The FIBA World Cup rolls on in Spain, with the USA back in action. Because you have a job and can’t spend the day watching international basketball games — at least not all day, the boss keeps walking by so you have to hide the stream — here is a recap for you.
• New Zealand’s Haka dance before the game was awesome. It may have been the best part of their day, because once the game started they were completely overmatched against Team USA. The USA didn’t even play a great game, there were things to pick apart, and it didn’t matter as the USA took the lead early and won 98-71. Anthony Davis (21 points, 9 rebounds) and Kenneth Faried (15 points, 11 rebounds) were the best players for Team USA — if the USA keeps getting great play in the paint they will be very tough to beat.
• Australia took a big step towards making it to the knockout round with the upset win of the day, a 82-75 victory over Lithuania. It started with Aron Baynes (of the Spurs last season) completely out playing Toronto’s Jonas Valanciunas, combine that with Joe Ingles (who is drawing interest from a number of NBA teams) just hitting everything and the Aussies were up by 19 at the break. Valanciunas and Houston’s Donatas Motiejunas sat much of the second half and were not part of the Lithuanian comeback, which got the game within three points. But Australia held off Lithuania. Both of these teams (along with Group D leader Slovenia) seem destined for the knockout round.
• The real battle in Group D may be between Mexico and Angola for the final spot to advance, and Mexico put themselves in position to be that team with a huge 79-55 win over Angola. Gustavo Ayon led Mexico with 17 points and 12 rebounds. If Mexico can grab the fourth spot in Group D their reward would be Team USA in the first knockout round game.
• In Group C (the USA’s group) Ukraine’s 64-58 win over Turkey on Tuesday has them looking like a team that will advance to the knockout round. Give coach Mike Fratello credit, and throw some to Olexandr Mishula who had 19 points in the win Tuesday. Omer Asik had 16 points and 20 rebounds in the loss. Turkey plays Finland on Wednesday and need a win (one they should get) to make sure they advance to the knockout phase.
• The other Group C team that should advance is the Dominican Republic, which beat Finland 74-68 on Tuesday. Eloy Vargas led the way for the Dominican with 18 points and 13 rebounds.
• In other action on Tuesday Slovenia beat Korea 89-72.
Giannis Antetokounmpo has been every bit the top five NBA player in the postseason — 32.5 points per game on 63.2 percent shooting, plus with 11 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game.
Yet the Bucks are down 0-2 to Boston.
The Celtics have had a strong series from Al Horford and Terry Rozier, but the real difference is in the discipline this team has shown all season — Boston knows who it is. Clearly, Milwaukee does not. They turn the ball over too much and make too many mistakes.
I get into all of that in this PBT Extra, and I wonder if that’s something the Bucks can really turn around mid-playoffs.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s wife, Erin, died yesterday.
That sad news was felt throughout the NBA, and it obviously affects San Antonio most closely. That includes for tonight’s Game 3 against the Warriors.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News:
Ettore Messina was a longtime head coach in Europe. The Spurs lead assistant also took over for a few regular-season games Popovich missed. So, making – rather than advising – coaching decisions won’t be a brand new challenge to Messina.
But down 2-0 to defending-champion Golden State is a tough place to make an NBA playoff debut.
On the bright side, there will be no pressure. Not only has San Antonio been outclassed the first two games of the series, focus is rightly on the Popovich family. A win would be a pleasant surprise and help Messina – who’s up for the Hornets job – in his pursuit of a head-coaching position. A loss would be quickly forgotten with more important matters at hand.
To that end, hopefully the time away allows Popovich the space he needs to grieve. That matters far more than a basketball game.
The Knicks are casting a wide net in their coaching search.
It’ll apparently include a familiar, though surprising, name.
TNT analyst Kenny Smith will interview for the New York Knicks’ head-coaching job on Friday, a source told ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.
A quality organization, the Rockets, interviewed Smith (in 2016, before hiring Mike D’Antoni). So, this isn’t proof of the Knicks’ oddball thinking. (There are plenty of better examples, if you wish).
Steve Kerr opened the door for former players to go straight from TV to being an NBA head coach without having any coaching experience. He’s been a smash hit with the Warriors.
But Kerr was also the Suns’ general manager before Golden State hired him. Smith has no front-office experience.
So, it’s tough to judge Smith, whose role on television is more to entertain than inform (though he does both). He’ll have to really wow in his interview to get the job.
But at least he has that opportunity.
Nate McMillan slipped up in his handling of Victor Oladipo‘s early fouls during the Pacers’ Game 2 loss to the Cavaliers last night.
Then, the Indiana coach literally slipped while arguing that LeBron James should have been called for offensively fouling Lance Stephenson.