Saturday, August 28, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: Day 1 Analysis (Russia-P.R., Argentina-Germany, Greece-China)

GROUP C: Russia 75, Puerto Rico 66

Close game in which Russia pulled away late for a win that could possibly end up securing 3rd place in Group C. Great win without their best player, Vik Khryapa.

I knew I shouldn't have picked against Russian coach David Blatt when he's going against Puerto Rico coach Manolo Cintron. Kicking myself for that one. Basic rule of thumb: when two FIBA teams are closely-matched, always go with the one Blatt is coaching.

In typical Russian fashion, their defense set the tone. Russia held Puerto Rico to 39% shooting overall. The 3pt. shot is a big part of P.R's attack but they could shoot only 4-for-21. But that's not that surprising, since Russia is notorious for shutting down the 3pt. line. Did a great job communicating and contesting shots.

Blatt, as usual, shuffled thru different defensive looks. Like I've mentioned before, he implements a very unique matchup zone where it seems defenders will move out of their area sometimes to follow the offensive man. The defenders will sometimes change spots in the zone during the possession. I love the stuff he does defensively.

Russia was nothing special on offense themselves. Russia tends to have a middling offense at best, and they only shot 38.6% today. But they made up for the poor shooting by living at the FT line--Russia went 25-for-32 on the FT line. Russia's combination of spacing and no ball-stoppers created lanes for cuts & drives.

Sergey Monya stepped in the absence of Khryapa with a Khryapa-like all-around game: 16 pts (4-for-8 3PA), 7 rebs & 4 assts. Monya buried jumpers, passed well, and brought his patented sound help defense. Sergey hit a big pull-up from 18 feet with the shot clock winding down to give Russia a 56-55 lead early in the 4th. Thought Monya had a solid Eurobasket last year, where he was one of the best defenders in the tourney, and he's off to another good start in FIBA competition.

Russia's center duo, Timo Mozgov & Sasha Kaun, combined forces to do some decent damage in the painted area. Kaun did a good job holding his ground vs. PJ Ramos, never letting him establish his post game. Kaun gave Russia 13 pts, 8 rebs and drew fouls (7-for-12 FTs).

Timo finished with 13 pts on 5-of-8 in 20 minutes of play. Mozgov was effective finishing plays off of rolls/cuts. Had an impressive catch & finish in traffic in transition. Had a big block on Ramos on the ball. Had a few post-ups that not surprisingly weren't fluid. Though, he did make an easy dunk on a nice quick seal vs. vet Daniel Santiago.

Made a few mistakes on defense--took a bad angle on Arroyo P/R and had a poor close-out where he failed to breakdown and shut off baseline. Also, the foul-prone Mozgov picked up two offensive fouls where he was too aggressive.

Russia's Anton Ponkrashov's calling card is passing and he was superb today distributing the rock (11 assists). Set up teammates off of pick/roll and off a few post-ups. Ponkrashov has a knack for drawing fouls and Anton got to the line 10 times today, accounting for his points. Anton is not a good athlete but he just a finds ways to sneak by defender to draw contact.

JJ Barea single-handedly kept Puerto Rico in the game. He was a terror off the dribble the whole game. Utilized hesitation and spins to get to wherever he wanted on the floor. Barea's 25 pts came on jumpers, runners and lay-ins in traffic.

Big man PJ Ramos did not get much going with his back-to-the-basket game, but he did contribute 15 pts & 9 rebs by heading to the front of the rim. Carlos Arroyo was a non-factor throughout.

If Blatt just had one to two gifted scorers to work with, Russia would be a perennial medal contender.

GROUP A: Argentina 78, Germany 74

Entertaining game in which Germany had multiple chances to take the lead late, but came up empty on a handful of possessions (a few costly TOs). I can think of someone who could have helped Germany in late-game situations.

