Posts Tagged ‘Team USA’

Notes from USA 89, LTU 74

The combination of Durant and Iguodala got it done on both ends for the U.S. (Garrett Ellwood/NBA/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL – The United States is one win away from winning its first World Championship since 1994. The U.S. advanced to Sunday’s gold medal game (2:30 ET, ESPN) with a 89-74 win over Lithuania in the semifinals on Saturday.

Kevin Durant was the story offensively, outscoring Lithuania (19-18) through the first quarter and a half and finishing with 38 points (a record for an American player in the World Championship) on 14-for-25 shooting. Durant was on fire from the start, and Lithuania could do nothing to contain him.

Lithuanian coach Kestutis Kemzura: “He was unstoppable today.”

Andre Iguodala: “That was beautiful.”

USA coach Mike Krzyzewski: “When a guy is doing that well, you have to keep getting him the ball.”

Yep, that pretty much sums it up in regards to Durant. Even the Lithuanian fans couldn’t help but appreciate the performance, giving Durant a nice ovation when he left the game late in the fourth.

But the USA defense, led by Iguodala was even more dominant in the first half. They allowed Lithuania to score just 27 points on 39 possessions in the first half. They forced just six turnovers in the first half, but had countless additional deflections.

Iguodala was given the assignment of defending Lithuania’s star forward Linas Kleiza, and you can say that Iguodala earned an ‘A’ with his performance. Kleiza has made a living in this tournament by using his strength to back his defender down and get to the rim. He tried to do that early on, but failed every time.

Here are the results of Kleiza’s first four post-ups.

  • Iguodala strips him and the ball deflects out to Jonas Maciulis, who misses a jumper.
  • Chauncey Billups strips him, with the U.S. recovering the ball.
  • Iguodala strips him, with the U.S. recovering the ball.
  • Iguodala strips him, with the U.S. recovering the ball.

After that, Kleiza started settling for jumpers. He finished with as many turnovers (four) as points, making just one of his 11 shots from the field. Iguodala obviously wasn’t the player of the game, but he deserves a lot of credit for the win.

“[Kleiza] is the heart and soul of their offense, and he took him out of the game,” Rudy Gay said afterward.

Lamar Odom also had one of his best games with this team, recording a double-double (13 points and 10 boards), adding three blocks. Krzyzewski called Odom “an unsung hero” after the game, noting that the Lakers forward has adjusted to playing center, “especially defensively.”

Lithuania stayed in the game in the second half with some timely threes and a zone that the U.S. had a hard time scoring against, but Durant just kept going and hit the dagger, a long, left-wing three that gave the U.S. an 18-point lead with 3:52 left.

  • With Krzyzewski choosing to go with more shooting against the zone, starting point guard Derrick Rose played just 12:03. Rose has had some success in the past penetrating the zone, but his first couple of drives on Saturday were a little out of control. He missed all four shots he took.
  • Even with more shooting on the floor, the U.S. shot just 8-for-25 (32 percent) from 3-point range.
  • Final numbers… USA: 89 points on 79 possessions (113 per 100). Lithuania: 74 points on 79 possessions (94 per 100).

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

USA-Lithuania Preview

Kleiza and the Lithuanians will be a true test for the U.S. (Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty Images)

ISTANBUL — The United States is two nights and two wins from a gold medal at the 2010 FIBA World Championship. But neither of those two wins will come easy. And if it’s not at its best on both Saturday and Sunday, the U.S. will fail to accomplish their goal.

The level of competition takes another step up in the semifinals on Saturday, when the U.S. will meet 7-0 Lithuania.

Lithuania has perhaps been the second best country in international competition since NBA players began participating in 1992. They’ve finished in the top four of every Olympics (with three bronze medals) since then. They haven’t has as much success at the World Championship, but this is a country with a lot of basketball tradition.

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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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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 USA 92, TUN 57

ISTANBUL – The U.S. National Team wrapped up pool play with an easy 92-57 win over Tunisia that meant nothing as far as the Group B standings or round-of-16 seeding was concerned.

I’ll have an overview of pool play across all four groups and a lookahead to the round of 16 later on today. For now, here are a few notes on today’s first game at the Abdi Ipekci Arena.

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This was not this team’s best day. In fact, the first half, which the U.S. won by just six points, was embarrassing.

Of course, it wasn’t as bad as the scoreboard told it, because the pace of that first half was so unbearably slow. Each team had just 33 possessions in the first half. Part of that was due to the number of offensive rebounds each team had (15 total if you count team offensive boards), but it was still an ugly half no matter how you slice it.

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Speaking of offensive boards, that was the U.S. Team’s biggest problem this afternoon. Tunisia grabbed 20 of its own misses. Add five more defensive boards that the U.S. was unable to secure (counted as team offensive rebounds for Tunisia) and you have 25 second opportunities for the underdog.

Defensive rebounding hasn’t been a big issue for the U.S. through its first four games (Brazil had zero second-chance points in Monday’s thriller), but Tunisia was arguably the its first opponent that really went after offensive boards.

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Rudy Gay suffered a slightly strained groin (right side) in the first half, slipping one of the decals in the middle of the floor and did not play in the second half.

Gay talked of the injury like it was minor and said that he’ll be fine by Monday, when the U.S. will play Angola in the round of 16.

“It’s nothing too much,” Gay said. “I’ve been through stuff like this before and I know how to get better.”

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Eric Gordon was the leading scorer with 21 points on 7-of-10 shooting (4-for-7 from 3-point range). He also was aggressive defending the ball, picking up three steals.

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I know it’s hard to be critical of Kevin Love with the per-minute production he’s had, but he’s too quick to shoot threes when he’s on the floor. Mike Krzyzewski has given him the green light to shoot from out there, but that doesn’t mean he should be taking every one the defense gives him, especially when it’s early in the shot clock.

Of course, he took just one three on Thursday and was 3-for-7 from 3-point range in pool play, so maybe I don’t know what I’m talking about.

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As a team, the U.S. shot 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half and 9-for-16 in the second half.

One of the things the U.S. team needs right now is some practice time. By the time they finally hit the practice floor on Saturday (after a day off Friday), it will have been more than a week since they practiced.

But Krzyzewski took advantage of some extra pre-game time (which comes with playing the first game of the day), and had some personal instruction for Love and Tyson Chandler on the floor about an hour before game time.

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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.

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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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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 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.

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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…

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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.

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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).

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Turkish lesson of the day: Teşekkür ederim = Thank you.

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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 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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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