Monday, August 28, 2006

2006 FIBA Worlds-Quarterfinals Preview (Part II)

Quarterfinal games to be played on Wed. morning-8/30 (in the US):

- USA (D-1) vs. Germany (B-2): The number one issue for the US in this game-- is how to defend Dirk. I am very curious how Coach K will go about this, and I am not quite positive how he will approach it.

I have to think Battier will start off as the primary defender on Dirk and I have to assume that Coach K will send doubles early & often to get the ball out of his hands; at least that's what I would do. It's not like you have to worry if you double Dirk that Jason Terry or Jerry Stackhouse are unaccounted for--leaving Stefan Hamann & Patrick Femerling does not quite measure up.

Although, SG Demond Greene can't be taken lightly, because he is one of the better outside shooters in this tourney. I got to believe Bosh, Lebron, & Joe Johnson could also see some minutes defending Dirk. Brand could also be a possiblity, sort of like Udonis Haslem, but I'm not sure-- he is playing the 5 in FIBA, and this would create a mismatch on Femerling, which probably will not kill Team USA, but Femerling could take some advantage of it since he is not a total stiff.

I have to think Germany will play a fair amount of zone. They did it in the '04 exhibition which was a low scoring affair where the US needed a Iverson last-second heave to avoid overtime. The last two times the Germans played the US they had competitive games: the aforementioned exhibition & a 2002 Worlds pool play game. The final score of the '02 game was a bit misleading considering the Germans were neck-n-neck with the Americans until right at the end of the 3rd, where the US went on a fluky run in the matter of seconds to change the momemtum. I remember Dirk single-handedly dismantling the US in that game. So it's not crazy to think that Dirk could single-handedly keep this game very close. Another thing to remember is that Germany is a good rebounding club--outrebound opponents by 10 per.

I believe US's superior depth will eventually wear down the Germans. But the Germans are a solid outside shooting club--Greene & Sven Schultze is a big who can float out. Ex-Tarheel Ademola Okulaja has been having a solid tourney basically being the Shane Battier of Germany, but with a little more variety on offense & giving more on the boards. So, the US needs to prepare a little for the role players, not just Dirk.

-Greece (C-1) vs. France (A-2): Do you prefer grind-it out defensive-minded basketball ? Well, do you? Because if you're a big fan of Phoenix Suns-style basketball maybe you should not tune into this game. These teams take a tremendous amount of pride in their defensive acumen. A rematch of the great 2005 Euro semifinal that France choked away in the last minute and Dimitris Diamantidis made a huge 3.

It's lucky for France their defense is so good, because their offense is a disaster. I have been pointing out all summer how I thought this team was overrated, even with Parker, and I would always point out how their outside shooting was the worst of any contending team. Well, the French have done me one better, and not only do they stink compared to title contenders, they are the absolute worst outside shooting team in the entire tourney-- a terrible 23.4% from 3pt. (something I do not think Parker would change any).

Mickeal Gelabale & Mamoutou Diarra are the only two guys to even be mildly concerned about from outside. Why you would ever come out of a zone or sagging man vs. France is beyond me. I wish the Angolan coach would have figured this fact out before the tail end of the 3rd quarter (He must have been hanging out with the Italian coach a little too much).

France does offset their lackluster offensive production to a degree by holding opponents to 37.7% overall & 26.5% from deep. France is also one of the top rebounding teams in the tourney--they finished 3rd overall in group play for rpg, but still only outrebound their opponent by 3 a game. While Greece was dead last in rpg (24.8) in group play, but they only get outrebounded by 4 a game. It will be interesting if this plays a big role in the outcome of the game.

People are raving about Team USA's stifling defense, but as always Greece seems to be an afterthought in this tourney. The defensive numbers do not overwhelm you, and some APBR-metricians will disagree that Greece's defense is that proficient, but they just find ways to get the job done; they're a team you really have to watch to appreciate. Their pressure defense is nearly as good as Team USA's, and they are causing more turnovers per game than the US--24, which leads the tourney. Although France does take pretty good care of the ball--only 12.6 TOs per--so something has to give in this game.

This defense is spearheaded by their oversized combo guards: Dimitris Diamantidis & Theo Papaloukas. Euroleague Defensive Player of the Year PG Diamantidis is just a smart, savvy player who is nothing spectacular but just has a great floor game & is good for a handful of steals per game. Theo Papaloukas comes off the bench to bring a near carbon copy of Diamantitidis's game & Theo was a huge factor in putting the China game out of reach.

Current Houston Rocket PG Vasilies Spanoulis brings great energy off the bench either by attacking the rim with relentless dribble penetration or relentless ball pressure on defense. Greece's main option on offense is dumping the ball into center Lazaros Papadopoulas who can finish his sweet post moves off with retro hook shots with either hand or he will find teammates with his passing skills.

Greece's offense just flows better in my opinion, better ball movement & a little bit better shooting, and I think this will push them thru to a likely semifinal showdown vs. the US. Boris Diaw has to take his play to the next level, because his play so far has been lukewarm at best. If this French offense is going to getting a kind of consistent flow, it has to start with Diaw.