Posts Tagged ‘Slovenia’

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.

(more…)

Notes from TUR 95, SLO 68

ISTANBUL — Backed by a home crowd that just won’t stop singing, Turkey continues to roll through this tournament. And at this point, there’s no doubt that they have an excellent chance to win gold on their home floor come Sunday.

To get that chance, they’ll have to beat Serbia on Saturday night. But they should be strong favorites to do so after crushing Slovenia in the quarters, 95-68.

This looked like another one of those all-offense games early on, with each team getting off to a hot start. But Turkey stayed hot while holding Slovenia scoreless on its last seven possessions of the first quarter. The resulting 10-0 run gave them a 13-point lead heading into the second, and they had yet to use their vaunted 2-1-2 zone defense.

They finally went to the zone midway through the second quarter, with a big frontline of Kerem Gonlum (6-foot-10), Oguz Savas (6-foot-10) and Semih Erden (6-foot-11).

And that was nothing, because a couple of possessions later, they brought in Hedo Turkoglu to play shooting guard. So, with Ender Arslan at the point, they had a lineup that looked like this: 6-3, 6-10, 6-10, 6-10, 6-11.

That is HUGE. And all of those guys, with the exception of Savas, move well. The big Turkey zone was not used all that much on Wednesday, but it can be a dangerous defensive weapon in the final rounds of this tournament.

(more…)

Notes from Turkey 95, France 77

Hedo appreciates the love from the home crowd. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — This one went pretty much as expected. France kept it close for most of the first quarter, but Turkey pulled away in the second and cruised to 95-77 victory that puts them in the quarterfinals against Slovenia on Wednesday.

Turkey was the No. 1 defense in pool play (allowing just 81.1 points per 100 possessions), but it was their offense that was far more dominant on Sunday. France had one of the better defenses in pool play as well (eighth, 97.4 per 100), and they just couldn’t stop Turkey in this game.

The Turkish offense really hit its stride in the second quarter, and at one point in the third, Turkey had scored on 13 of its last 14 possessions. That was a 30-10 run that made this one a laugher.

Hedo Turkoglu shot the ball well (prompting a “Hedo is on FIRE!” call from the PA announcer after back-to-back threes to start the third) and led Turkey with 20 points. Sinan Guler came off the bench and blew by the French defense to the tune of 17 points on 8-for-10 shooting.

Turkey had a +29.8 point differential per 100 possessions in pool play, which put them just slightly behind the U.S. (+30.9) as the most dominant team in the tournament. They’ve got their (very loud) home crowd behind them for every game and it is no stretch to believe they can win gold. If they beat Slovenia on Wednesday, they would face the Serbia-Spain winner in the semifinals on Saturday.

Here are a few more notes from this one…

(more…)

Notes from Slovenia 87, Australia 58

Nachbar didn't play a big role in this game, but he was ecstatic with the result. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — This should have been one of the better matchups in the round of 16, but it was a totally one-sided affair. Slovenia cruised to a 87-58 victory to reach the quarterfinals.

Australia had the sixth best defense in pool play, but they were just average offensively. And on Sunday, they were just awful. They failed to score on their first 10 possessions of the game and had just 21 points on 34 possessions in the first half.

Slovenia really opened up the game with a barrage of threes early in the second quarter. They were 6-for-10 from downtown in the period and had a 42-21 lead at halftime without Bostjan Nachbar scoring a single point.

Australia’s offense finally showed up in the third quarter (24 points on 19 possessions), but they just couldn’t get any stops. Slovenia hit five more threes in the third to put the game away.

Before pool play began, Nachbar told me that his team’s goal for this tournament was to make the top eight. Well, they’ve done that, and they won’t necessarily stop there. Slovenia is 5-1 at the World Championship with an impressive win over Brazil, and with their only loss coming at the hands of the U.S.

After Sunday’s game, Nachbar said that the goals and expectations haven’t changed, no matter how well his team has played. And the win over Australia gave the Slovenians somewhat of a championship feeling.

“We’re going to play more relaxed now,” he said. “We’ve achieved our goal. You have to realize this is our biggest success in our basketball history. To make the top eight in the world is amazing.”

