Today was the second day of the Quarter-Finals. While it wasn't as good or as epic as the first day, there will still some interesting results. Russia proved to be more of a challenge than some had expected for Team USA, and Lithuania provided an unexpected beat down on what was thought to be a superior Argentinean team.
The first quarter of the game was an even battle for both teams. It was a high-scoring quarter, but Russia played excellent interior defense, forcing Team USA to shoot it from the outside every single time. Of course, Team USA hit it almost every single time, but it's good strategy, as the game didn't get out of hand, and Russia got a few key turnovers. Kevin Durant was having a great game, being virtually the only US player succeeding in scoring from inside the 3 Point Line. Also, Russia was succeeding in dominating the post and doing drive and kicks to the outside. Tyson Chandler was put in to deal with it towards the end of the quarter.
The second quarter was mostly more of the same. Russia continued to get through the heart of Team USA's defense and hitting the occasional jumper. Team USA, though, had stopped shooting from the outside and started to base their offense on driving to the hoop and getting to the line, due to a change in personnel. Team USA tried to puch the pace, but Russia would block the right shots at the right time, keeping the game level. Russia went on a small run and was up by 5 in the middle of the quarter, but then Team USA went on a 12-2 run at the end of the half, when Russia started missing their outside shots and were getting blocked on the inside. Team USA was up by 5 at the half.
At the beginning of the second half, it started playing like the first. Russia was effectively keeping up, but the deficit remained the same. Then, about halfway through the third, Team USA started pushing the pace, got a few fast break dunks, and went up by 11. David Kahn, the coach of Russia, called a timeout to try to stem the tide, but after Russia made a basket to cut the lead to 9, the floodgates were kept open by the US, helping them to advance to a 15 point lead. The rest of the quarter was mostly equal.
Below: A Fight To the Finish, Lithuania Soundly Trounces Argentina
The US run of luck came to a halt in the fourth quarter, as Russia succeeded in controlling the pace and keeping the game on an even keel, (even if it is a 15 point even keel). Russia had succeeded in reducing the lead to 10 by the end of the game, but Team USA was just too athletic offensively, and it was just too late in the game to mount a serious comeback. Kevin Durant led all scorers with 33 Points and 5 Rebounds, while Russell Westbrook had 12 Points and 3 Steals, albeit on 4 of 11 shooting. Russia's scoring was a lot more even, but Sergei Bykov, Andrey Vorontsevich, and Timofey Mosgov led the way with 17, 14, and 13 Points, respectively. Russia failed to get good production out of Monya and Kaun, who had scored well all tournament, so that may have been their downfall. But they fought Team USA for every single point, so they should be commended. David Kahn also did a great job with his timeouts and plays after dead balls.
Argentina started off the game really badly, unable to get anything going on the inside with Luis Scola. They still had the occasional three or steal for a fast break play, but Lithuania was still having a far better game, because they were able to set picks and get easy drives to the hoop. When it was all said and done, Lithuania had a 10 Point Lead.
The second quarter was all Lithuania. They continued to do triple-team Luis Scola and double-team Carlos Delfino, forcing the Argentinians to rely on peripheral players in order to score, or to rely on a heavily-defended star. This led to many, many missed threes (0 of 9 in the first half) and lots of turnovers. Lithuania, meanwhile, was utilizing the fact that every single person on their team could shoot the three, and just burning up the Argentinean zone defense by getting easy cuts to the basket. Even when Argentina did score, it was always on some sort of amazing trick play that looked like an absolute miracle. By the end of the 2nd, Lithuania was by by 20 (50-30), and this game was looking more like a blowout than anything else.
The third quarter was just the nail in the coffin. Argentina continued somewhat vainly to try to score in the inside, but it only worked about 40% of the time. Lithuania continued to be lights out from three point range, and they continued to get all of the rebounds and hustle plays. Before you knew it, Lithuania was up by 30. The rest of the game was mostly trash. It revolved around a 20 or 30 point deficit, with the Argentinans climbing under 10 late in the 4th when it was all too late for them. Luis Scola only shot 31.2%, and had 13 Points, a tournament low. Carlos Delfino had 25 Points to lead his team. 7 Players scored for Lithuania, and they all scored between 12 and 19. Now THAT'S what I call teamwork. But, in the end, one state glares out at you: 12 of 24 3 Pointers for the Lithuanians, and 4 of 21 for the Argentinians. That's about as lopsided as you can get, and if you don't hit your threes in a FIBA game, then you don't win.
And thus, the Semi-Finals are set.
1. Serbia (Group A) vs. 1. Turkey (Group C)
1. Team USA (Group B) vs. 1. Lithuania (Group D)
Previews to come late tomorrow!
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