Tag: FIBA World Championships

Preview: It's no Cold War, but Russia should scare the USA a little

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Thumbnail image for teamusa.jpgIt’s not the size of the test — although this will be a pretty good one for the USA — it’s the consequences of failure.

This is the round of eight — lose and go home. Early. Hearing from the home front about the failings of the youngsters of USA Basketball. Just like the Spanish team is doing right now.

The USA are the favorites, but the Russians bring some things to the table that should give the USA pause. This is not Angola or Iran — this is the best team the USA has seen since Brazil.

How Russia wins games is defense — a pressure matchup zone. (As The Painted Area points out, they actually run several variations of it.) It will almost look like a man-to-man because once you step into a zone the man is on you fast. This is not a simple zone to just shoot over the top of.

Opposing teams have shot just 40.8% overall and 28% from three in this tournament against Russia. That’s not an accident.

The USA needs to get its points two ways. One is how they always get points — force turnovers and get out and run. Russia will want to slow it down, if the tempo is up and the USA gets easy baskets in transition Russia cannot keep up.

The other is to use dribble penetration or passes to flashing bigs in the paint — but get the ball inside. Attack from the inside and open up outside shots on kickouts. Derrick Rose, Kevin Durant and Chauncey Billups should be able to get inside off the dribble. The USA cannot just settle for jumpers.

The other thing Russia brings to the party is size.

They have former Kansas Jayhawk Sasha Kaun at 6’11” (11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds), and he is usually subbed out by incoming Knicks center Timofey Mozgov at 7’1″. The Russians also have 6’11” Alexey Zhukanenko and 6’9″ Andrey Vorontsevich.

The strategy will be pretty obvious — pound the generally smaller USA team inside. The USA’s bigs are more athletic but Lamar Odom, Kevin Love and Tyson Chandler need to stay out of foul trouble, and they have to limit offensive rebounds and second chance points.

Russia is a bit shorthanded. Their two best players — Andrei Kirilenko and J.R. Holden — did not come and their best player here, Vik Khryapa, likely will not play due to injury.

Without them Russia does not score well. As you might expect from USA born, Princeton playing Russia coach David Blatt, they run the Princeton offense. Lots of cuts, back screens, backdoor cuts, and moves along the baseline, etc. If the USA falls asleep on defense Russia could get easy baskets. If the USA is focused the Russian guards should struggle with the ball pressure. Meaning the fast break points the USA thrives on.

This is a good Russian team, but not on the level of the USA. Unless the USA lets them be. And if so, this could be a stiff text. Complete with stiff consequences for failure.

World Championships roundup: Turkey's fans keep singing, Spain's fans crying over their Tapas

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TEODOSIC_Serbia.jpgAnd it is looking more and more like the gold medal game of the World Championships will be the USA vs. Turkey.

Serbia 92, Spain 89: This was an upset — not a massive, Buster Douglas/Mike Tyson upset, but an upset. It was also the fair result, Serbia controlled most of this game, but a late Spain comeback tied it at 89-89 on a Marc Gasol dunk.

Then came The Shot.

Milos Teodosic went Kobe Bryant — he dribbled out the time on the clock, not passing to a teammate or really even considering it, then when it came time for his move he pulled up for the ridiculously long three. And drained it. With just 3.1 seconds left. Then Spain did what Spain seemed to do a lot of this tournament, some sloppy execution led to a turnover.

And like that, the co-favorites of the tournament are toast. This was a really fun game to watch, if you see the replay on NBA TV. Serbia and its offensive-system will advance to the semifinals to take on…

Turkey 95, Slovenia 68: Turkey continues to look like the second best team in this tournament. Or maybe the best — a USA/Turkey finals would be a barnburner. With the USA players in the most hostile environment any of them has ever seen.

Turkey took control of this one midway through the first quarter, were up 27-14 at that point and that pretty much was it. Turkey hit 10 of 17 from three, and Ersan Ilyasova scored 19 to lead the team.

If you like to compare numbers, Turkey beat Slovenia by 27, the USA did by 22 (99-77 in pool play). What does that really say? Not much, other than the USA and Turkey have both had little trouble with a common opponent able to reach the final eight of this event.

And that they may be on a collision course.

Quote of the day: Kevin Durant sees that Luis Scola is beasting

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“He’s a beast … the MVP by far in this tournament, win or lose.”

–USA’s Kevin Durant on Argentina’s Luis Scola (via NBA.com’s John Schuhmann’s twitter account). Scola has averaged 30 PPG during the World Championships and dropped 37 and 9 on Brazil Tuesday. It is possible the USA and Argentina will meet in the semifinals this Saturday, with Durant and Scola matched up on each other.

