With three key warmups for the 2010 FIBA World Championship tipping off tonight, BallinEurope takes quick stock of some of the games played in the last few days and relevant news on the Team Brazil roster and Hellene injuries – links and video abound, too.
Slovenia shocked by New Zealand…
No matter what Team New Zealand does in Turkey, Kirk Penney and the Kiwis have already played their match of the year, a 104-103 double-OT victory over Slovenia in Maribor on Friday night.
Penney was good for 42 points – more than Slovenia’s Bostjan Nachbar (29) and Uros Slokar (12) combined – on 23-of-40 (!) shooting as New Zealand also managed to overcome ugly defense that sent Slovenians to the free throw line an incredible 45 times.
Slovenia ran up a couple of good leads in the first half on incredible 71% shooting on twos, but saw New Zealand battle back both times. After going up 26-14 early, Penney then went for four consecutive three-pointers to tie it up. Coming out of the locker room, New Zealand immediately improved on its own 61% first-half shooting by going on a 9-0 run to efficiently erase Slovenia’s halftime lead.
The momentum shifted in the fourth to the Tall Blacks’ side and the New Zealanders actually took an 11-point lead in the final quarter of regulation before again fouling their way out of it. The Kiwis would also have a four-point with under a minute remaining of OT, but Jaka Lakovic (who ended the game with 16 points for Slovenia) managed to tie it up again with 26 seconds left. In the second OT, Phillip Jones led New Zealand to the victory.
Slovenia later defeated Russia, 81-73.
…but Serbia cools the Kiwis
An Adecco Cup victory would not be in the cards for Team New Zealand, however. Going on less than 24 hours rest, the Tall Blacks simply could not keep up with Serbia as the 2009 Eurobasket finalists crushed ‘em, 95-69.
With Penney no longer a well-kept secret, the New Zealanders’ prime weapon faced double-teams the likes of which he’s surely unused to and managed just 7-of-19 shooting while his Kiwis turned the ball over 20 times.
After struggling a bit with Russia in their 69-63 win on Friday (see directly below for video), Serbia was surely happy to put this one away early, and put it away they did. With an insane 24-1 run including 13 straight unanswered points from Novica Velickovic turned a 4-2 Tall Blacks lead into a 26-5 laugher.
Jones had 19 for New Zealand; Velickovic led Team Serbia scoring with 19, closely followed by Miroslav Raduljica’s 17 and Kosta Perovic’s 15.
Canada smokes France – twice
Canadian media was happy to report that their squad has remained undefeated in FIBA World Championship warmups, thanks to consecutive wins on Thursday and Friday over suddenly hapless France.
Who’d’ve thought Canada was bringing such a versatile, more-than-sum-of-parts lineup to this thing? Sure enough, the world might yet learn names like “Jermaine Bucknor” and “Denham Brown” and “Jevohn Shepherd” before the 2010 Worlds are over. And the Great White North may yet be considered a threat to advance out of a suddenly fearsome-looking bunch of lower-tier teams in Group D.
On Thursday, the Canadians beat France 69-58 in Toronto with tight defense and just enough shots falling; Bucknor led all scorers with 15. The night after, the story got worse for Les Blues, who fell 85-63 in Air Canada Centre.
In the second game, new New York Knick Andy Rautins went for 14 points in the first half as Team Canada overcame the speedbump of a 20-13 downing in the third to hold on for the 22-point win.
“The third quarter was a little frustrating,” said Team Canada head coach/Andy’s proud poppa Leo Rautins. “We kind of had the same thing against China [an 86-62 win for Canada in Vancouver on Tuesday], the third quarter we came out a little lax. But they found a way to get out of it – that’s the key.”
Canada will join Serbia, Slovenia and Greece in competing for the Acropolis Tournament running Tuesday through Thursday.
Brazil beats China, Barbosa goes for 25
Team China’s lack of speed is repeated getting exposed in FIBA Worlds warmups, with the loss to Brazil the middle in a sandwich of surprising mismatches that began against Canada and concluded in the ‘States.