Some more notes…

  • For the game, Slovenia was 16-for-33 from 3-point range. They shot just 33 percent (15th among the 24 teams) from downtown in pool play.
  • Slovenia’s Uros Slokar aggravated a sprained left ankle that he suffered in pool play. He limped off floor with 5:22 left in the third quarter and did not return.
  • Patty Mills had his usual burst of speed for Australia and got to the rim pretty easily on a couple of occasions, but he shot just 1-for-7 from 3-point range, finishing with 13 points and three assists.
  • Raptor center David Andersen shot poorly (2-for-7) as well.

Slovenia will play the winner of the France-Turkey game.

***

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 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.

***

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.

***

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.

Big Shake-Ups on Day 4 in Turkey

ISTANBUL — Tuesday was a day off in Groups A and B at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. For the U.S., it was a true day off, as coach Mike Krzyzewski canceled practice after three straight days of games. So it was a day for sleeping late, relaxing by the pool and getting some laundry done.

In Ankara and Izmir, however, big things were going down as the two nightcaps in Groups C and D have truly shaken up the tournament.

In Group C, Turkey defeated Greece behind a huge game (26 points, 6-for-6 from 3-point range) from Bucks forward Ersan Ilyasova. The win gives Turkey the inside track to finish first in the group, with Greece likely to finish second.

In Group D, Lithuania came back from 11 down at the end of the third quarter to shock Spain, with the Raptors’ Linas Kleiza getting the go-ahead bucket in the final minute and Marc Gasol missing two critical free throws on the next possession. Spain is now 1-2, and with both of the teams they lost to a 3-0, they can finish no better than third in Group D.

Check out the replay of Spain-Lithuania at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday on NBA TV.

Spain has Lebanon (Wednesday) and Canada (Thursday) left on their schedule, so they are very likely to finish third.

In the round of 16, the third-place team in Group D plays the second-place team in Group C, which is likely to be Greece. And who would the winner of that game play?

If the U.S. wins its first elimination game, it would be them.

So we are looking at the very distinct possibility of Greece, Spain and the United States — the three favorites to win this tournament before it began — all being in the same quarter of the bracket, with two of the three being eliminated before the semifinals.

Buckle your seat belts.

***

Who would be on the other side of the bracket, with an easier road to a medal? Argentina (A1, unless they lose to Serbia on Thursday), Brazil (B2, unless they lose to Slovenia on Wednesday), Turkey (C1, unless they lose to both Puerto Rico and China) and the loser of Wednesday’s France-Lithuania game (D2).

But imagine that Serbia beats Argentina and Australia in the next two days, while Slovenia beats Brazil on Wednesday. Then Argentina and Brazil would be on the Greece/Spain/USA half of the bracket too.

Also on that half will be the winner of the France-Lithuania game.

***

The U.S. takes on Iran on Wednesday at noon ET on ESPN. There is some political significance to this game, because the two countries have never faced each other in basketball court. But there won’t be much to it from a basketball standpoint. Iran will be completely overmatched in terms of both size and talent.

It is a chance to see Grizzlies center Hamed Haddadi play something other than NBA garbage time. Haddadi is averaging 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks through Iran’s first three games. He’s even shooting 33 percent (4-for-12) from 3-point range.

***

The big game in Group B will be Brazil-Slovenia, which you can watch live on NBA TV at 2:30 ET. That one’s essentially for second place in the group and the chance to play on the more open side of the bracket.

***

Turkish lesson of the day: Doğum günün kutlu olsun = Happy birthday!

***

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 3

ISTANBUL — With Monday’s 70-68 escape over Brazil, the U.S. is done with the (relatively) difficult portion of their pool play schedule.

It was a tale of two halves tonight. Here’s the analysis and here are the highlights from FIBA.

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.

And Iran survived a furious comeback by Tunisia to win the de-facto fifth-place game.

In Group A, things went according to plan: Serbia over Jordan, Australia over Germany, and Argentina over Angola, by an average of 33 points.

***

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.

***

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 2

Hooked on Love. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — Day 2 of the World Championship is in the books. The U.S. had a bit of a rough stretch between the first and second quarters against Slovenia, but they recovered well for another win by 20-plus.

