk Nowitzki and he did his part, draining four straight free throws to seal this huge, stay-alive win for Germany. But he had company in the fourth quarter of this one. Philipp Schwethelm did his damage from distance, scoring 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge 3-pointers.
The win sends Germany into Sunday’s showdown with Lithuania with a chance to advance to the elite eight of this competition, with another gutsy, comeback effort like this one. “We played our worst first half of the summer but we only trailed by a few points at the break,” Schwethelm said. ”In the second half we made big shots and we won.”
Chris Kaman had 20 points and seven rebounds to power Germany inside against a formidable group of big men at work for Turkey. Nowitzki dealt with foul trouble throughout the game but still managed to score 19 points.
Omer Asik and Enes Kanter are the two big men from Turkey we were talking about. And they were rugged in this game. Asik finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while managed 11 points and three rebounds. They still have a showdown with Serbia on tap this weekend, a game they’ll need their bigs to dominate if they want to win. And Sunday’s game against Serbia is a must-win if Turkey wants into the quarterfinals (they also need Germany to lose
The best way to avoid the drama of the complex tiebreaker system to advance to the quarterfinals is to stay perfect, which is exactly what France did by outlasting Lithuania before a hostile, host-nation crowd at Vilnius Arena. We haven’t mentioned him before now, but Nando De Colo (you’ve got to love that name) was spectacular. He led France with 21 points, five steals and four rebounds. He scored 13 of his points in the fourth quarter to help seal the deal.
Tony Parker came through with another solid effort, scoring 19 points. Joakim Noah‘s work on the glass (game-high 13, six offensive), though, was particularly crucial in such a hostile environment. Noah will have his hands full Sunday when France takes on Spain and the Gasol brothers, so it’s probably a good thing that he is cranking it up now.
With their quarterfinals slot already locked down, Friday’s game was yet another opportunity for France to prove their mettle. “For us, this is our biggest performance in Lithuania,” France coach Vincent Collet said. ”To do it in Vilnius, in front of this crowd means that we are a real team. Nando made very big shots that helped us get back in front.”
After riding a red-hot 3-point shooting performance to victory over Serbia in their last game, when they shot 11-for-20 from distance, Lithuania’s shooters came back to earth against France. They made just seven of their 23 attempts from that range Friday. If not for solid outings from Simas Jasaitis (13 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (12 points), this one might not have stayed as tight as it did down the stretch.
*** The six teams in Group F will back on the court Saturday, starting with Georgia-Finald, F.Y.R. Macedonia-Slovenia and finishing up with Greece-Russia. ***
You probably know the words to this song by now. Spain wins with huge efforts from both Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. The defending champions have been doing it like this for a while now and certainly since this EuroBasket competition began. Marc scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed five rebounds while Pau rang up 19 and seven against Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. Nowitzki matched Pau’s 19 and 7 and Kaman chipped in with 15 and 12.
The difference? Spain has the “Stockbroker” — HT‘s main man Juan Carlos Navarro — on its side. Navarro came up with 14 huge points and helped keep Spain in front from start to finish in this second-round opener for both teams.
That said, a three-point game (68-65) late was decided by the Gasols, who combined for Spain’s final nine points. Ricky Rubio added a clutch steal late to end the threat from a Germany team that hung tough the entire game. Spain never could blow this game open, the way they had several others during the preliminary round.
Rubio finished with five rebounds and four steals in 21 turnover free minutes. His ability to wreak havoc in the passing lanes on the defensive end is impressive. And he rebounds well enough for a player his size. He’s just not a serious scoring threat at this stage of his career, not against foes of the ilk he will find in competitions such as this one and most certainly against the superstar point guards he will see in his rookie season in the NBA.
We didn’t hear much bellyaching about Tony Parker being HT’s MVP of group play and his performance against Turkey today is a perfect example of why. Parker simply changes games in his team’s favor in this competition. And he does over and over again. He got hot hat after halftime, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the third quarter, to crank up his crew. Parker’s free throws in the final seconds, after a crucial five-second call on Turkey on an inbounds play, provided the winning margin.
