FIBA World Cup round of 16 roundup: USA, Spain meeting still on track

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We are down to eight teams at the FIBA World Cup after the first two days of the win-or-go-home knockout rounds. We know you were watching football all weekend (so were we), so here is the roundup of what you missed.

Bottom line, it still looks like Team USA vs. Spain will meet for the gold medal Sept. 14. Both look clear and away to be the best teams.

BARCELONA GAMES

USA 86, Mexico 63: This went pretty much as expected, another easy USA win behind 20 points from Stephen Curry. NBA free agent Gustavo Ayon put up 25 and 8 for Mexico, but this game was never in doubt as the Americans came out with a little fire from the start for a change. Next up for them is Slovenia, who the Americans beat by 30 in a Madison Square Garden exhibition a couple weeks back.

Slovenia 71, Dominican Republic 61: Goran Dragic had 18 points and six assists to get his team the win. Their reward? Team USA next round. This is why Dragic was complaining about Australia throwing a game to get the three seed in their group, so they avoided the Americans longer (in theory). They got blown out by Team USA in an exhibition, but having seen the Americans should help in this meeting. Not enough, but it will be closer.

Turkey 65, Australia 64: Hey Aussies, getting on the other side of the bracket to avoid the Americans only works if you win and advance. Australia led by five with 1:02 left when Cavaliers guard Matt Dellavedova made a lay-up. But Emir Preldzic hit a two threes including one with five seconds left to lift Turkey. Next up Lithuania.

Lithuania 76, New Zealand 71: Give New Zealand credit, they fought hard and made this one close but in the end they had no answer for Raptors big man Jonas Valanciunas who had 22 points and 13 boards in the game. They have a tough but winnable game with Turkey next (then the USA looming after that).

MADRID GAMES

Spain 89, Senegal 56: Spain looks dominant. Yes, they could beat the USA. Senegal was no match, with Pau Gasol scoring 17 on 8-of-10 shooting, while Serge Ibaka chipped in 11 and Marc Gasol had 9. Minnesota’s Gorgui Dieng had a fantastic tournament for Senegal but he struggled against this huge front line for Spain, shooting just 1-of-9 on the night.

France 69, Croatia 64: Nicolas Batum came alive with 14 points to spark the defending European champions France to the win. France beat Spain to get that Euro title last year, now they have to face Spain again in the next round, and it’s going to turn out differently. Nets incoming rookie Bojan Bogdanovic had 27 in a losing effort.

Serbia 90, Greece 72: Big game from Bogdan Bogdanovic — the guy the Suns drafted in the first round this year, not to be confused with the Croatian Bogdanovic who is the Nets property — with 21 points. Serbia was much the better side in this one and looked like a team that could be in the mix for the bronze medal.

Brazil 85, Argentina 65: Everyone was pumped for this South American skirmish, but Brazil just owned the game as Argentina’s golden generation just looked old and slow. Raul Neto stole the show for Brazil with 21 points, while the combination of Tiago Splitter Anderson Varejao looked good inside combining for 19 points and 17 rebounds. Brazil may be my favorite to get the bronze right now, but they have a tough game with Serbia coming.

The Greek Freak has arrived, Giannis Antetokounmpo wins NBA MVP

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Mike Budenholzer came in with a plan — an offense built around the fact no one man on the planet can guard Giannis Antetokounmpo.

It worked. The Bucks won 60 games and had the best record in the NBA. Budenholzer picked up Coach of the Year hardware for his efforts.

Now Antetokounmpo has won the NBA MVP award, edging out James Harden (who chose not to attend the NBA’s awards show in Los Angeles Monday). He was emotional in thanking teammates for helping him reach this point, then talking about his father.

Antetokounmpo averaged 27.7 points and 12.5 rebounds a game, but it was his ability to destroy any defender one-on-one that made the Bucks offense work. Either the Greek Freak got to the basket and finished, he drew a foul, or he drew so much attention the shooters that surrounded him on the floor had clean looks of their own. He also was the Bucks best defender, a guy tasked with tough assignments nightly.

Antetokounmpo was the best player on the best team.

Antetokounmpo won the award handily with 941 points to Harden’s 776. The Greek Freak had 78 of the 100 first place votes.

James Harden — who averaged 36.1 points, 7.5 assists, and 6.6 rebounds per game — finished second in the voting, Paul George of Oklahoma City was third. Harden has finished first or second in the voting for four of the past five seasons. Harden believed he deserved to win and was frustrated with another second.

Antetokounmpo is the first player from Europe to win the MVP award since Dirk Nowitzki in 2007.

Nikola Jokic came in fourth in the voting, Stephen Curry was fifth. Here are the full results:

 

 

Rudy Gobert wins NBA Defensive Player of the Year for second straight season

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Rudy Gobert owns the paint for the Utah Jazz.

And he owns the NBA Defensive Player of the Year award.

Gobert won his second straight DPOY award Monday night, beating out the other 2019 finalists Giannis Antetokounmpo and Paul George.

The Jazz had the second best defense in the regular season and it is completely built around Gobert and his abilities in the paint, which is what separated him for this award. Utah’s defense was 20.1 points per 100 possessions better when Gobert was on the court and gave up less than a point per possession with him as the anchor.

This was a deep field with players such as Myles Turner of the Pacers, Joel Embiid of the 76ers and others getting votes as well.

Bucks’ Mike Budenholzer named NBA Coach of the Year

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Mike Budenholzer unleashed Giannis Antetokounmpo and from the start that made him the Coach of the Year favorite (and maybe Antetokounmpo MVP).

It was a wire-to-wire win for Budenholzer, who was the frontrunner for this award from early on and was named the NBA Coach of the Year Monday night, the second time he has won this award (Atlanta in 2015).

Budenholzer was the favorite with good reason. The Bucks won 16 more games than the season before and had the best record in the NBA, they improved their net rating by +10.1, and became a top-five team on both ends of the floor. To be fair, part of Budenholzer’s success was a contrast to how poorly the previous coach handled this roster, but give Budenholzer credit for utilizing players well.

He beat out Doc Rivers of the Clippers and Mike Malone of the Nuggets in what was a very deep field for this award.

Clippers’ Lou Williams won second-straight, third overall Sixth Man of Year Award

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The Clippers bench play this season was the reason they made the playoffs (and pushed the Warriors to six games in the first round). Montrezl Harrell blossomed into his own as part of that.

However, it was Lou Williams who made it all work, which is why he won his second straight (and third overall) Sixth Man of the Year Award on Monday night. He garnered 96 of the 100 first-place votes.

Williams spoke from the heart about second chances and his faith in himself.

“Four years ago, I thought I was done, like I was coming to the end of my career,” Williams said.

Williams averaged 20 points a game and he is still one of the better bucket getters in the NBA, an isolation master. What he did better this year, however, was playmaking, dishing out 5.4 assists per game. His teammate Montrezl Harrell — the NBA’s best energy big off the bench last season who finished third in the Sixth Man voting — was the biggest beneficiary of those passes.

Indiana’s Domantas Sabonis came in second in the voting, with Spencer Dinwiddie of the Nets third and Terrence Ross of Orlando fifth. Here is the voting breakdown.