Pau Gasol of Spain vies for the ball wit

EuroBasket Day One Roundup: That Pau Gasol is good

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Over in Lithuania there is actual basketball being played by elite players. Sure, it’s not as purely entertaining as Goodman vs. Melo, but this has something that does not — real drama. That’s because there are real things on the line — national pride and a berth in the Olympics to the top two finishers.

Here is a quick round up of the Day One action.

Spain 83, Poland 78: Spain is the most talented team in the EuroBasket, Poland (playing without Marcin Gortat) is all kinds of scrappy. This looked a lot like a Lakers vs. Timberwolves game in January — the more talented team was disinterested and uninspired. The lesser talented team fought hard. But in the end Pau Gasol was too much inside for the Gortat-less Poles, finishing with 29 points on 12 shots and 7 boards. That was enough to get the win. Spain is notorious for being sloppy in group play and getting it together in elimination games, they are living up to that.

Line of the game: Ricky Rubio with 0-0-0 (no points, rebounds or assists). He was off and blew a wide-open layup late. David Kahn says to ignore that film, Timberwolves fans.

France 89, Latvia 78: The question is if France can score enough in this tournament, but Tony Parker took care of that by taking over in the second half of this game to score a team high 31. But you should watch Latvia for Jamis Blums, he’s fun.

Germany 91, Israel 64: Dirk Nowitzki was not feeling well, but you can ask LeBron James and Dwyane Wade how much that matters. Nowitzki had 25 points, Chris Kaman added 18 and 10 boards and that was too much for Israel inside.

Serbia 80, Italy 68: Serbia was up 18 at one point but Italy nibbled away at it and made it interesting in the fourth quarter. Hey Raptors fans, did you know that Andrea Bargnani comes off the bench for the Italian team? Just sayin’.

Montenegro 70, Macedonia 65 (OT): This is the first ever win for Montenegro in EuroBasket play. Valdimir Dasic had 20 and 16 for the winners.

Georgia 81, Belgium 59: Georgia was in control the whole way behind Zaza Pachilia’s 16 points.

Turkey 79, Portugal 56: Good news Jazz fans, Enes Kanter looked good with 14 points (tied for the team high with Hedo Turkoglu) and 7 rebounds. Of course, Portugal is one of the weak sisters of this competition, Kanter will face tougher tests. But a nice start.

Russia 73, Ukraine 64: We have no doubt that Mike Fratello is coaching up the Ukraine, but when the healthy, motivated Andrei Kirilenko showed up for Russia it didn’t matter. AK-47 had 20 points and 11 boards

In other action: Greece 76, Bosnia-Herzegovina 67; Slovinia 67, Bulgaria 59; Croatia 84, Finland 79; Lithuania 80, Great Britain 69 (Luol Deng had 25 points, Jonas Valanciunas barely got off the bench).

Giannis Antetokounmpo called for 10-second violation on free throw (video)

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This Giannis Antetokounmpo 10-second violation was a year in the making.

Unfortunately for the Trail Blazers, it was too little, too late. Antetokounmpo still finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists, four blocks and two steals in the Bucks’ 115-107 win.

Iman Shumpert injures hand while missing open dunk (video)

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Plenty went right for the Cavaliers in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but there were a few snags.

LeBron James and his teammates repeatedly failed the water-bottle challenge in the closing moments (though Kyrie Irving eventually nailed it).

Kevin Love‘s nose malfunctioned.

And Iman Shumpert injured his hand while missing an open dunk.

If Shumpert was faking as an excuse for missing, he sold it hard. Defending 4-on-5 on the other end, Cleveland ceded a 3-pointer. Then, Shumpert remained hunched over while the Cavs brought the ball up-court. It seems Shumpert might have been popping back in a dislocated finger, which jibes with him staying in the game – and shows his toughness.

But it also doesn’t erase the shame of hurting yourself while missing an open dunk.

