Day 2 of the FIBA World Championship rolls on, and the groups are finally starting to shake up. Below is a recap of the Thunder and Non-Thunder action.
I expected better from Slovenia, but this game was never really close. The US jumped out to an early lead (largely courtesy of Kevin Durant, who had a couple nice steals and scored 10 points early). Slovenia made a bunch of sloppy passes, couldn't get open on the perimeter, and would consistently get blocked in the post. Slovenia did bring the game to within 6 in the 2nd, but it was mostly because Team USA kept trying to make the game a track meet by running up and down the floor pointlessly.
Still, Slovenia did play some solid defense in realizing that they had to secure the paint. This forced Team USA to take some shots from the outside and led to stagnation offensively. But, eventually, guys like Westbrook found their way through Slovenia's defense, and the game quickly fell out of hand, especially in the second half.
Kevin Durant was easily the MVP for Team USA, scoring exactly when the team needed it in the first and second, and finishing with 22 Points. Westbrook also had a good game with 11 Points, 4 Rebounds, and 2 Assists, while Rudy Gay had 16 Points and 3 Rebounds. On Slovenia's side of things, Lakovic was completely shut down, as was Brezec. This leaves the MVP to Bostjan Nachbar, who scored 13 and had 4 Rebounds.
Below: Germany-Serbia, and 3 Other Games You Might Have Missed!
I didn't get to see this game (Thanks ESPN!), but it was a very important one in Group B, as Germany emerges as a contender for 1st Place in the Group. They managed to hold on to their 5 point lead at the end, despite 4 free throws and a layup near the end that threatened to dethrone them. Heiko Schaffartzik continues to score well for Germany, getting 14 points despiute only shooting 1 of 5 from beyond the Arc. Demond Greene also shot well, scoring 15, and Jan Jagle led the club with 22 Points and 9 rebounds in a very Dirk-like performance. Tibor Pleiss had only 2 Points, but grabbed 7 Rebounds and had 2 Blocks. On Serbia's side of things, former Warrior Kosta Perovic scored 20, and Alexandar Rasic was a capable Point Guard, scoring 15 Points and dishing 4 Assists.
3 Games You Might Have Missed:
After Russia upset Puerto Rico, they've proceeded to get beaten rather handily by Turkey. The game was over by the second quarter, and Russia shot a ghastly 32.1% from the floor. Sasha Kaun was the lone bright spot for them, scoring 13 Points and grabbing 4 rebounds. Meanwhile, 5 players on Turkey scored 9 points or more, with Turkoglu leading all scorers at 14. Greece and Turkey now sit atop Group C with 2 wins each.
Luis Scola and Leonardo Gutierrez did a good job in the paint for Argentina, getting 31 and 17 Points, respectively. And Pablo Prigioni scored 9 Points and had 7 Assists, doing a good job of organizing the offense. But beyond that, Argentina seems to be strugging. Fbricio Oberto didn't play, and Carlos Delfino shot 27% from the field. Australia had the same problem, with Joe Ingles and Patty Mills both scoring over 20 and Matthew Nielsen getting a double double, but everyone else failing to impress. The game shows it, with both team's fortunes extremely dependent on who had the hot hand at any given moment. Australia had a chance to win, only being down by 2 points with 29 seconds to go, but they allowed Argentina to dribble down the clock, get fouled, and go up by 4. All in all, it's a good effort by Australia, but Argentina is still atop group B, with Germany. This leaves the group wide open as to who will win, as Serbia will be getting it's two best players back, and they only have one loss. Heck, Angola only has one loss, and could still potentially win the group.
This has to be the best game that was played today, It was massively entertaining, as both games relied on Warriors and Suns-like guard play to lead them to victory. The game was a see saw affair most of the time, but the Puerto Ricans sometimes gained the upper hand. This would be due to their ability to clog the lane with their ridiculously huge bigs (Peter John Ramos, Peter Sanchez, and Daniel Santiago). This prevented Greece from invading the lane, especially since they were themselves out of their two best bigs (Schortanitis and Fotsis) due to suspensions from the fight. As a result, Greece lived and died on the three. This led to some bad draughts and some good runs, depending on how hot the Greek team was at any given moment. Most of the threes they took were open, but due to their style of rotating it along the perimeter, they had to let guys who weren't the best shooters take shots in dire situations. As for Puerto Rico, their offense started and usually ended with Jose Juan Barea. That guy was all over the floor, weaving in and out of traffic and finding his way to a open mid-range shot or a easy layup a lot of the time. If not that, he was dishing it for easy scores to Ramos or Sanchez.
Eventually, the two teams were separated by only one point with only 2:51 to go. Puerto Rico has the ball and the lead when Peter John Ramos, who had scored 16 for Puerto Rico, is called for his 5th foul on a screen play. Then, Daniel Santiago is called for a off-ball foul at the other end, giving Spanoulis (who had scored 22 for Greece) 2 points at the line, and Greece the lead. After three excellent defensive plays by both teams, Puerto Rico's Peezy is called for a off-ball foul (seeing a pattern here?). This sent Baroussis to the line, where he made 1 of 2. At the other end, Peevy drove into the paint and attempted to score, but failed to get a foul called on him after a hard foul by Baroussis. And this was a hard foul. At one point, Baroussis had his arm wrapped around Peevy's neck. Santron (Puerto Rico's coach) is then called for a technical foul, and Spanoulis nailed 2 free throws, putting Greece up by 4 and giving them the ball. Greece missed a close shot, and then Jose Juan Barea went for a easy, uncontested layup and missed it. Spanoulis then bumped into Sanchez, who was trying to set a screen, and Sanchez was called for a blocking foul. Spanoulis hit both free throws, Puerto Rico missed a three, Barea was called for a foul on the rebound, and that was all she wrote.
Am I saying that there was bad officiating here? Yes. Did it decide the game? No. I'd only really argue the foul that should have been called on the guy defending Peevy. Everything else was fair. And Greece, while they played like what Jim Traber would classify as "sissies", they played a very smart game. On defense, they cleared out and forced Puerto Rico to actually make their shots, while on offense they knew the right way to get fouled. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico's physical game was backfiring, as several players were in foul trouble and hard screens weren't getting by the referees anymore. All in all, Greece deserved to win, but it wasn't the most exciting finish.
It's a big win for Greece, as it means they are now tied for top of the group with Turkey, whom they will have the tools to beat with Fotsis and Schortanitis back in the game. For Puerto Rico, it means big trouble if they want to advance, because they'll have to beat Turkey or China in order to do so.
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