Thursday, September 09, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: Quarterfinal Analysis (Lithuania-Argentina, USA-Russia)

Lithuania 104, Argentina 85

This game did not play out as expected. It was not so much that Lithuania beat Argentina, it was the way it unfolded. Lithuania thoroughly destroyed Argentina in every aspect of the game and controlled the game from start to finish.

Lithuania was 19-for-32 (59%) on FG in the 1st half and 8-for-10 from deep, while Argentina was 12-for-33 (36%) and missed all of their nine 3PA. This game was essentially over at halftime with Lithuania up 50-30. Thought maybe Argentina would respond in the 3rd but they had nothing to offer.

A Lithuania team shooting the snot out of the ball is nothing new. But I don't ever recall a Lithuanian team defending as well as they did today. Old-school Lithuanian teams would beat you by out-executing and out-shooting the opposition. Defense was an afterthought.

Lithuania took Argentina out of everything they wanted to run. The Lithuanian bigs did a good job when switched onto perimeter players. Very few Argentine shots went uncontested, great close-outs all game. Aggressive on-ball defense and relentless recovery flustered the normally high-functioning Arg. offense. Well-timed doubles on Scola and great coverage on screens stymied Argentina.

Rarely see an Argentina get outplayed this badly. They were very slow defensively, getting repeatedly beaten by drives and failing to hustle back in transition. Argentina was very slow to react throughout the game, you just don't see Argentine teams failing to give max effort. Have to wonder if the intense game vs. Brazil two days before wore them out.

Give credit to Lithuania Coach Kemzura, he had a wonderful game plan and he was funneling players in & out of the lineup early. He obviously knew Argentina's depth was its main weakness, and he tried to expose it early by keeping his guys fresh. Also, Kemzura needs props for getting his team to sell-out defensively. Lithuania had similar personnel last summer and they stunk defensively under a different coach.

Even with all the great shooting by Lithuania, the best player of the game might been a guy who scored zero points, Robertas Javtokas. The veteran big frustrated Luis Scola like no one else in this tourney. Scola could not get clean shots inside vs. Javtokas and the Prigioni-Scola pick/roll was ineffective thanks in large part to Robertas.

Lithuania played the pick/roll much keener than Brazil. Javtokas would give Prigioni a cursory show, then rush back to Scola. Didn't think Javtokas would be able to follow Scola away from the basket area, but he held up great on the perimeter. It wasn't just his defense on Scola that was superb, his help was good near the rim and he even closed out on shots on the perimeter (blocked a Delfino 3PA).

Linas Kleiza had a fine all-around showing, tallying 17 pts & 9 rebs. Linas flashed to open spots, drove the ball and knocked down jumpers. Thought Kleiza played some the most active defense I've seen from him. He was helping everywhere and shuffling his feet laterally with vigor.

SG Martynas Pocius mixed jumpers with some hard-charging drives for 16 pts. Pocius poured in seven points early in the 3rd to crush any hopes that Argentina would mount a comeback in the 2nd half.

PG Tomas Delininkaitis drove thru the Argentina defense multiple times for scores and drilled two pull-up 3-pointers off of ball screens, his speciality.

Sharpshooter Simas Jasaitis (19 pts, 4-for-7 3PA) hit jumpers off of screens, in transition and off quick dribbles. Mantas Kalnietis, Jonas Maciulis and Paulius Jankunas all added 12 pts each. Lithuania had seven guys reach double-figures in points.

Luis Scola's 13 points (5-for-16 FG) came mostly on mid-range jumpers, as Luis failed to get any type of low-post game going. Scola was definitely visibly frustrated and he failed to draw fouls at the rate he's used to.

This one subpar game does not erase the fact that Scola might be the MVP of the tourney. (If USA wins, you have to hand it to Durant). Scola was dominant in his first six games averaging 28 ppg (57.7%), 7.7 rpg & 84% FT on 8.4 FTA per game. And his play vs. Brazil was an all-time great FIBA performance.

Carlos Delfino led Argentina with 25 pts, 4 rebs, & 2 stls but still could not find the range on his 3pt. shot (1-for-6). Carlos gave his squad nice all-around play at the Worlds (19 ppg, 5 rpg, 2 spg, 2.7 apg) besides erratic outside shooting (31% on 3PA).

Argentina's 2010 Worlds run ended one game earlier then expected. But otherwise, Argentina had a positive showing in Turkey with a thin roster. Think their lack of depth caught up with them vs. Lithuania. Argentina's core is on its last legs with only Delfino under 30. The 2012 Olympics could be the last hurrah of this golden generation of Argentina.

Lithuania heads to the semis to face Team USA on Saturday. If Lithuania wants a chance vs. USA, they will need to stroke the ball like they did today. That's not out of the question, Lithuania is loaded with shooting threats as always. But can they replicate the defensive performance? I just don't see it.

USA 89, Russia 79

Team USA did not overwhelm Russia in this game, but did have control of the game in the 2nd half. Russia stayed competitive for most of the game but ultimately had no answer for Kevin Durant and his creative shot-making.

Team USA's ability to force turnovers was a key to victory as their half-court offense wasn't great. 14 of Russia's 18 TOs came by way of steals by Team USA, which were usually turned into countless scoring opportunities or drawn fouls. Don't have the official fast-break numbers but USA must had 20+ pts in transition.