Not all the news was good for France. They’ll have to work without Mickael Gelabale in Friday’s tilt with Lithuania, per coach Vincent Collet. Gelabale sprained an ankle and was lost for the game. That’s a huge blow for France. Gelabale has been one of their most consistent perimeter players in the competition.
When Turkey turned to their 2-3 zone late in the third quarter to try to slow Parker and France down, it worked to perfection. That defensive tweak allowed Turkey to get back into the game. They battled back from a 13-point deficit to within a point in the final seconds. Without a consistent 3-point shooting threat on the floor, France struggles to operate. That 4-for-17 shooting from beyond the 3-point line accentuated an ugly shooting performance (35 percent) overall. ”We relaxed a little bit and they put the zone and we couldn’t make a shots,” Collet said. ”We were scared as the game continued after we missed seven or eight open shots.”
Nicolas Batum continued his steady offensive showing in this game, scoring 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting. With Gelabale out Friday his role should expand. They’ll need him to be much more active on the glass as things progress.
The host nation team worked Serbia from both sides, the old and the new, in a rousing win to cap Wednesday’s action. Sarunas Jasikevicius, 35, showed off his playmaking skills, finishing with 14 points and seven assists, while 19-year-old big man Jonas Valanciunas was dominant, making eight of his nine shots from the floor and finishing with 18 points. Valanciunas has been a revelation for us here at the hideout. Aside from his pre-Draft hype, the Raptors’ pick was pretty much a mystery around here. But he’s shown himself to be much more prospect than project and Raptors fans have to like what they’ve seen out of the young big man.
Lithuania’s bench production was the key to this game. Valanciunas and Jasikevicius were the keys to the attack as the Lithuania reserves outscored Serbia’s subs 47-19. Valanciunas was particularly effective battling down low with the 3-point shots falling early (Lithuania nailed seven of their 10 attempts from distance before halftime).
There is no question the energy provided by the home crowd makes a difference. While Serbia tried to keep pace, it was clear that Lithuania played with an extra energy boost their competitors struggled to match. ”I think the game was hard,” Valanciunas said. ”We played hard for all four quarters. I thank the fans because they put on a great atmosphere. It felt as though we were playing with six players. We shot very well from three-point range, especially in the first half.”
It’s hard to believe it took this long for it to happen, but Lithuania is the first team to reach the 100-point barrier in this competition, starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis led the way with 19 points. But with the firepower this team possesses, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Valanciunas was the MVP of this summer’s 19-under World Championships while Jasikevicius was the MVP of 2003.
ISTANBUL — If you were just looking for a little competitive basketball to tide you over until the NBA and European seasons begin, the 2010 FIBA World Championship more than delivered. We had late-game drama, brilliant individual performances, beautiful teamwork, and great basketball through and through.
Best of all, we had a gold medal game that put a young and small American team against a huge Turkey squad and their 15,000 ridiculously loud fans.
And the U.S. National Team answered all the questions with an impressive 81-64 victory over the hosts, who may have run out of gas after Saturday’s ridiculously thrilling victory over Serbia.
All the credit goes to Mike Krzyzewski and his team though. As I wrote in my story, the effort on defense and on the boards was incredible. This was for the gold medal and those guys came with more energy than they’d had in any of their previous eight games.
Heading into the game, there were probably some worries that Kevin Durant, after scoring 71 points on 25-for-44 shooting over the last two games, might have an off night. But KD carried them offensively once again, earning that MVP trophy that he was ready to concede to Luis Scola a few days ago.
Lamar Odom also had another big game in a big spot, recording his second straight double-double. And Russell Westbrook brought ridiculous energy and athleticism. Westbrook was thought to be on the roster bubble a few times in training camp, but he turned out to be the guy that best represented the identity of this team: fast, athletic and aggressive defensively.
Turkey was a fantastic host. Though it would have been nice to visit one of the other three pool play cities, I was happy to spend my 2 1/2 weeks in Istanbul, a beautiful city with much to see and do. The traffic sucked (I joked with some people that Istanbul’s top export is exhaust fumes), but every other aspect of the trip was fantastic.
Well, except for the untimely death of my laptop on Sunday morning, causing me much frustration. Fortunately, I was able to borrow a computer to write my story and post this blog. But unfortunately, I wasn’t able to accompany this text with some photos from my trip, because they were lost in the crash.
