2010 FIBA Worlds: Day 5 Analysis (Slovenia-Brazil, Lithuania-France)
GROUP B: Slovenia 80, Brazil 77
Slovenia held off a furious Brazil rally with a couple of clutch 3-pointers from Jaka Lakovic and Boki Nachbar.
Slovenia busted this game open thanks to stellar play in the 2nd quarter. Slovenia was getting everyone involved and the ball movement opened up great looks everywhere. It seemed like Brazil was plagued by miscommunication and missed assignments on the defensive end.
Slovenia looked they would roll to a comfortable win as they continued to execute in the 3rd, eventually pushing the lead to 16 by the of the quarter. Then, Brazil made things very interesting in the 4th by introducing a zone. Slovenia had no clue how to respond and this led to a cavalcade of turnovers.
You wonder what would have happened if Brazil had gone to a zone earlier. Slovenia is a good shooting team, so you need to be careful. But maybe mixing in a little zone in the 2nd might have stunted Slovenia's great quarter.
In a six-minute stretch in the 4th, Brazil went on a 15-0 run in which they forced seven TOs. Sharpshooter Marcelo Machado racked up 11 pts (three 3-pointers) & 3 stls in that stretch. Machado scored 17 of his 20 pts in the 4th.
Brazil trailed Slovenia 70-68 with 4:00 left and had all the momentum. But Jaka Lakovic saved Slovenia's hide while the wheels were coming off in the 4th. Lakovic hit two big 3-pointers late in the 4th. One to end Brazil's 15-0 run to put Slovenia up 73-68. Then Jaka hit another 3-pointer a minute later to extend the lead to 76-68. Lakovic was money all game from long-range--18 of his 20 pts came from behind the arc. He hit them standing still or off of quick dribble pull-ups.
Boki Nachbar continues to be a force in FIBA play once again this year. Boki was key in Slovenia's 2nd quarter surge in creating offense. Boki blew by his defender in an iso for a lay-in. He also had a terrific drop-off pass to a cutting Primoz Brezec. He also did work in the post, drawing extra defenders (finding Gasper Vidmar for a dunk). And Boki's right-corner 3-pointer with 0:20 left sealed the victory. Boki dropped 15 pts (6-of-10) & grabbed 4 rebs. Definitely think Nachbar could return to the NBA as a valuable reserve.
Primoz Brezec scored Slovenia's first eight points of the game on a couple of put-backs and few cuts to the rim. Brezec did a great job cutting/rolling to open spots, which led to 16 pts on 7-of-8 shooting. Goran Dragic helped Slovenia's cause with 10 pts, coming mostly on snaking forays to the rim.
Thought Slovenia used their height advantage on the perimeter well with post-ups for Nachbar & Becirovic. Thought guard Sani Becirovic had himself a nice floor game, and just like his steady demeanor in general. Sani pitched in 6 pts, 9 rebs & 4 assts.
Slovenia beat Brazil on the boards 35-23. Brazil lost possessions by losing the rebound-margin battle, but made up for it by winning the TO margin contest (Slovenia 16 TOs, Brazil 7). Slovenia recorded nine TOs in the 4th.
Tiago Splitter had another fine performance, leading Brazil with 19 pts (8-of-13 FG). Tiago had his back-to-the-basket game flowing, showcasing an up/under step-thru, a few righty hooks and a turnaround jumper over his right shoulder that I can't remember seeing from him. Also, was effective as a roll man, even threw in a pick-n-pop jumper. Made a great steal up top that he turned into a breakaway dunk. You don't see too many 7-footers who can break on balls like that on the perimeter. But Tiago's dicey FT shooting was on display today (3-for-8 FTA), too.
Leandro Barbosa needs to switch from jacking up off-balance jumpers in favor of heading to the rim more. Leandro continues to be off-the-mark with his shots--6-for-18 for 12 pts today. Barbosa shot just 11-36 (31%) from the field in back-to-back games vs. USA and Slovenia.
PG Marcelo Huertas was dropping passes to his teammates and setting them up to draw fouls. But Huertas made an inexcusable error on D, in which he got caught in no-man's land leaving Lakovic wide-open for a big 3.. Not really sure what Huertas was thinkng, it looked liked he was going to help on the ball-handler. But the dribbler (Becirovic) was not moving hard on the drive. It looked like Huertas was anticipating a drive way too early.
Slovenia secured the 2-seed in Group B while Brazil will play Croatia on Thursday to determine 3rd place.
GROUP C: Lithuania 69, France 55
In a game that was basically the Group D championship, Lithuania shook off a slow first quarter to outscore France 58-31 over the last three quarters. With this win, Lithuania gets to avoid Team USA until the finals (if both teams get that far).