That ugly stretch and the travel calls, specifically, were the focus of today’s post-game analysis.

As you’ll read there, Boki Nachbar thought that there weren’t enough of those travel calls made against the U.S. on Sunday. And from all the whistles I heard, I’d say that the Slovenian fans in the crowd agreed with him.

I was actually asking Boki about the refs calling the game loose, because it seemed to me that the U.S. was allowed to push the Slovenians around a bit defensively (even more contact than you regularly see in FIBA ball). But here was his full response…

“The one thing that bothers me is too many times the refs looked away when they traveled. This is FIBA basketball. In FIBA basketball, you’re not allowed to take two steps before you put the ball down. And too many times, the refs don’t call that when Team USA’s on the floor. That’s the only thing that I have to say. Otherwise, they were good.”

***

Kevin Love is beastly. He’s now got 21 boards in 26:38 of playing time over the last two days. That’s 31.5 rebounds per 40 minutes. Not bad.

“That’s what I do,” he says. “That’s how I make my money.”

He admits, though, that his role is a little different than it is back in Minnesota.

“Playing with all these guys, they definitely open up the floor. I know that if I’m going to stay in the game and play minutes, I have to get out there and get every rebound. That’s kind of what coach tells me. Right before I go in the game, he says ‘get me every rebound.'”

And coach Mike Krzyzewski will probably be telling him that a little earlier in the game on Monday.

***

Things continue to go as planned in Group B, with Croatia beating Iran and Brazil cruising past Tunisia. This group will start to get interesting on Monday.

And Nachbar admitted today that his team is focused on its next two games.

“That wasn’t the most important game in the tournament for us, so we’re not too worried or concerned,” he said after Sunday’s loss to the U.S. “Croatia and Brazil are the most important games. They’re our rivals for the second spot in the group, so those are the most important games for us.”

Slovenia plays Croatia in the first game on Monday.

***

For now, the other groups are where the fun is at.

Group D almost had another shocker, as Canada led Lithuania by 17 points midway through the third quarter before blowing the lead missing on three chances to win or tie in the final minute-plus. The win keeps Lithuania tied with France atop the group.

Puerto Rico put another scare into Greece in Group C, but it was Group A that had the two most thrilling games.

Germany upset Serbia 82-81 in double-OT with the Germans’ final points coming on a ridiculous shot by Jan Jagla and Milenko Tepic missing on a drive that could have won it for Serbia in the final seconds.

So I guess Serbia won’t completely withstand the suspensions of Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic after all.

And in the nightcap in Kayseri, Argentina used a 13-0 fourth-quarter run to come back and beat Australia, but not before they came a hair away from blowing it in the final seconds.

Argentina was inbounding the ball with a two-point lead and 3.5 seconds on the clock, but they threw the inbounds pass away without it touching anyone. Australia then inbounded the ball into the corner, and Adam Gibson’s three went in … and out.

So at 2-0, Argentina is the only team in the World Championship that sits alone atop its group’s standings.

***

The U.S. will conclude their three games in three days with Monday’s matchup vs. Brazil (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN). Brazil has beaten Iran and Tunisia by almost identical scores (81-65 and 80-65), the only team in the tournament, other than the U.S. to have won two games by 15 points or more.

Essentially, this game is for first place in Group B. If the U.S. wins, they’re on their way to a 5-0 mark. And if Brazil wins, they’re not likely to lose two more, and would have the tie-breaker against the U.S. should both teams finish 4-1.

Anderson Varejao, still nursing a sore ankle, has sat out the first two games. But the word from the Brazilian media is that he will play against the U.S., and maybe against Slovenia on Wednesday if his team needs him.

Monday will be an opportunity for American fans to get a good look at Tiago Splitter, who will be playing with the San Antonio Spurs next season.

***

If the U.S. beats Brazil, then we can start looking ahead to their possible round-of-16 matchups and what other teams will be on their side of the bracket, because neither Iran or Tunisia will have a chance against them.

***

Turkish lesson of the day: İyi günler! = Have a nice day!

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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).

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.