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FIBA's Final Day: Games to Watch/Open Thread 12.9.10

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The FIBA World Championships will come to a bitter sweet end today. Bitter in that we won't get to see any more basketball until October, but sweet in that we'll get to see Nenad Krstic vie for a Bronze Medal, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook both vie for that ever-elusive gold. If Krstic should manage to get Bronze, the Thunder will have more FIBA medals than any team this year! If that's not reason enough to watch, should Durant and Westbrook win their game, it will be Team USA's first World Championship Medal since 1994. And, should Turkey win, their gold will be their first medal ever, and they will win it in front of 15,000 ecstatic Turkish fans. Hell, even the 5th place game has some intrigue, as the two best Spanish speaking teams in the world, Spain and Argentina, are set to go at it. You'd have to be insane to miss today's action! But, before you rush to the television, take a quick look at the previews below....

5th Place Game:

3. Spain (Group D) vs. 2. Argentina (Group A)

Time: 8:00 AM Central Standard Time

Network: ESPN 3 Only

Analysis/Prediction: These two teams are probably the best equipped in the tournament to take on Team USA, so it's unfortunate that they never went head-to-head. But here, you'll get to see them play for 5th place. Why is 5th place important? Well, mainly due to world rankings. A higher finish in the tournament gets your team higher placement in the world rankings, which are helpful in getting you wildcard slots in the next FIBA World Championship, should your team fail to qualify via other means. Regardless, this will be a battle between very similar styles of play, as Luis Scola and Marc Gasol will battle inside, and Carlos Delfino will attempt to match Juan Carlos Navarro outside. Still, Spain relies a lot less on Marc Gasol than Argentina goes on Luis Scola, so they can rely on their perimeter shooting a bit more. Motivation is a question mark, but basketball is basketball. Spain should win by about 5.

Bronze Medal Game:

1. Serbia (Group A) vs. 1. Lithuania (Group D)

Time: 11:00 AM Central Standard Time

Network: ESPN Classic

Analysis/Prediction: This is a matchup between two Eastern European powers who play a very similar style of ball. And don't think that this is a game that either of them will take lightly. A bronze medal holds a lot more weight in the world rankings than 4th place. And Serbia will be looking for its' first medal as truly Serbia (They were Serbia and Montenegro before 2006, and part of Yugoslavia before that.) Lithuania will be looking for it's first World Championship medal ever. Nenad Krstic should pair up well with Linas Kleiza, as they both are the leading scorers for their team and have good shooting range for big men. Both teams have balanced scoring among the rest of their players, so you should see a lot of similarly styled scoring from both teams. I see Serbia winning in the end though, because they've had great post play from Velijkovic and Kaselj lately, while post play has been a relative weakness of Lithuania. They also have a go-to big shot guy in Milos Teodosic, who should cause problems for Lithuania at the end of the game. I'm predicting a close game, though. With Serbia playing, how could it not be?

Gold Medal Game:

1. Team USA (Group B) vs. 1. Turkey (Group C)

Time: 1:30 PM Central Standard Time

Network: ESPN

Analysis/Prediction: The big one. As in both of the matchups above, these teams play a very similarly styled game. But the difference here is that they both play an NBA game. Both teams tend to get going in transition and attempt to drive to the hole off the pick in a half-court set. Other teams in the tournament tend to rotate around the perimeter or just dump it off to a big man. Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasova bring the scoring for Turkey, while Kevin Durant does so for Team USA. Tunceri and Billups/Westbrook are comparable matchups, though Billups and Westbrook are more of scorers. But where Turkey will really try to make its' money is in the post with Semih Erden and Omer Asik, both emerging 7 footers who could really get it going down low if Team USA doesn't guard the post well. Now, knowing all of this, shouldn't I be able to predict a victor? Well, I can...but if you must know, this matchup is the hardest to predict out of every single matchup I've had to predict so far in this championship. Team USA has looked unstoppable, beating the tar out of every opponent but Brazil. But, Turkey does exhibit some of the characteristics of Brazil (good post presence, NBA veteran shooting guard), and they have a huge home court advantage. I've predicted both of these teams to win every game they've played since the tournament started, but today, I'm going to predict a loss for Team USA. I'm sorry, but when you consider what's emotionally involved for Turkey, you just have to go with them. They're gunning for their first medal in world competition ever, they have a great combo of veteran experience and youthful exuberance, they're playing in their capital of Istanbul, and they exhibit the characteristics of a team that will give Team USA a challenge, something that no team in the tournament stage has done so far. Sure, Team USA has their own motivations for winning, like their first FIBA Gold since 1994, but the level of emotional involvement just isn't even comparable. If nothing else, think of it this way. If Turkey wins the game, they'll be national heroes. If Team USA wins the game, they'll get a pat on the back. At any other place or time, I would pick Team USA to win this game. But right here and right now, I have to go with Turkey.

And whichever way this game happens to end up, I think it will rip my heart out.

If you're watching the games, feel free to post your reaction to them in the comments section here!