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Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, Day 2: Bellinelli's tough jumpers help Italy hold home court

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Also: Cory Joseph and Canada's pick and roll game; Andray Blatche center of Filipino offense

Pass me the ball!
Pass me the ball!
Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Games I watched:

Canada holds onto game-long lead, Cory Joseph masters the pick and roll

Turkey playing Canada is like an endless replay of pick and rolls, over and over again. Neither team really has a player that can score in a one on one situation. So both teams try to use their size around the rim, the quickness of their guards, and the occasional shooter. But it's obvious that Canada has the quickness advantage in this game, while Turkey has the size advantage.

But even with Turkey's size advantage, each of their bigs has their own problem. Semih Erden gets lost on pick and roll defense, and allowed a couple of baskets. Omer Asik wasted a couple of possessions with bad free throw shooting. And Oguz Savas is wily, but not much of a defensive force. This has allowed the Canadian team to get to the rim, as well as get the spacing they need to grab a 39-30 halftime lead. Brady Heslip was big with a couple of threes in transition, while Cory Joseph was really adept at finding space in the halfcourt. Philipp Scrubb had a big play as well, nailing a three from halfcourt.

On Turkey's side, Sinan Guler was the best player in the first half. 9 points on a bunch of really cunning drives to the rim. This dude's high-arcing floaters are insane. The only comparison I can come up with is Cameron Payne, except Guler is faster and more out of control. But Turkey may have more trouble spacing the floor, as Canada has allowed most of the threes that Turkey took.

Turkey really fell behind in the third quarter, going down by as many as 19. They started resorting to post ups, and Canada was a lot better at running the floor when Turkey didn't succeed. Specifically, Philipp Scrubb had a couple of nice pace and space baskets. Also Canada just kept exploiting the pick and roll game in the halfcourt. But Turkey came roaring back late, using the combo of Guler and Osman in the open court. Turkey was able to get the score within 9, but a couple of really savvy Cory Joseph baskets gave Canada a 12 point lead going into the fourth.

Cedi Osman was injured early in the fourth, tweaking his ankle while going for an offensive rebound. Turkey was able to cut it to single digits early, but eventually resorted to postups. And there was just no Turkish player with enough pizazz to give Turkey a scoring boost. The whole fourth quarter was spent in this kind of 10 point limbo, where Turkey had a remote shot at coming back. Meanwhile, Canada had trouble hitting outside shots while Turkey packed the paint.

With about 2 minutes to go, Turkey made one last run. A shot around a pick from Sipahi, combined with a steal and stepback three from Mahmutoglu got Turkey within 8. But Tyler Ennis quickly got a foul, putting Canada back up 10. Then a Mahmutoglu off the dribble deep three got Turkey within 7. Canada took more free throws, then a Savas fakeout inside drew an And 1. Turkey within 6, 27.7 seconds to go. But Canada hit their free throws, and a Guler desperation three was long.

Blatche fuels early Filipino lead, but France's rotation of bigs eventually secures win

If Canada-Turkey was really rigid and regimented, then France-Philippines was the exact opposite. Both team are athletic, running the court and trying to find mismatches. Andray Blatche was the first player to go off, scoring over 10 points in the first quarter. Most insanely, Blatche was 2/3 from three. This allowed the Philippines to get out to an early single-digit lead. The Philippines continued their success by using their small size to take advantage of bigger French defenders. Terrence Romeo was perhaps the best at this, scoring 8 points in the half with crafty off-the-dribble moves.

Meanwhile, France had 5 first quarter turnovers and really struggled to overcome their jet lag. But France's bigs went to work, as Lauvergne and Diaw drove the French offense. Parker was pretty big too, using his quickness to outwit Filipino defenders and go on a couple of quick bursts. By the end of the half, France's superior individual talent was shining through. The Philippines kept hitting good shots though, and were only down 1 at the break.

My favorite couple of plays were a ridiculous Gelabale putback dunk (considering how old Gelabale is), and a cross-court Blatche bounce pass that went right through De Colo's fingers.

France quickly took control of this game in the third quarter. Both teams heated up off the perimeter, but only France had an inside game. Kim Tillie, an agile big who came on to provide energetic defense of Blatche, was a big defensive force. Offensively, Tillie only made the French quicker and more athletic. Then, Blatche rolled his ankle mid-third, and was eventually benched with four fouls. De Colo and Parker continued to be their usual crafty selves. By the end of the third, France had an 11 point lead.