Puerto Rico tops Brazil in Harlem, 77-55
As part of the World Basketball Festival festivities in New York this week, Puerto Rico and Brazil played a match in Harlem’s Rucker Park which, well, didn’t seem to go off too well. To quote one observer:
The Puerto Rico and Brazil national teams played a scrimmage during the middle of Friday’s action. It was obvious that neither team really cared about the scrimmage, and it showed because they didn’t put in a great effort during the hour they were on the court.
Well, the MCs were having none of that. Throughout the action, the MCs kept heckling the players for lazy play. They even dropped hints of disgust, saying that Rucker Park isn’t a place for 50 percent effort.
Puerto Rico won big behind Miami Heat guard Carlos Arroyo, without question the best player on the floor.
Brazil finalizes lineup
Team Brazil had coach Ruben Magnano announced his final roster for the 2010 FIBA World Championship after the Rucker Park game. The 12 men for Brazil include Anderson Varejao (Cleveland Cavaliers); Nene (Denver Nuggets); Murilo Becker (São José); Tiago Splitter (Baskonia cum San Antonio Spurs); Marcus “Marquinhos” Vieira (Pinheiros); Guilherme Giovannoni, Alex Garcia, Nezinho (UNICEUB); Marcelo Machado (Flamengo); Leandro Barbosa (Toronto Raptors); and Marcelo Huertas (Baskonia).
Greek injuries not too serious
To the great relief of Team Hellas supporters (and the frustration of much of the rest of the world), injuries reported to both Ioannis Bourousis and Nick Calathes are not at all serious and neither player will miss a game in Turkey.
Bourosis had told team doctors of discomfort in his wrist, but X-rays turned up nothing. Bourosis returned to practice on Saturday along with Calathes, who was treated for a toenail infection on Thursday.
Team USA runs China off floor
In its first public exhibition against another national team, head coach Mike Krzyzewski has revealed his slightly undersized squad’s strategy for this year’s Worlds: Run, run, run, and then run some more.
The biggest news from the oddly-formatted 98-51 blowout win over China was Team USA’s ridiculous 32-4 advantage in fast-break points. “We’re the fastest team, I think, in the world,” presciently stated Andre Iguodala, “so we’ve got to use that to our advantage.”
Speedster (and former University of New Mexico Lobo) Danny Granger bore this point out further by scored a wicked 22 points on 12-of-16 shooting off the bench for the Red-White-and-Blues. To top off his performance, Granger crafted a new marketing slogan for his bad self: “I score the ball, that’s what I do.”
Lebanon in FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup finals…
BiE has a sneaky suspicion the world’s about to find out more than they want to about Fadi El Khatib: The aged veteran who was a last-minute addition to Cinderella’s favorite FIBA Worlds contender is simply playing himself into shape with perfect results for Team Lebanon thus far.
El Khatib, who is 31 years old, “suggested he is well on course” to getting into basketball shape by turning in his “best game of the summer yet” with 18 points against Qatar on Thursday. All he did on Saturday was top that performance with 25 points while controlling Lebanon’s ball movement throughout. Lebanon has yet to lose a game in the 10-team tournament and will face Japan in the final game.
…Iran, Jordan not
Asia’s other FIBA World Championship contenders both turned in disappointing results in the Stankovic Cup and will face off to determine the fifth-place finisher in the tournament.
Team Iran reminds us that far worse than posterization is historicization, as in “Iraq [got] their first win in 23 years in a FIBA Asia official event” by defeating Iran. Charitably described at the FIBA Asia website as “oscillating,” the back-to-back continental champions stumbled their way through this tournament, having difficulty with teams they’d manhandled just last year.
Jordan, too, had a terrible time of the Stankovic due mostly to injuries. With three players in street clothes for yesterday’s game, head coach Mario Palma was forced to play just nine against Taiwan yesterday. No matter: Jordan overcame, 85-70 to get into the fifth-place game.
The Stankovic Cup final between Japan and Lebanon tips off at 6pm GMT (8pm CET); you can watch live on FIBA TV.
In Slovenia, New Zealand takes on Russia tonight, while the long-awaited three-nation faceoff in Logroño starts tonight with Spain vs. Argentina at 7pm CET. Finally, Madison Square Garden hosts an international doubleheader with Team USA taking on France at 1pm EST (7pm CET) and China vs. Puerto Rico scheduled for 3.30pm EST (9.30pm CET).