Final eight set for quarterfinal matchups at EuroBasket

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Officially seven of the eight teams left in EuroBasket quarter finals — we’ve now advanced to the tournament style rounds of the European championships — will get an invite to the World Championships next summer.

Technically Europe is set to send six teams, but with Spain already in as host, that number jumps to seven because Spain doesn’t count against the total. Which means six of the other seven teams that reached the EuroBasket quarters will get automatic invites — they will play each other in a traditional tournament, but with a losers bracket and only the team that loses the 7/8 playoff game in that bracket (Saturday) doesn’t get an automatic invite.

That should create a little drama, however with FIBA keeping four wild card invitations in its back pocket, there’s a chance all eight of these teams are bound for Madrid next summer (don’t be shocked if Russia, also part of this tournament but already eliminated, gets a wild card invite, too).

Anyway, here are the eight teams left and their next matchups, plus the broadcast times on NBA TV for the first two (NBA TV also will broadcast the semifinal games on Friday).

Spain vs. Serbia (Wednesday, 11:30 a.m. ET, on NBA TV): Spain is the powerhouse of this tournament, although they always seem to have some lapses in a big tournament and they did that last round. Still, they have Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and on and on with names and players you know. Spain is the best team in the tournament when they care to be. Serbia has a good offense led by Nenad Krstic and they have already upset France this tournament so they are capable of a big game.

Slovenia vs. France (Wednesday, 3 p.m. ET, on NBA TV): France has the best offense in the tournament thanks to Tony Parker playing like he did in the NBA Finals. The French are one of the two teams that seem like they could challenge Spain for the title. Slovenia is the host of EuroBasket and have advanced this far thanks to Goran Dragic.

Croatia vs. Ukraine (Thursday, 11:45 a.m.): Croatia won their second round group and is the favorite here because they play solid defense. Croatia is led by Bojan Bogdanovic and his 17.5 points a game.

Lithuania vs. Italy (Thursday, 3 p.m.): This should be the best matchup of the quarterfinals. It’s strength on strength with Marco Belinelli and the Italian offense putting up plenty of points and Lithuania shutting teams down with their defense and being led by the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas (who has played well, as he did in Summer League). Both of these teams are better than likely anyone other than Spain or France, but they face off in this round and it will be over for one of them (the loser should easily win the next game and qualify for the World Championships).

Kevin Durant fires back, says Clint Capela’s job is “easy”

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“We’re confident because we know if we’re doing what we’re supposed to do, we’re going to beat them… We are better than them.”

That was young Rockets center Clint Capela after the Rockets beat the Warriors last Saturday night, feeling confident.

Asked about it, Kevin Durant shot Capela down, saying he’s not the guy that should be commenting.

There are no easy jobs in the NBA. It takes a lot of work physically, a good mental feel for the game, and the right opportunity just to get a chance. That said, some NBA jobs are simpler and more straightforward than others. On offense, Capela is not the ball handler and creator making a lot of decisions, things are simple for him — and he executes them. He’s shooting 66.6 percent this season — he does what he does well.

Houston took two of three from Golden State this season, and while that is far from doing it in a playoff series it should be a confidence boost for Houston if/when they go up against Golden State.

Jason Kidd says Giannis Antetokounmpo offered to save his job minutes before firing

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The stagnant Milwaukee Bucks shook things up by firing head coach Jason Kidd  Monday.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was not happy with the news. So much he called up Kidd and offered to help save his job, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Antetokounmpo is understandably close to Kidd — he’s been the coach who helped transform the Greek Freak into an NBA superstar. Kidd is on his way to the Hall of Fame as a player, and as a coach had the vision to put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands as a point guard. Antetokounmpo trusted Kidd.

However, the Bucks’ growth has been stagnant — this is a team where the players talked about being a 50-win, top-four team in the East with a strong defense, instead they are a team on the way to around .500, barely hanging onto a playoff spot, with the point differential of a team that wins 36 games. They are not taking a step forward, and the Bucks — with the approval of ownership, which was very close to Kidd at one time — approving the move.

There was nothing Antetokounmpo could have done. It’s life in the NBA. That doesn’t mean he has to like it.

Gordon Hayward is shooting standing threes in an empty gym. That’s something, I guess.

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Having lost three games in a row at home, doubt seems to have crept into the minds of some Celtics fans. They’re the top seed in the East (and likely finish the season in that slot, again), but just how good are they really? Do they have enough to knock off the Cavaliers and LeBron James when he goes into playoff mode?

In the midst of that self-doubt, the wife of Gordon Hayward, Robyn, posted this.

Still can’t beat me… 🤷🏻‍♀️

A post shared by Robyn Hayward (@robynmhayward) on

For Boston fans still holding out hope Hayward returns this season, this is another sign. No brace, no chair, he’s draining threes. It’s a step forward.

This video also borders on meaningless — he’s not jumping, not moving, not showing us anything about his recovery we didn’t already know. Good to see him up and making progress, but that he can hit stand-still threes in an empty gym is about as shocking as finding out the next Transformers movie is going to suck.

Officially, Hayward is still out for the season. He’s putting in the work, and maybe he returns before the playoffs, but the Celtics are not going to rush him back for this season. Nor should they. The Celtics are on a multi-year plan to be the next dominant team in the East, no reason to push him and risk anything now.

Report: Giannis Antetokounmpo “devastated” by Jason Kidd firing

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The Bucks have been a team of unfulfilled potential for a few seasons now, two steps up and one step back. Last season they were 42-40 and bounced in the first round of the playoffs, this season they are 23-22 and the eighth seed in the East, with the point differential of a team that should be 20-25 and on its way to a 36-win season.

That cost Jason Kidd his job.

That has not sat well with the team’s superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

You can’t blame Antetokounmpo, Kidd has been his coach the past three-and-a-half seasons and guided the Greek Freak’s rise to superstardom. Kidd also was the one who put the ball in Antetokounmpo’s hands and made him both the defacto point guard on the team and one of the league’s most dangerous players. Kidd did some very good things with these Bucks, and Antetokounmpo is understandably loyal to the man.

However, Antetokounmpo is under contract at a near-max salary until the summer of 2021, so he has no real leverage here.

Elite coaches will be lined up for a chance to coach Antetokounmpo and a very talented Bucks roster, but whoever gets the job next summer has to connect with the superstar first. Kidd had done that.