USA vs. Spain rematch probably a semi-final game at World Championships

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USA_Spain.jpgFor the first half of the 1990s in the NFL, the NFC championship game was the defacto Super Bowl. Dallas and San Francisco (usually) played that game with everyone knowing full well they would crush whomever they met in the Super Bowl.

That’s pretty much how the FIBA World Championships will go.

If the USA and Spain go undefeated in group play — which is very likely — then they are set on a collision course for the semi-finals. The USA is in Group B, the Spanish in Group D.

That means teams that win groups A and C — which may well be Greece (Wednesday’s USA opponent) and Argentina — could be destined for the other semi-final. Those are two quality teams, but both considered a step down from the USA and Spain. (However, this is a one-and-done tournament after group play so they have a shot.)

The key for the Greeks is what kind of suspensions come down out of the brawl with Serbia from last week. As Chris Sheridan notes at ESPN, the Greeks are worried about it.

The Greek federation expects multi-game suspensions to be handed down to Sofoklis Schortsanitis, Antonis Fotsis and Kostas Tsartsaris that will begin with the start of the World Championship in Turkey on Saturday, and they are keeping their fingers crossed that those players will be suspended for no more than two games, which would allow them to play in Greece’s third game of the tournament against Turkey…

Greece, which defeated Canada by 74 points, Russia by 38, Germany by 28 and Croatia by 9 in exhibition games prior to the fateful match against Serbia, feels it can defeat China and Puerto Rico in its first two games even without the soon-to-be-suspended players. But the third game against Turkey in front of a hostile crowd in the capital city of Ankara would be a toss-up if Greece has only nine players available.

Schortsanitis may get a suspension, but if I’m ever in a fight on the court I want him on my side. Really, any fight anywhere.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.

LeBron James rejects Giannis Antetokounmpo at the rim

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Through the first couple games of the season, Giannis Antetokounmpo has put up impressive numbers — he dropped 34 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Cavaliers Friday night.

But the Cavaliers still have LeBron James.

He had 24 points and 8 assists, leading Cleveland to the win.

LeBron also reminded the Greek Freak just how good a rim protector he is. Few people can slow Antetokounmpo on the drive, but LeBron is one of them.

Is it too early to root for a Cavs vs. Bucks playoff series?