Pretty physical game, but that is to be expected when Argentina and Germany are playing. Fab Oberto was clutching all game and Scola was banging bodies on offense. Germany had 27 fouls today, same amount of fouls they averaged per game at Eurobasket (led the tourney in fouls). A nice chunk of Germany's 18 TOs seemed to be offensive fouls. Some of which were dubious, especially a call on Tim Ohlbrecht late.

It appeared Argentina had taken control of the game by outscoring Germany 26-12 in the 3rd. But Germany knocked down some tough shots to get back in it.

Although Carlos Delfino did not shoot particularly well (39%), he still had a huge day. Handled the ball a ton and coolly ran the offense. He banged down two jumpers on isolations over Jan Jagla after switches--one was a nice step-back three. Also hit a long pull-up 3pt. off a ball screen and had a nice turnaround jumper in the post.

Luis Scola scored on a few hooks and drew fouls (10-for-13 FTA), as usual, all game. But Luis definitely had some issues with Germany's length. Scola finished with 20 pts but on only 4-of-12 shooting.

Have to give props to my man Fab Oberto for a great game. Always thought Oberto's passing skills were underrated and Oberto made a few beautiful dishes today. Plus, he converted a crucial put-back (plus-1) with just under 3:00 left to put Argentina up 74-71. Fab also did his usual good job of sneaking to open spots in the offense, usually on the baseline. Also, Oberto's physical play on defense was effective. Fab pitched in with 11 pts, 6 rebs & 3 assts and the play-of-the-day had to be Oberto's between-the-legs pass to Delfino for a 3pter.

Definitely think Germany's size affected Argentina around the basket. Jan Jagla, Tibor Pleiss, Robin Benzing and Tim Ohlbrecht are all taller than anyone on Argentina, and they made Argentina readjust its shots.

It look like vintage Demond Greene out there for Germany today: 20 pts on 7-of-12 (3-for-4 3PA). But sadly, the only thing he will be remembered for is being stripped by Hernan Jasen with a chance to take the lead with 15 secs left. Greene was drilling jumpers all over the floor and added a tough drive thru traffic.

Jan Jagla (8 pts, 10 rebs (4 off.) & 4 assts) had a nice all-around performance, making nice entry passes, cleaning the boards and making Scola work hard for his points. OKC Thunder draftee Tibor Pleiss did most of his damage finishing at the rim and even mixed in a smooth 18-footer. Pleiss had a solid game (12 pts on 5-of-7), but was saddled with foul trouble.

Germany should give Serbia and Australia tough competition and have a great shot at beating a Nenad/Teodosic-less Serbia.

GROUP C: Greece 89, China 81
(by M. Haubs)

Considered a medal contender by most, Greece had trouble shaking China, a team which many assume will not make it out of the Group Stage. China took a 66-65 lead with 8:00 left, and trailed by just 81-79 with 3:00, before the Greeks were able to finish them off.

The story of the game was Yi Jianlian, who was impressively efficient working with his back to the basket in the low-to-mid post, either executing post moves or facing up and utilizing his soft shooting touch. Yi was able to hold his position on the block and rebound consistently against the strong Greek big men like Giannis Bourossis.

Yi finished with a 26-14 on 9-15 FG/8-11 FT. If anything, China should have gotten him the ball more. Per usual, China's guards often raced downcourt without purpose, flinging up ill-advised shots early in the shot clock. In any event, now we'll see if Yi can do it again. A maddeningly inconsistent player, he did not look especially good in China's pre-tournament play.

Also, after multiple baskets, Yi also sent stares in the direction of Greek coach Jonas Kazlauskas, who headed up China's national team from 2005-08. Not sure what the beef is there.

The effectiveness of China's swiss-cheese zone ebbed and flowed as Greece's shooting went hot and cold. A few passes usually broke it down, though the Greeks often settled for three-pointers - they made 13-39 on the day, as opposed to 16-29 inside the arc.

Nikos Zisis knocked down some key shots in the fourth quarter en route to 21 points, while Bourossis contributed 21 and 8, and Vassilis Spanoulis chipped in with 19.