Russia's switch to matchup zone did cause some issues for Team USA in the 2nd quarter. Russia was able to grab a 5-point lead midway through the 2nd. Team USA made a run in the second half of the 2nd quarter to change the momentum. Russia did stick around in the 4th, but the outcome of the game was never in doubt.

Russia's defense has a way of making its opponent look ragged. Russia was able to hold Team USA to 42.6% shooting overall, though Team USA was able to hit 10-of-26 (38.5%) from behind the arc--Russia usually does a better job guarding the 3pt. line.

Russia was able to offset those lost possessions by grabbing 14 off. rebounds to Team USA's 25 def. rebounds.

Kevin Durant must have been watching Juan Navarro at these Worlds because he was abusing Russia with off-balance shots all game. Durant took on the brunt of the scoring chores for Team USA, usually beating his man in isolation for a variety of tough shots. Durant's production was simply sublime--33 pts (11-for-19 FG), 5 rebs, 2 stls, 2 blks & 8-of-9 FTA. Though, I'm wondering if Durant has an off day in the next two games, then maybe Team USA could be in some trouble.

Durant got some help from Chauncey Billups and Russell Westbrook, who were keys to Team USA taking control of the game in the 3rd quarter.

Westbrook came up big in a one-minute stretch midway through the 3rd that pushed Team USA's lead to double digits. On three consecutive USA possessions, Westbrook had two steals that he turned into breakaway dunks and also hit a corner 3-pointer. Team USA never lost its double-digit cushion the rest of the game.

Billups was also a key in Team USA's 3rd quarter surge, scoring 8 of his 15 points in the quarter. Billups banged down two 3-pointers and had one blow-by drive in isolation in the quarter. 12 of Billups' 15 pts came on threes, and he also dished out 5 assts.

Team USA also got important contributions from Lamar Odom and Andre Iguodala. Odom's defensive coverage was tight and he held his own in all the switches he was involved in. Iggy did similar things but was also a help defender deluxe once again. Both guys also got on the glass--Odom had 12 rebs (5 off), Iggy had 5 rebs (3 off).

Timo Mozgov had another solid outing with 13 pts, 4 rebs & a few changed shots. As usual, Mozgov's points came off of rolls, cuts or put-backs. Timo's foul problems surfaced again, with four fouls recorded in 24 mins. Mozgov had a solid tourney leading his team in scoring--12.6 ppg on 64% in only 19 mins per game. But he also averaged 3 fouls per game as well. He needs recalibrate his aggressive tendencies.

Think the Knicks took a worthy risk signing Timo to a 3-year, $8.15M contract (2/$5.4M guaranteed). No doubt Timo has the physical tools to hang in the NBA (7-1, 270) but he needs to work on refining his basketball fundamentals and feel for the game.

Thought 21-year-old PG Dmitry Khvostov was impressive today setting up his teammates. Made some terrific passes and did not seemed that phased playing against NBA players. Khvostov banged home two 3-pointers on his way to 8 pts & 5 assts. Might be a guy to keep track of during his club season.

Andrey Vorontsevich was another young Russian who was not phased by NBAers. Andrey continued his strong rebounding with 12 boards (4 off) and knocked down some jumpers for 14 pts. The 6-9 Vorontsevich is a nice athlete who can crash the boards and he had a solid tourney--10 ppg & 7.5 rpg (2.3 off). Generally not a great shooter, but if he keeps shooting the ball from the perimeter like he did here in Turkey (52% on 3PA), he might deserve a look from NBA teams.

Sergey Bykov was Russia's most consistent offensive threat scoring 17 pts, mostly on spot-up or pull-up jumpers. But Bykov brought his usual careless passing to the mix today.

Another solid int'l showing by a David Blatt-led Russian team. A Russian team lacking scoring punch was once again able to be competitive thanks to great defense. Russia's only losses came at the hands of Turkey and USA, two of the best teams in the tourney. Rumors are that Blatt will resign his post, which would suck for Russia and for FIBA. If he'd done with Russia, imagine some other national team will be ready to scoop him up (maybe Spain).

24 Comments:

At 4:16 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

The only team I know looking for a coach right now is Greece - Spain said they'll keep Scariolo.

USA-Lithuania preview? I see a Turkey-Lithuania final.... if Lith. plays like they did last night.

 
At 4:31 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Durant's been a mismatch nightmare at PF. He'd be a mismatch for any SF at this tournament too but it's a joke against PFs. He's getting tons of points beating his man down the floor and they have no shot guarding him in isolations in the halfcourt.

I've been wondering why Durant's been used differently in this tournament compared to how he's used in OKC, where he moves off the ball a lot. I think it's because, playing PF with three other guards, there just aren't many big bodies that can set screens for him. Curry, Billups, Rose, Westbrook--those guys shouldn't be used as battering posts. Also, there probably hasn't been enough time to install many sets. Simplicity should rule for a group that's played so little together. Durant isolated on the wing against an overmatched big is simplicity at its genius.

 
At 10:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be surprised if Spain kept Scariolo. Saez is an specialist firing the good coaches and keeping the bad ones for years and years.

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger jay aych said...

If I was the head of the Spanish Federation I would gauge Blatt's interest. If Blatt said he was interested in the job, I'd dump Scariolo in a second.

 
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