Sunday, August 27, 2006

2006 FIBA Worlds-Quarterfinals Preview (Part I)

Quarterfinal Games to be played on Tuesday morning- 8/29 (in US):

- Argentina (A-1) vs. Turkey (C-2): Argentina looked pretty good once again vs. NZ, besides the putrid 3pt. shooting, but do probably face their stiffest comp of the Worlds so far in Turkey. The San Antonio contingent of Manu, Oberto, & Luis Scola basically did all the damage in the Round of 16 game, but Argentina probably will need the improved services of A. Nocioni, W. Herrmann, C. Delfino, Pepe vs. Turkey.

Turkey shot the ball very well vs. Slovenia--54.2% from the floor, 43.8% from 3pt.--and they're very capable of continuing at this kind of clip. Serkan Erdogen (who hit for 24 vs. Slovenia) & Ibrahim Kutluay can get lethally hot from outside, while MIlwaukee Buck Ersan Ilyasova can't be left alone either. Although Ilyasova sat out the last 2 games with a leg injury, and his status is still not determined. Their solid rotation of bigs have the ability to neutralize Scola & Oberto. The athletic Kerem Gonlum has had a good tourney (he was great in the Italy game) & wide-body Kaya Pekar does a solid overall job. 7-foot Fatih Solak just takes up alot of space defensively and Ermel Kurtoglu provides an array of nifty post moves off the bench. Young Atlanta Hawk draftee PG Cenk Aykol had a nice showing in the Slovenia game (11 pts.) causing problems with his speed & should be an interesting matchup for Pepe Sanchez.

It might be in Turkey's best interest to throw some zone at Argentina to see if they have a repeat performance in the perimeter shooting department. Also, I like some zone vs. Argentina because it can mess up their motion offense and the rhythm it produces. Take a note from Serbia--clog the paint and discourage the cutting & passing lanes they thrive on, its worth a shot.

Although I would not be stunned with a Turkey upset, Argentina seems to be on a mission & have been a pretty fine-tuned machine so far, and I just can't see Turkey derailing them.

- Spain (B-1) vs. Lithuania (C-3): Before everyone gets prepared for a potential classic semifinal matchup between Spain & Argentina, Spain still has to deal with Lithuania, who's no pushover. Spain was a little off their usual torrid offensive play vs. Serbia--they shot 46.6% overall & 30% from 3pt. after shooting 54.6% overall & 44% from 3pt. in group play. They also had an uncharacteristic 21 TOs. But they continued to play their legendary tight defense--holding Serbia to 38.2% from the field & 28.6% from deep.

Where Spain has a distinct advantage is at the point with Jose Calderon, who has been nothing short of spectacular so far. Even though young PG Mantas Kalnietis had a nice game vs. Italy, he's no match for probably the best int'l PG outside the US. Juan Navarro can cancel out the play of Arvydas Macijauksas, which leaves it up to the Lithuania frontline, including Denver Nugget Linas Kleiza, to step up to the plate.

Lithuania has the ability to contain Gasol with a very good rotation of bigs, similar to Turkey. Roberto Javtokas is a good, strong athlete whose calling card is defense, while the Lavrinovic twins & Darius Songalia can also spend sometime on Pau. Lithuania has not been showcasing their patented ball movement & shooting in this tourney, but are still finding ways to win. They are looking to isolate Macijauskas more and Lithuania has not really shot the ball up to their reputation in this tourney, but they are always in danger of getting hot from outside. I am not sure Macijauksas will able to go one-on-one too often vs. the stellar defense of Spain, so I think Lithuania is going to have to get more creative offensively than they have.

Just like with Turkey, I would not be stunned if Lithuania pulled off the upset. But just like in Argentina's case, Spain has been a force all summer, and I can't see them getting knocked off in the quarters. Which should set up one of the most anticipated clashes in int'l basketball history: a semifinal of Argentina & Spain.