After a 1st quarter where we saw France unexpectedly score 24 points on 8-for-13 shooting (5-of-6 3PA), the normally anemic French offense came back down to earth. France could manage only 31 points on 26% shooting over the last three quarters. France shot 35% from the floor for the game.
The 2nd quarter was particularly difficult to watch, with a combined 19 points scored and a combined nine TOs. France's offense was pathetic in the quarter, shooting 1-for-13 overall with five TOs.
Lithuania went with a matchup zone for most of the 2nd half, and it befuddled the French. The 3rd quarter was not much better for Les Bleus, as they only managed 11 points in that stanza.
Linas Kleiza and Jonas Maciulis were both aggressive again today, scoring and seeking out contact. Kleiza attacked the basket in the half-court and in transition to score all of his 15 points in the 2nd half.
Lithuania set up Maciulis much like Kleiza--screening him into post-ups and isos. Maciulis made his mark by hitting a couple mid-range pull-ups on isos, executing post-ups and drawing fouls. Jonas led Lithuania with 19 pts, 3 stls, but had 6 TOs.
Nic Batum was effective with some baseline drives and made some nice passes. But Nic slowed down after scoring 9 of 13 in the 1st quarter. Nic was 0-for-6 after the 1st. Also thought Nic had some difficulties handling Maciulis.
Thought Dallas Mav Ian Mahinmi gave the French nice activity on the defensive end, but might have been a little over-active--fouled out in 14 minutes.
Boris Diaw had another solid floor game with 9 pts, 6 rebs & 4 stls. France let Diaw run some offense out of the post, but we'd like to see more point-forward on the perimeter. But why not let Diaw run the offense from the point? Diaw did a solid job in 2006 directing the offense. Worth a try.
It's also curious why the French club doesn't run more. Les Bleus is built for speed and they usually have rough time in the half-court offensively. Seems like uptempo is a no-brainer for France.
Look ahead to the games to focus on the last day of group play:
*--All these teams have clinched 1st-place in their groups: Team USA (B); Turkey (C); Lithuania (D)
Argentina vs. Serbia (Noon EST): This is the game of the day. Winner takes Group A title, loser gets 2nd place. Argentina is undefeated but, has not looked dominant in doing so. Serbia's one loss came at the hands of the Germans in double-OT. But that was without two key players, Nenad Krstic and Milos Teodosic. Serbia is very deep and has good size at every position. Argentina's depth is shaky especially on the frontline. Advantage Serbia. Luis Scola-Novica Velickovic matchup is very intriguing. Teodosic's size could give Prigioni problems. Wonder if Argentina will put Delfino on Teodosic some.
Australia vs. Angola (9:30 am EST): Both teams are qualified for the Round of 16 and this game is to determine 3rd & 4th place in Group A. What's important about this game is the loser gets a Round of 16 date with Team USA. Australia should win this one but I've learned not underestimate the African champions. Angola is a tough out.
Brazil vs. Croatia (2:30 pm EST): A game that will determine 3rd & 4th place in Group B. This game is connected to the Argentina-Serbia game as the winner of that game gets the loser of Brazil-Croatia in the Round of 16, while the losers will match up, as well. Interesting matchup of Tiago Splitter and Ante Tomic. These guys are familiar with each other, as they faced each other in the ACB (Spanish League). Tiago got the better of Tomic in the ACB semifinals, when Tiago's Caja Laboral bested Tomic's Real Madrid 3-2. Tiago's strength advantage was a factor.
Greece vs. Russia (11:30 am EST): It might be better to lose this game. Forget might, you *should* tank this game. Here's why: the winner will likely have to face Spain in the Round of 16. Then if that team somehow gets by Spain, they get the prize of probably facing Team USA in the next round. If you lose this game you get rewarded by being placed in the sub-bracket away from Spain & USA. Greece has some experience with trying to avoid Spain in the first round of the playoffs. Last year at the EuroBasket, Greece played France under similar circumstances, as it was better to lose the game and thus avoid Spain in the knockout round. Greece lucked out by Nando De Colo hitting a buzzer-beater. This year, they should consider setting up Big Sofo for some three-pointers.
How this group shakes out is still up in the air. The two games of significance are France vs. New Zealand and Spain vs. Canada. New Zealand could challenge France. If France loses, then a tiebreaker would go into effect where Spain has the best shot at the #2 seed.
*-- Quick thanks to Fran Fraschilla for the major-league on-air shout-out during the USA-Iran game. We always enjoy Fran's analysis and certainly appreciate his deep knowledge of the international game. Fran, your $50 deluxe Painted Area T-shirt-and-keychain prize pack is in the mail. Thanks to everyone for reading during the FIBA tournament--knockout round coming soon!