But the Philippines fought hard through the fourth. Without Blatche in the game, Romeo went on another mini-run with some stuff on the perimeter. Castro did the same. Meanwhile, De Colo missed an open three. And Parker airballed a three over the rim. France was just struggling to get to the basket, and the Philippines players were playing out of their shoes. The Philippines got it as close as four with about 3 minutes to go. But France proved to be too skilled down low, with Diaw and Tilly finding ways to score. Then France's transition game and pressure kicked in. France would eventually win by a comfortable 9 points.

Bellinelli shows his one-on-one skill as Italy eeks past Croatia

This was a really intense match, with multiple NBA players involved. If you didn't blink, it basically had the quality of an NBA game between non-playoff teams. Bojan Bogdanovic led the way for Croatia, scoring 19 first half points. Nobody had the size to deal with Bogdanovic, who just took his defender one on one. Saric chipped in 6 points as well, and sunk a really tough looking turnaround jumper.

Bellinelli was the main source of Italian offense, and arguably less effective. Bellinelli was kind of the team's emergency option when the clock was low, and he forced some contested outside shots. But Bellinelli did complete a four point play, so he had his moments. Italy was playing bigger than Croatia most of the time. So despite a less effective offense, they were able to dominate the rebounding game. Daniel Hackett was probably the most effective for Italy, with 9 points. He's generally a three point threat, so he was effective at getting the defender to commit and then driving to the hoop. Hackett also had a really impressive "pick 6" type steal and hoop. Even Gallinari got into it, using his size and agility for 6 first half points near the rim. At the half, Croatia had a slim 2 point lead.

The third quarter allowed Italy to establish an advantage. The whole quarter was really ticky-tack and intense, with lots of foul calls. Petrovic got a technical for walking out onto the court. Then, Bellinelli got a technical for getting into Ukic's face about how he was playing defense. But Croatia was less effective from the free throw line. Saric wasted a few possessions with bad backdowns. (A particularly memorable one was when Bellinelli pulled a chair on Saric in the post, which drew a charge.) Hackett stepped up a bit for Italy with a transition three and drive. By the end of the third, Italy was up by 7.

The fourth quarter saw Croatia make a bit of an early run, highlighted by a surprise Hezonja three. But Saric and Bogdanovic had been overused, and lost their effectiveness. Bellinelli continued his onslaught, with a slick drive and stepback bailout jumper. The game-sealing plays came with about two minutes to go. Da Tome stepped out for a big three. Then, Italy rapidly passed the ball off a missed Croatian shot. Melli got the fast break and one against Bogdanovic, who fouled out. Then Bogdanovic drew a technical. At that point, Italy's lead was pretty much insurmountable.

Slammin' Notes
  • Bellinelli had a really, really cool looking black mask on. It covered like 3/4ths his face, and he looked like Batman. I really wish the NBA still allowed black masks when players have to recover from a facial injury.
  • At one point late in the first half, Dario Saric wiped his hands on the ref's pants, because they were sweaty. The ref allowed Saric to do so, and even encouraged it. Strange moment.
  • Later, Gentile demanded that the ball be wiped off. It was, but Gentile still missed the ensuing layup attempt.
  • Late in the first half, there was a lot of confusion about the score. The broadcast score had Croatia up by 2, but the arena score had the game tied. I wasn't paying close enough attention to notice, but the Croatian coach (Petrovic) and FIBA announcer Jeff Taylor both seemed to think that the arena scorekeeper accidentally added 2 points. There's no FIBA replay center like there is in the NBA, so they had to resolve to re-count the score at halftime. Coach Petrovic was completely outta control. After the half, they took the points off the board, right before play resumed.
  • Italian national team soccer legends were present, which I thought was cool. Italy really impressed me with their crowd today.

Games I didn't watch

Mexico 75-Iran 70

20 Point game from Yakhchali of Iran, including 6 of 9 from three. Neither of these teams has a real shot at advancing.

Puerto Rico 91-Angola 81

Barea and Arroyo with 18 each.

Latvia 71 - Czech Republic 59

Both teams shot under 40%, but Latvia was much more effective at free throw shooting. Everything else broke pretty much even. What a bad way to lose....

Any thoughts on today's games? Sound off in the comments!