Gregg Popovich calls coaching Tim Duncan-less Spurs a ‘refreshing’ and ‘fun’ challenge

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 26: Head coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs argues a call against the Washington Wizards at Verizon Center on November 26, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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MINNEAPOLIS (AP)–  For so many years, the San Antonio Spurs have been defined by their consistency, an unprecedented level of stability that has brought five championships and established the organization as a model franchise in professional sports.

The colors don’t change. The coach doesn’t change. The core never changed.

After 20 years and those five titles, change has finally come to San Antonio.

Tim Duncan, the tone setter from the moment he was drafted in 1997, retired last summer. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have taken reduced roles this season, and the Spurs brought in seven new faces as part of a rare roster shuffle as they try to retool around Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

“It’s been at the same time a challenge and a refreshing sort of situation,” coach Gregg Popovich said. “The team is changing personnel-wise and where the ball goes and a few different players so we have to do things a little bit differently. There’s a give and take, strategy wise, to fit the group. It’s been a lot of fun. Watching some of the young guys get minutes and develop has been fun.”

Fun because while the faces have changed, the results have not. The Spurs (18-4) have navigated the bumps in the road that come with unfamiliarity and have the second-best record in the league, tied the star-studded Golden State Warriors (18-3) in the win column. They have started the season 13-0 on the road and can match last year’s Warriors for the best road start in league history with a win in Chicago on Thursday night.

It hasn’t always been pretty for these Spurs. They’re not the same ruthless, precise machine that steamrolled the league during championship runs. They have had to muddle through things, overcome mistakes and struggle while they get acclimated to one another.

Newcomers like six-time All-Star Pau Gasol, steady veteran David Lee, Argentinian point guard Nico Laprovittola and shot-blocking center Dewayne Dedmon have had to work hard to integrate into a culture that is as enduring as any.

“You could see it in our games. Sometimes our offense is stagnant, our defense isn’t moving well or in our help positions,” Leonard said. “We have a big playbook on the offensive end. It’s just hard to learn it. It was hard for me to learn it. I didn’t get it down until probably my second or third year. We’ve just got to keep giving a consistent effort and being into the game and into our playbook and just keep moving from there.”

The result has been a team that tends to start slow, fall behind and then gradually digs its heels in. They are 5-4 at home, where they only lost once all of last season. They’ve lost to the Magic at home, were thumped by the Clippers and have not recaptured the breathtaking form they showed in a 29-point win at Golden State on opening night. But the wins keep coming.

“I think the first eight to 10 games was the coaching staff trying to figure out what lineups we’re going to play and there were a lot of changes, a lot of trying what works best,” said Gasol, who signed as a free agent this summer. “But now I think there’s more consistency, there’s more defined lineups. Guys know when to come in, when they’re going to play and what’s expected of them.”

The Spurs have won 13 of their last 14 games, and Popovich has leaned on his core more than he has in years to get them off to a good start. Leonard and Aldridge both average more than 33 minutes per game, the first time San Antonio has had two players averaging that much playing time since 2008-09.

“It’s been interesting to see how the team develops and comes together and who the leaders will be without Timmy being that overriding factor for so long,” Popovich said.

Leonard, for years the ultra-quiet storm trooper of the Spurs army, has been much more vocal this season. Gasol’s personality and approach have been a perfect fit as most expected and Ginobili and Parker are still there to help filled the void left by Duncan’s retirement.

And little by little, the new guys are getting up to speed.

“They’ve done a great job of making it easy for us and for Pop to throw them into the fire and trust them to know the system,” Green said. “We’ll continue to help them and they will continue to be sponges and absorb it.”

Kyrie Irving sticks water-bottle challenge before Cavaliers-Knicks buzzer (video)

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The Cavaliers were trying the water-bottle challenge on the bench late in their 126-94 win over the Knicks last night, but the national telecast showed Cleveland players only failing to flip a water bottle and have it land upright on the floor – including an erratic attempt from LeBron James that bounced onto the court.

Thankfully, the local post-game show had an angle of Kyrie Irving nailing the bottle flip just before the game ended, his toss just leaving his hands before the final buzzer. Count it!