Sunday, August 27, 2006

2006 FIBA Worlds-Round of 16 Sunday Recap

Analysis of Round of 16 games played on Sat. Nite/Sun Morn. (8/27):

-USA 113, Australia 73: If the US is going to shoot the ball like this every game, might as well hand them the gold medal now. I felt this was the most impressive all-around game the US has played so far. They were drilling their outside shots all game, and when that happens they are nearly unstoppable.

Also, the US did a great job in the 2nd quarter of hounding Australia defensively in the halfcourt after a 1st quarter where the US was having some defensive breakdowns--they held the Aussies to only 6 pts in the quarter.

Overall, the US did their best job guarding the 3-point line, which was important vs. Australia (6/25 from deep). They also forced the Aussies into 24 TOs, but that was not that surprising since the Aussies averaged 20 per in group play.

It was another collabortive effort for Team USA, with no one guy standing out above the rest. I thought Joe Johnson (18 pts.) had a great all-around game and was hitting a variety of shots. Shane Battier continued to be the ultimte glue guy & continued to be Team USA's most reliable catch & shoot option (4/5 from 3pt for 12 pts.). Chris Bosh had his second strong game in a row after being relegated to 11th man status with 12 & 9. D-Wade just kept on winding his way thru the defense to either create looks for himself or for teammates (15 & 4 assts.).

Andrew Bogut led the overmatched Aussies with 20 & 6 rebs. Future draft prospect Brad Newley added 15 pts. Up next for the US is Germany who barely escaped an upset at the hands of Nigeria.

I will be interested how the US will defend Dirk: I have to assume Battier will be the primary defender and the US will send doubles to get the ball out of his hands.

-France 68, Angola 62: It was not a pretty game to watch but that is how France likes it. Angola could not get any rhythm going in the halfcourt all game, & that was due mostly to France's great defense--Angola was held to 37% overall. In the first half, it seemed that Angola could only get offense in transition, the half-court was a fruitless struggle.

France's offense was flowing as well as I've seen it in this tourney. They were doing a good job getting good looks in the paint. Boris Diaw was noticably more aggressive offensively, including a flying slam in the half-court (14, 5rbs, but 5 TOs). Current Seattle Sonic Mickeal Gelabale was doing a nice job getting good looks to combine with tremendous activity on the defensive end (his defensive prowess is a godsend for Seattle, he needs to see serious minutes behind Rashard & Ray). Florent Pietrus once again brought great all-around energy with 8 & 7 rebs. Tony Parker's replacement Ay Jeanneau did a solid job running the club, and brought something that Parker could not even bring--some good outside shooting (2/3 from deep), which is desparately needed on this team. Mamoutu Diarra came off the bench and continued to be the only Frenchmen who can provide any kind of consistent perimeter shooting (2/4 from 3pt.).

Why the Angolan coach waited until the middle of the 2nd half to switch to a zone, I am not sure. When he did, France's offense started to sputter (not surprisingly), and this kept Angola is striking distance--granted Diarra hit 2 3pts vs. the zone, France was not getting quality possessions after possessions like they were getting in the 1st half.

But Angola could not capitalize on their 2nd half defense because their offense could get no flow. They either had a hard time getting shots off in the interior because of their lack of size or they would have spotty shot selection

When France misses outside shots they miss them badly--they just lack good natural shooters, even Diarra has a weird shot release. I would never come out of a packed-in zone or extreme sagging man vs. France, never.

-Germany 78, Nigeria 77: For the first 3 quarters this game was not very interesting and had no vibe. But things started to pick up in the 4th, and Nigeria would not go down quietly.

Germany was pretty sharp out of the gates and were getting great looks offensively & knocking down their outside looks. Dirk was not only doing a good job scoring, but also setting up his teammates with some nice draw & dishes (Dirk had 5 assts). Nigeria stuck close the whole 1st half, and ex-Texas Longhorn Gabe Muoneke played a big part with his outside shooting--he hit two back2back 3s near the end of the 1st to cut into the German lead.

A very uneventful 3rd quarter where both teams could only score 14 points apiece, but Muoneke kept up the hot hand & Current U of Maryland forward Ekenne Ibekwe added some big jumpers. Nigeria tighten up their defense in the 2nd half forcing the Germans into jumper mode, where they could not find the mark.

But Ademola Okulaja saved the day for the Germans with two 3-pointers & one 3-point play the old-fashioned way off a nice drive in the 4th. I thought the game was over after Mithat Demieral made a big steal that led to a Dirk dunk with 2 minutes left that pushed the lead to 7, but Nigeria hung tough. After forcing a shot clock violation, Nigeria had a chance to win with about 6 seconds left, but NY Knick Ime Udoka missed a driving lay-in that Dirk definitely effected.

Dirk once again led the Germans with 23, 9 rebs, & 5 assts--he did a great job finding his teammates after drawing defenders, something he must do vs. the US. Ex-Tarheel Ademoka Okulaja had another huge all-around game with 19 pts., 8 rebs & 4/7 from 3pt. land. I told to you in my playoff preview to watch out for Ekenne Ibekwe & his high-wire act, he did not disappoint. He continued to really impress me with his great athleticism & activity--22 pts., 10 rebs & 3 rebs--including a couple sweet finishes. Gabe Muoneke had another solid game, especially stepping out of the interior to do some damage this time--16, 5 rebs, 4 assts & 3/5 from 3pt. Ime Udoka had a rare rough night with 5 TOs & 3/11 from the floor, including the last miss at the buzzer.

- Greece 95, China 64: Greece keeps taking care of business. I am little surprised with the score because it's not Greece's style to blowout their opponents. Amazingly, Greece got off 26 more shot attempts than China, which probably has something to do with forcing 23 TOs, and only giving up 2 of their own.

Greece's offense might have had their best performance of the tourney by shooting 51.4 % overall, and shooting better than normal from 3pt, even without Zisis--50%. Theo Papaloukas had another super all-around game with 19 pts., 6 rebs., & 5 steals. Always steady PG Dimis Diamantidis was his usual efficient self with 7 pts., 4 rebs, 3 assts & 3 steals. Recent Houston Rocket signee PG Vasillis Spanoulis came off the bench to provide an outside threat with 3/6 from deep.

Greece's rock solid defense totally shut down Yao Ming, who only got off 5 shots for 10 pts. Wang Shipeng was the only other Chinese player to get double figures (16 & 6)

The Greece-France matchup should be a defensive battle, where both teams could struggle to score with any consistency. I do not expect a high-scoring affair at all--were looking in the 60s, maybe low 70s, it will be by no means a pretty game.

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