Greece was missing Antonis Fotsis and Sofo Schortsanitis due to suspension, and they'll be out again on Sunday vs. Puerto Rico, who should be a tougher opponent--likely a cause for concern for Greece after they did not play well without the two bigs on Saturday.

Other Game Results:

Serbia 94, Angola 44:
Serbia had no problems dispatching the undermanned, undersized Angolans by 50 points. Alexander Rasic took advantage of a surplus of backcourt minutes in the absence of Milos Teodosic by dropping 22 pts, 18 coming on 3PT. Dusan Savanovic pitched in 13 pts & 7 rebs while reserve PF Milan Macvan went for 11 pts & 6 rebs. Olimpio Cipriano was the only Angola player in double-figures (10 pts).

Australia 76, Jordan 75: The Boomers survived an upset attempt by upstart Jordan. Australia was bailed out by its bigs, as they got underwhelming play from the perimeter people. Dave Andersen had a monster game with 22 pts (7-of-10), 9 rebs, 4 assts & 2-for-3 3PA. PF/C Aleks Maric powered his way to 23 pts on 10-of-14 & 7 rebs. F/C Matt Nielsen pitched with 9 pts & 4 rebs. Patty Mills had 10 pts but only 1 assts & 0-for-5 from deep. Jordan was led by multi-skilled forward Zaid Abbaas who dropped 20 pts & 10 rebs (6 off.). Scoring guard Rasheim Wright put in 16 pts and crafty PG Sam Daghles had 7 pts, 9 assts & 6 rebs.

Slovenia 80, Tunisia 56:
Slovenia bested Tunisia with little trouble thanks to the superb play of Goran Dragic (16 pts, 8 assts & 5 rebs). Boki Nachbar tossed up 14 pts & 6 rebs, which were basically his average numbers last summer. Gasper Vidmar came off the bench to drop 15 pts & 7 rebs. Trey Kerby's boy, Radhouane Slimane, was the only Tunisian in double-figures (11 pts).

Brazil 81, Iran 65: Guilherme Giovannoni started in place of injured Andy Varejao and led Brazil with 17 pts & 7 rebs (4 off.). Tiago Splitter put up 13 pts and PG Marcelo Huertas had 10 pts & 9 assts. Memphis Grizzly Hamad Haddadi paced Iran with 16 pts, 9 rebs & 5 blocks, including a couple against Splitter.

Turkey 86, Ivory Coast 47:
Ersan Ilyasova played like he did last summer with 17 pts (3-for-4 on 3PA), 8 rebs (3 off.) & 3 assts. SG Omer Onan went 4-of-5 from long range to finish with 18 pts. Chicago Bull Omer Asik pitched in with 8 pts & 12 rebs (7 off.), but was 2-of-8 from the FT line. Hedo Turkoglu only had 6 pts but did have 7 assts & 4 stls.

Lithuania 92, New Zealand 79: Lithuania shot 55% from the floor, which neutralized Kirk Penney's 37-point performance. Linas Kleiza wasn't too bad himself with 27 pts & 8 rebs. Linas shot 11-for-15 overall, 3-for-5 on 3PA. PF Paulius Jankunas added 15 pts and SF Jonas Maciulis had 14 pts.

Lebanon 81, Canada 71: Close game that might have determined the final Round 16 berth in Group D. Lebanon outscored the Maple Leafers 24-13 in the final stanza to win by 10. SF Fadi El Khatib was huge with 31 & 8 rebs. Former Vandy star Matt Freije pitched in 12 pts and Jackson Vroman had 8 pts, 8 rebs & 3 assts. PG Rony Fahed had 17 pts. Miami Heat's Joel Anthony led all Canadian scorers with 17 pts on 8-for-11. Former UConn guard Denham Brown added 13 pts & 6 assts. Andy Rautins and Jevohn Shepherd both had 10 pts.

More analysis on USA-CRO and ESP-FRA coming shortly


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