Whither Spain? In yet another example of “that’s why they play ‘em on paper,” the mighty Spaniards went down thanks to a French attack led by Nicolas Batum (14 points on 4-of-9 shooting, two rebounds, two blocks and one awesome jam), Andrew Albicy (!) and Mickael Gelabale (!!!) and brutal fourth-quarter shooting “highlighted” by three separate FG droughts, 4-of-10 shooting on free throws, Sergio Llull serving up shots for the blocking, and Rudy Fernandez getting himself T’ed right out of the game.
It wasn’t quite a mirror-image of their infamous opening game against Serbia in Eurobasket 2009, as Espana came out slick enough in the first quarter. In quarter two, however, the favorites showed that tendency surely now well feared by fans: namely, no team goes cold like Team Spain goes cold. On 3-for-11 shooting, Llull was just about completely ineffective when confronted with Ian Mahinmi (who really was a monster for Les Bleus) and Spain resorted to too many ill-advised jumpers.
Looks like we got ourselves a tournament! BallinEurope’s official Fearless Predictions™ for games two of the 2010 FIBA World Championship follow.
In yesterday’s Fearless Predictions™, BiE threw in a prognostication on Lebanon’s Fadi El Khatib leading the day’s scorers; while El Khatib was his usual bad self in going for 37 points against Canada, BiE now admits the oversight of Kiwi scoring machine Kirk Penney was egregious indeed. Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura appeared content to let Penney get his, but Spain’s bringing much better individual D from its guards. Is Spain in for another tight one, as in the 2009 Britain game? Nah. Spain redeems itself with an easy win over New Zealand.
As for Lithuania, the Green-and-Yellows weren’t as dominant as anticipated, but today BiE expects another big game from Linas Kleiza and a big win for Lithuania against Team Canada.
Rounding out Group D action, who’s up for Lebanon vs. France? The underdog of the tournament takes on the tourney’s biggest upset provider in what looks like a fascinating game in the making. BiE’s not gonna get off the (dark) horse and stick with the Cedars: Lebanon by one point over Les Bleus.
Okay, BiE previously pegged today’s game as Germany’s chance to upset the balance in Group A a bit, with Serbia missing key pieces; does that still hold…?
Dirk Bauermann’s youngsters kept Argentina honest yesterday in a close one (as predicted) in which Germany led at halftime (as predicted), but when Jan Jagla and Tibor Pleiss were both forced to leave the third quarter for extensive minutes with foul trouble, the Europeans were left way too vulnerable in the paint and surrendered to a horrid 22-2 run.
Meanwhile, little can be discerned from Serbia’s Dream Team-like 50-point immolation of Angola except that a) Team Serbia looks great in layup drills and b) damn, they’re lucky FIBA suspended their guys for the early pool-play games.
But, what the hey, there’s got to be at least one upset today, right? BiE sticks with Germany over Serbia. After playing perhaps its best game of summer 2010 in a one-point loss to Australia, Jordan will beat Angola today while Argentina takes care of Australia.
Boy, Slovenia is sneaky … another international tournament, another controversy in training, another marquee name walks out – and they’ll still be around to the final eight. Of course, their opponent today is Team USA, who looked brilliant throughout the roster from Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant to Eric Gordon and Kevin Love. Though helped by some timid play from Croatia in a terrible second quarter, the Red-White-and-Blues in one game now appear to justify their status of overwhelming favorites in this tournament. BiE says that today USA wins over Slovenia in overtime.
Fortunate for Brazil that they’ve got another easier match today in Tunisia; these guys might yet be ready for the likes of the Americans and Slovenians. Brazil wins by 15 and Croatia bounces back against Iran.
Great games within this sextet today as Puerto Rico-Greece and Turkey-Russia go in back-to-back matches. Puerto Rico was sadly exposed against Russia in exactly the feared way: While P.J. Ramos had a good game in going for 15 points and nine rebounds, Team Russia was able to simply score at will from basically any play going through the low post. When Puerto Rico could open the floor, they ruled of course – as in the final four minutes of the second quarter – but such opportunities were few and far between.
Though with the suspensions they’re a bit smaller, Team Hellas brings enough full-court defense to stop Puerto Rico in a close one.
Meanwhile mercurial Turkey meets more mercurial Russia in a match leaving viewers wondering which combinations of teams will show up. In the victory over Puerto Rico yesterday, David Blatt’s boys showed they’ve shaken off the malaise of early training and are now on the same page in the defensive playbook. Turkey jogged through Cote d’Ivoire as expected but in friendlies in the home country have consistently dropped close games against high-level teams – all in all, this one’s a great measuring stick for both teams in a game that matters. The BiE coin flip says Turkey at the buzzer.
And China over Cote d’Ivoire.
For those outside of the U.S. and Canada, all games and extras may be seen on FIBA TV. North Americans can check out some games through ESPN 3 online, though BiE’s been told access may depend on your cable provider…