As beautiful as the sights of Istanbul are, it was equally enjoyable for me, as a basketball nut, to witness the atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Arena for every game that Turkey played. The reaction of the crowd to Kerem Tunceri’s game-winning layup on Saturday is something I’ll never forget. And I honestly got chills every time “12 Giant Men” or the Turkish national anthem was sung by the 15,000 strong.
Lithuania Wins Bronze
Before the USA-Turkey finale, Lithuania beat Serbia, 99-88 to capture the bronze medal.
The key sequence came in the second quarter, when Lithuania used a 14-4 run to turn a three-point lead into a 13-point cushion. The run included four straight three-point possessions and two straight threes from Linas Kleiza.
After Andre Iguodala shut him down on Saturday, Kleiza broke out for 33 points on Sunday, including 12 in that pivotal second quarter. Nenad Krstic struggled for Serbia, finishing with just five points on 2-for-7 from the field.
Lithuania came here with a young team, and they definitely overachieved, going 8-1, with their only loss coming at the hands of the U.S. They will host next year’s European Championship, certainly taking some momentum from this tournament into that one.
Argentina Takes Fifth
In the afternoon, Argentina outlasted Spain, 86-81 to finish fifth. Spain came all the way back from being down 25 in the middle of the third quarter to tie the game with two minutes left in the fourth. But they missed on a couple of opportunities to take the lead and scored just one point in their final five possessions.
Pablo Prigioni hit the dagger for Argentina, who was led by 27 points from Carlos Delfino and 22 from Scola. Rudy Fernandez led all scorers with 31 points on 11-for-13 shooting.
Kevin Durant (USA), Linas Kleiza (LTU), Luis Scola (ARG), Milos Teodosic (SER), Hedo Turkoglu (TUR)
So, Elveda (I think and hope that means “goodbye”) from Istanbul. It’s been a great trip and I hope to be back here again sometime down the line. If you’ve got any questions or comments, please send an e-mail via the link below.
The home crowd has carried Turkey to the gold medal game. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL – The games in this tournament just keep getting better and better. This one was another classic, with Turkey pulling out an amazing 83-82 victory over Serbia to reach the gold medal game.
That sets up the matchup that many have been waiting for: USA vs. Turkey for the gold on Sunday (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). The atmosphere inside the Sinan Erdem Dome will be absolutely insane, as it was in the closing moments of this one.
Serbia was ahead most of the night, with Turkey cooling off after shooting 67 percent in Wednesday’s win over Slovenia. When Turkey tied the game at 46 early in the third quarter, Milos Teodosic led Serbia on an 8-0 run, which began with a cold-blooded pull-up three when the whistles were at their loudest.
Turkey climbed back to within two early in the fourth, but Serbia answered again and was up eight (72-64) with five and a half minutes to go after another Teodosic pull-up three.
That’s when Turkey scored 14 points in five possessions, with Kerem Tunceri putting them ahead with a pull-up three that nearly blew the roof off the arena.
Serbia then answered again, and Marko Keselj put them ahead by grabbing an incredible offensive rebound and hitting a pair of free throws with 28.7 seconds left. But on the other end, Serbia gave Tunceri a wide-open lane and his drive-and-dish to Semih Erden gave Turkey a one-point lead and fouled Nenad Krstic out of the game. Erden missed the free throw with 16.8 seconds left though.
Then Serbia ran a beautiful play to take the lead. Teodosic ran a pick-and-roll with Novica Velickovic. He hesitated a bit, then drove left and dished to Aleksandar Rasic who was cutting along the baseline. Rasic caught the ball and immediately hit Velickovic on the other side of the basket for a layup that put Serbia up 82-81 with 4.3 seconds left.
After Turkey called timeout, they inbounded the ball to Hedo Turkoglu who appeared to fumble the ball, but it went right to Tunceri on the baseline, who had another open lane to the basket. His layup put Turkey ahead one with 0.5 seconds left.
The clock out when Serbia inbounded the ball in the backcourt, and the whole building celebrated. But the referees ruled that Serbian coach Dusan Ivkovic had called timeout, and they put 0.5 back on the clock.