USA's, world's big guns stayed home this summer, but 2012 Olympics will be different


Thumbnail image for USA_Logo.jpgThere was plenty of talk about the top American players skipping the World Championships — Kobe Bryant had his knee scoped, LeBron James had to work on taking his talents places, and other excuses piled up for Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Dwight Howard and on down the list.

But this was not just an American phenomenon. Spain is without Pau Gasol (and they miss him), France is without Tony Parker and five other NBA guys, even the Russian team the USA takes on Thursday lacks Andrei Kirilenko and guard J.R. Holden. It is Holden that will really be missed, he more than any other guard could have stood up to the USA’s pressure.

The World Championships may still be huge in some countries but in the United States this is a secondary tournament. It’s about the Olympics. Not just the cultural prestige of an Olympic gold medal, but if you’re trying to increase your marketability — your brand — then the Olympics are the place to be.

That leaves the USA with some choices in a couple years, hard ones. USA Basketball head honcho Jerry Colangelo admitted as much to FanHouse’s Chris Tomasson.

“I think you would assume Durant is going to be on the team. That’s one,” Colangelo said of players off this summer’s Team USA outfit marked for London.

There are 35 players in the pool now for 2012, with 22 having been on the 2008 Olympic team or on this team. There are some top players in the pool to have not participated in either event and some could be added, namely Clippers forward Blake Griffin.

“We’ll always have a fluid roster,” Colangelo said. “You’re always going to have some turnover going forward because players need to look forward for that opportunity. It’s not like with some of the countries that we play against, they’ll have the same guys playing two or three Olympics in a row or World Championships. But that’s not going to be the case with us. It just can’t be. It’s not realistic.

As Bethlehem Shoals noted elsewhere at FanHouse, this is not the structure Colangelo said he was bringing to USA Basketball. Remember you basically had to play in the 2007 qualifying tournament to be considered for the 2008 Olympic squad. He wanted to build continuity — just like those European teams — not to have a fluid roster.

But the key is he has gotten the biggest names back playing for the USA. In the end talent matters, and when the LeBrons and Kobes want to put on a jersey you welcome that with open arms.

Colangelo might not have built the structure he wanted, but he built the USA brand back up to where the nation’s best want to play for it. That is a step in the right direction, and likely enough to keep us at the top of the world for a while.

Luis Scola looks like the best player at the World Championships


Thumbnail image for Scola_Argentina.jpgHoly Scola Batman!

Luis Scola made a pretty convincing case that it is he, not Kevin Durant, who has been the best player at the FIBA World Championships. Tuesday Scola had a stunning performance. Even the shots he tried to miss went in.

Scola dropped in 37 points, shooting 13 of 19 inside the arc, and had 9 rebounds leading Argentina to a dramatic 93-89 win. Lest you think this was a one-time thing, he leads the tournament averaging 30.3 a game.

Look at his play down the stretch Tuesday:

* 3:00 left and Argentina up two he runs a pretty little pick-and-pop with Pablo Prigioni and drains the open 17 footer.

* 2:18 left he spots up alone on the weakside elbow extended, and when Brazil overloads the strong side he gets a cross-court pass. Scola sees Anderson Varejao charging at out, so he pump fakes him, drives the right side of the lane and puts up a high arching floating layup that he banks in over seven-foot Tiago Splitter.

* 1:04 left he gets the ball on the right block with Anderson Varejao playing him physicall, but Scola bumps his way into the middle of the court and hits a 15-foot turnaround fade away over him. Beautiful shot.

* Next Brazil possession they run a pick-and-roll with Toronto’s Leandro Barbosa handling the ball and Varejao setting the pick. Scola show out hard to slow down Barbosa and when Barbosa tries to blow by him Scola steals the ball with some quick hands.

* :25 seconds left (this is the possession after his steal) and after letting some time run off the clock Argentina runs that same little pick-an-pop play from the left side and despite the shot being contested this time Scola knocks down the 18 footer.

* :01.2 seconds left and Scola is fouled, Argentina up two (this was an intentional foul by Brazil). Scola hits the first to make it a three point game, then tries to miss the second so Brazil have to try a desperation heave (players in FIBA ball cannot call a timeout). Scola’s shot hit the backboard and went in anyway.

That’s 10 points and a crucial steal in the final three minutes.

Scola has never had to breakout and lead the Houston Rockets the way he has Argentina. But you watch this play and you realize why he is so valuable to Houston — this is a guy who can quietly do a lot and can perform under pressure.

And with apologies to Durant, so far Scola is the FIBA World Championships MVP. But there are some big games ahead to finalize that decision.