2006 FIBA Worlds - Spain 89, Lithuania 67
- What a difference two years makes. In 2004, Spain was the worst three-point shooting team in Athens at 29.9%, in no small part due to Juan Carlos Navarro's anemic 21.9% performance behind the arc. In Japan, Spain is shooting a respectable 37.8% on threes and Navarro has been sizzling at 45.5%. Against Lithuania, J.C. hit 4-9 from downtown en route to a 22-point game. In the Round of 16, it was his backcourt-mate Calderon who was everywhere; vs. LTU, it was Navarro who did it all - penetrating for hoops and dishes in addition to knocking down jumpers.
- What a difference two years makes. In 2004, Lithuania worked the ball around beautifully, setting up open shots seeming at will as they ended up shooting 47.5% on threes. In 2006, that flow dried up, open shots were harder to come by, and they shot just 31.0% on threes as a team.
Against Spain, they were just 6-22 behind the arc, but that doesn't come anywhere near telling the story. Their perimeter players looked downright helpless - as bad as China's guards looked against Greece - as they committed what Marv would call a "festival of turnovers" - 28 overall. Sure, Spain played good D as usual, but many turnovers were completely careless and ill-advised passes. 19-year-old Mantas Kalnietis showed flashes of potential, but overall, he was eaten alive - he's more suited for the World Juniors than the big boys at this stage.
- In general, Lithuania looked like it was ready to catch the first plane to Vilnius. They came out in a lethargic zone that surrendered two quick wide-open threes, and it was downhill from there.
Strangely, leading scorer Arvydas Macijauskas did not start, and then possibly more strangely, when he came in, LTU made no attempt to set him up for shots or get him the ball. He ended with a big donut - 0 points on 0-2 shooting - and Spain didn't even do anything special on him beyond solid man-to-man.
All in all, a sad display by this proud basketball nation. Where have you gone, Saras?
- Spain broke the game open with a 15-0 run that spanned the 1st and 2nd quarters and a good chunk of it was keyed by their strong second unit, which really got out into the open court nicely. Rudy Fernandez had another highlight-reel game with 10 points and a few dunks, including another nice alley connection with Spanish Chocolate.
Adding to the Spanish depth, big man Felipe Reyes made his return to the lineup with a solid 4 pts, 5 reb, 3 stl in 14 min.
I thought that the USA would have a big advantage in depth in this tourney, but really, all of the remaining teams are pretty solid down to players 9 and 10.
- Oh by the way, Pau was his utterly efficient self - 25 points, 9 boards, 3 blk in 28 mins. Dude's averaging 21 pts on 62% FG in 26 mpg for the tournament.
- Stock up on the caffeine now: we've got Spain vs. Argentina on Friday, baby. 3:30 a.m. ET, 12:30 a.m. out here in the PT.