The timeout gave Serbia the ball at the mid-court line, and they gave themselves a good shot at the win when Dusko Savanovic threw a great lob to Velickovic. But Erden was right there to block Velickovic’s layup at the buzzer.
More than half of Serbia’s shots (29 of 57) came from beyond the arc.
Teodosic finished with 13 points and 11 assists, but made just one of his four shots in the fourth quarter.
Turkoglu led Turkey with 16 points on 6-for-14 from the field, but he didn’t have a single assist. In fact, Turkey assisted on just 10 of its 27 field goals.
Tunceri scored 10 of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, connecting on all four shots he took in the final period.
Turkey almost beat itself by shooting just 20-for-33 (61 percent) from the free throw line.
Speaking of free throws, there was an interesting play/manuever/strategy when new Bulls center Omer Asik was fouled with his team up one and 1:18 left in the fourth. Asik, who was 1-for-3 from the line in the game and 15-for-41 (37 percent) in the tournament, laid down on the ground in pain after the foul, holding his face. Turkey replaced him with point guard Ender Arslan, who was just 4-for-10 from the line in the tournament. Arslan made one of the two freebies.
Late in the fourth quarter, there were reporters (at least I assume they were reporters) waving their arms and whistling in the media section when Serbia was shooting free throws.
Serbia will play Lithuania for the bronze medal on Sunday (noon ET, ESPN Classic).
ISTANBUL – Another classic at the Sinan Erdem Dome.
Milos Teodosic was the hero, pulling up for a loooong three with 3.1 seconds left to win the game for Serbia. Spain, the defending world champions, will not medal here in Istanbul. They will move to the consolation bracket now, with Serbia advancing to Saturday’s semifinals, where they will play the winner of tonight’s Slovenia-Turkey game.
Many will call this an upset, but I don’t really see it that way. Serbia had the most efficient offense in pool play, and through the round of 16, they were the third best team in the tournament statistically (behind the U.S. and Turkey), ranking second offensively and third defensively.
Spain, with as much talent and experience as they have, just hadn’t played that well.
Of course, this game was won by the narrowest of margins. It’s not like Serbia was far and away the better team on Wednesday.
Krstic came up big for Serbia. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL – The elimination rounds at the 2010 FIBA World Championship got off to a wild start Saturday night, as Serbia (who won Group A with a 4-1 record) outlasted Croatia (who finished fourth in Group B with a 2-3 mark) and advanced to the quarterfinals with a 73-72 win. This one had some crazy plays and decisions in the final minute. Here’s how it all went down…
Croatia started out hot, shooting 9-for-14 in the first quarter, but they also earned their early lead on the glass. Five offensive boards in the opening 10 minutes turned into eight second-chance points for Croatia, who scored 27 points on 19 possessions in the first.
It should have been 29 points, but Marko Tomas blew an easy fast-break layup at the buzzer. Perhaps that was a harbinger of things to come, because Croatia went stone cold (4-for-17) in the second period. They scored on just one of their first 10 possessions of the second, as Serbia came back to tie the game at 29.
But Serbia wasn’t much more efficient (the two teams combined to score just 24 points on 34 possessions in the second), and Croatia went into the half with a two-point lead.
With Nenad Krstic carrying most of the load, Serbia took the lead in the third quarter, and they were up seven with three minutes to go in the fourth. But Marko Popovic kept Croatia in the game with a pair of threes.
It became a foul-shooting contest in the final minute with Serbia holding the edge until Marko Tomas stole Aleksandar Rasic‘s inbounds pass with 15 seconds to go. Tomas got the ball to Popovic, who was immediately fouled. He had a chance to give Croatia the lead, but missed the first of the two free throws.
So Serbia had the ball with a tie game and 11.6 seconds left. With Croatia failing to put a defender near the basket, Serbia ran a back-screen for Rasic, who put his team up two with an easy layup.
Up two, Serbia chose to foul (a common decision among European teams), thinking that they’d rather go to overtime than risk losing on a three. Popovic hit both free throws with 5.9 seconds left and Serbia inbounded the ball to Rasic, who raced down court.
