Four more games are in the books as the first-ever BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Basketball Tournament rolls on, shattering all attendance records for Budapest basketball (no major feat, but still) as fans gather to witness the all-time greats plucked from their native timestreams for their amusement … but who was amused when the Dream Team itself suffered its first true loss? Read on!
December 26: Redeem Team 127, Dream Team Europe 108. Going into this game, BiE guessed that Dream Team Europe just might win it; though they’re without some potentially key players. Few of the six teams in this tournament can match The Redeem Team man-for-man in terms of pure athleticism.
No matter, the Redeems shot nearly 60% (53-of-89) overall and a mind-boggling 63% from within the arc as the 2008 side turned the game into a track meet. Dream Team Europe kept things competitive in the first half with a steady three-course diet of Tony Parker, Toni Kukoc and Drazen Petrovic (the three would ultimately for a combined 55 points).
In the third quarter, however, the tide changed rapidly as Dwight Howard (who ended up game MVP with match-topping marks of 22 points and nine rebounds) began to flex some muscle underneath. The Redeem Team closed with a 19-7 run capped by a long LeBron James jumper to end the quarter up 89-78; the Redeems continued to pour it on in the fourth with 38 more points.
December 26: 21st Century Dream Team 104, Dream Team 102. On any given Boxing Day, eh? The Dream Team, whom BiE has never witnessed losing in real life or simulation, fell to a 21st Century team dangerously close to readopting the “B Team” label after the stunning loss to the All-Time Raptors on Christmas Eve.
The Century 21s never truly allowed the Dream Team to find any sort of rhythm. Magic Johnson was harassed by Russell Westbrook throughout the game – Coach K preferred to have Derrick Rose on the floor to face off against John Stockton – and the results were very un-Magic: 3-of-10 shooting, five turnovers versus just six assists, and five personal fouls.
Lamar Odom and Kevin Durant each had 21 for the young upstarts, but it was the Los Angeles Laker who single-handedly dominated the glass for the 2010 bunch, with a crazy 17 rebounds. (Just like the real FIBA Worlds, wot?)
December 27: 21st-Century Dream Team 115, All-Time Toronto Raptors 109. Crazy to think that any other team would be leading any pool which contained the Dream Team itself, but that’s now the scenario for the B-Team-No-More after their avenging win over the All-Time Raptors.
Just as in their first meeting, Charles Oakley controlled the boards against the Century 21s, but this time out Team USA went to perimeter shooting early and often. Gordon, Westbrook and Rose combined for 38 while Durant’s 29 was nearly all from outside as well. Vince Carter and Morris Peterson each contributed 21, though Carter’s significant production was once again mostly limited to the first half.
December 27: Dream Team Europe 100, 1960 Team USA 99. The Europeans needed a furious fourth-quarter comeback and some miraculous clampdown defense to survive the 1960 team by a single point for the second straight meeting; nevertheless, it is Dream Team Europe which survives to play another day in the Festivus Invitational and Team USA 1960 which is the first side eliminated.
The 60s were particularly buoyed by a 34-point second quarter. Sending seemingly every play through Oscar Robertson on offense, The Big O directed traffic to the underneath; the big men from 1960 were also instrumental on defense, limiting the European bigs to just four points (all by Dino Radja, including two free throws) in the first seven minutes of the stanza.
When the halftime clock sounded, the 1960 side was up 53-48; they’d extend the lead to nine by quarter’s end and even opened with a Jerry Lucas turnaround jumper for the double-digit advantage. And the Europeans started chipping away at the lead. After Parker made first a driving shot and then one from the corner, it was 91-86 to Team USA.
Most incredibly, Dream Team Europe then managed to survive a scoring drought lasting over 3½ minutes; during the span, however, the 60s also went flat to managed just two points and no serious extension to the lead.
Finally, Sarunas Marciulionis awoke his team with the 17-footer over Adrian Smith with under two minutes to play – and the Europeans were alive with a vengeance. Kukoc, Dirk Nowitzki and Vlade Divac scored, all with Marciulionis feeding. The final four points were all Marciulionis’: First the Lithuania swept in for a dunk when Nowitzki drew the big Russell-Chamberlain double team, and finally punctuated the action with two sunk free throws.
On the 1960s’ final possession, Chamberlain earned derision for missing a barely contested 12-foot jumper while Jerry West was forced into a bad pass to end the game.
After four days of play, the standings in the first annual BallinEurope Festivus Invitational Tournament are as follows.
Dream Team Europe, 2-1
Redeem Team, 2-0
1960 Team USA, 0-3
21st-century Dream Team, 2-1
Dream Team, 1-1
All-Time Toronto Raptors, 1-2
Tomorrow’s games: Redeem Team vs. Team USA 1960; Dream Team vs. All-Time Toronto Raptors.