The knockout round of the FIBA Worlds is now underway, and four teams - two from the US's Group D - are gone.
Argentina beat New Zealand handily in the first match. It wasn't that easy, though - Argentina missed their first 17 three-point attempts, and Manu Ginobili hit the only bomb of the game for his team in the fourth quarter. That's 5.6 percent from long-range. (In fact, Argentina has shot only 37 percent from three for the tournament - a tick and a half lower than the US.)
Argentina next meets Turkey, who edged Slovenia in what sounds like a thrilling, back-and-forth game. Remember: Turkey isn't sending Memo Okur or Hedo Turkoglu. They're doing this on the backs of non-NBA names. Slovenia, meanwhile, had Beno Udrih, Rasho Nesterovic, Primoz Brezec, and Bostjan Nachbar - not NBA stars, but NBA names nonetheless. Turkey is coming at you with Fatih Solak, Serkan Erdogen, and Cenk Akyol. (Turks have the greatest names. It's true.)
Lithuania got away with one against Italy. According to the FIBA game recap, Italy missed five free throws with less than three seconds left (!). Here's how that shocking finish went down:
Belinelli missed both shots from the stripe, but team-mate Gianluca Basile grabbed the long rebound and attempted to launch an attempt from the arc before time expired and as he did, he was fouled by Arvydas Macijauskas, one of the most experienced players in the Lithuania team.
Macijauskas tried to put a hand in Basile's face but made contact with him just 0.6 seconds from the end, giving the 20-year-old a chance to tie the game if he could make three shots from the charity stripe.
Basile, a member of Italy's silver-medal winning side at the Olympics, was short on the first, however, and then missed the next two to preserve the three-point victory for Lithuania.
Yikes. Lithuania is living on borrowed time right now. They next face Spain, who smoked Serbia, ending Darko's reign prematurely. Serbia has some nice young players, though, and I expect them to make a better showing in China in two years.
Speaking of China, they're up tomorrow (which means late tonight) against Greece. The US is still getting ready for Australia. Germany is up against surprise advancers Nigeria. And France comes up against the Angolan Machine. France/Angola will be competitive, and I hope China makes a run against Greece as well. (Though I would like to see the US play Greece eventually, for entertainment sake.) Germany-Nigeria could go either way, really. Nigeria is athletic enough that they might have someone to defend the Dirk. If they were playing any other team, I'd write them off. But Germany is probably due for an awful Nowitzki game. Whether that does the trick for Nigeria, we'll see.
(Oh, and by the way, how did I do in my prediction thread from last week? I got 11 out of the 16 advancers correct, missing on all the damn South/Central American team I thought would make it but didn't (Brazil, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, Panama) and Japan. Damn you Barbosa, Arroyo, Edgardo Alfonso, Manuel Noreiga and Tom Cruise!
I had Argentina, Spain, and Turkey all advancing to the quarterfinals, and I've picked Germany, China and the US from today's matches. The other two team I had in the quarters? Japan and Brazil. Damn. And as of right now, I don't think China will make it. Greece is good - I can't believe I had them losing in group play. Sure, they were in a very tough group with Lithuania, Turkey, Brazil, and Australia. But still. I'm dumb.)
Anyways, consider this your weekend open thread on all things FIBA!