Davor Kus lost his balance as he was defending Rasic and fouled the Serb in the paint with one second left. Rasic hit the first and intentionally missed the second to give Serbia a crazy win. He ended up the hero, but was almost the goat.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
The U.S. defense really got turned on with its decision to trap the pick-and-roll at halftime, but it did improve incrementally as the game went on. Check out Brazil’s quarter-by-quarter scoring:
First: 28 points on 19 possessions (147 per 100)
Second: 18 points on 21 possessions (86 per 100)
Third: 13 points on 19 possessions (68 per 100)
Fourth: 9 points on 18 possessions (50 per 100)
Overall, it was a strong defensive game for the U.S. (allowing 88 points per 100 possessions), but it sure wasn’t looking that way at halftime.
Of course, the U.S. had a similar, but not so drastic, fall-off offensively. Total points (both teams) by quarter: 50, 39, 31, 18.
With it being a tight game early on, Mike Krzyzewski‘s first-half rotation was shorter than usual. Then came the second half…
Billups 20:00, Durant 20:00, Iguodala 17:06, Rose 15:34, Odom 15:05, Chandler 4:55, Westbrook 4:47, Gay 2:30, Love 0:03.
That, ladies and gentleman, is a short rotation. Kevin Durant played all but 36 seconds of this game, and he managed to still have enough energy to talk to Kyle Montgomery and Dennis Scott on NBA TV afterward…
Kevin Love was brought in for those final three seconds to secure the game-clinching rebound. He didn’t get the chance, as the ball caromed to the other side of the floor, but he ended up being the only defender near Leandro Barbosa for that final shot. And yes, I got a tweet claiming that Love fouled him.
I didn’t have a good angle.
At one point in the second half, a small group of Americans broke out a “U-S-A” chant. Now, there were not many Brazilians in the arena, but that chant was quickly drowned out by boos and (mostly) whistles. The neutrals in the building were most definitely pulling for the underdog (and/or against the USA).
I quoted Chauncey Billups plenty in today’s analysis, but here’s more postgame wisdom from the veteran leader…
“We can’t worry about how much we win by, or worry about winning in the same fashion that [other U.S. teams won]. That’s all out the window. All we need to do is get wins.”
And on a scare like this being a good thing…
“Particularly really good for the young guys to have a game like this where you know you’re not invincible, and you can be beat on any night.”
In other Group B action today, Slovenia got a big win over Croatia, which sets up a matchup with Brazil on Wednesday to likely determine second place in the group.
Both Group A and Group B take the day off on Tuesday, with Groups C and D getting back on the floor after their day off.
Neither Iran (Wednesday, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN) nor Tunisia (Thursday, 9:30 a.m. ET, ESPN2) will provide much of a test for the U.S. The challenge for this team will be finding a way to get better against inferior opponents and somehow using those games to prepare for the elimination rounds.
Whether they get better or not, the U.S. will win those two games, finish pool play with a 5-0 record and hold the B1 seed for the round of 16. That means they’ll play the fourth place team from Group A on Monday (time TBD).
Right now, that opponent could be one of four teams: Angola, Australia, Germany or Serbia.
Angola is 1-2 after today’s loss to Argentina but can finish at 2-3 and win a tie-breaker over Germany if they beat the Germans on Wednesday.
Australia is 2-1 after their easy win over Germany on Monday. With remaining games against Serbia (Wednesday) and Angola (Thursday), the Boomers should finish no worse than 3-2, but it’s possible that a 3-2 record could put them in a three-way tie for second, third and fourth with Germany and Serbia.
Germany is 1-2, but still has Angola (Wednesday) and Jordan (Thursday) left on its schedule. If they beat Angola, the Germans would likely finish 3-2. Serbia is currently 2-1 in Group A, but still has to play Australia (Wednesday) and Argentina (Thursday), so it could finish 3-2 or 2-3.
The U.S. doesn’t quite know who their opponent will be on Monday, but they’ll have a much better idea after Wednesday’s Angola-Germany and Australia-Serbia games.
To look ahead a little more (at the risk of being called an arrogant American) … In the quarterfinals, the winner of the B1-A4 game plays the winner of C2-D3. C2 will likely be the loser of Tuesday’s Greece-Turkey matchup and D3 could be France or Lithuania.
Turkish lesson of the day: Teşekkür ederim = Thank you.