Day 1 of FIBA Worlds: US Rolls in Opening Round; Lithuania, Serbia Look Strong
Team USA had little trouble advancing past Croatia in the opening round in the FIBA World Tournament this weekend, cruising to a 106-78 victory. After leading by only two at the end of the 1st quarter, the US used a +20 2nd quarter, scoring 26 and holding the Croatians to only 6, building an insurmountable halftime lead.
Eric Gordon led the American squad with 16 points, including four 3s, while Kevin Durant chipped in 14 points and 8 rebounds, Kevin Love fell short of a double-double with a team-high 10 rebounds and 7 points.
This US team in Turkey has been called the "B"-team because of their lack of apparent "stars" that the 2008 gold medal winning American squad had. Even without any of the current players from the 2008 squad, Team USA looked dominant in its opener.
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In other games, Lithuania handled New Zealand 92-79, despite 37 points from the Kiwi's Kirk Penney. Linas Kleiza, recently signed by the Raptors, led the Lithuanian squad with 27 points and 8 rebounds.
Greece outlasted China 89-81. Former Net and current Washington Wizard, Yi Jianlian, scored a game-high 26 points, while former NBA players Wang Zhi Zhi and Sun Yue scored 15 a piece for China. The Greek team had a pair of 21-point scorers with Giannis Bourousis and Nikos Zisis. The Greek team used a 3-point barrage to hold off the Chinese, launching 39 shots from behind the arc, knocking down 13.
Spain, widely considered the tournament favorite's before the United States' string of strong performances, fell to France, 72-66. Despite only 2 points from Boris Diaw, France used defense to lock up Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, Rudy Fernandez and the rest of Spain's lineup, holding them to just 36.4% shooting for the game. Nicolas Batum and Mickael Gelabale combined to score 30 points for the France squad.
Argentina slipped by an underrated German team 78-74 on the opening day, led by Luis Scola (20 points) and Carlos Delfino (25 points). Although both struggled from the field, shooting a combined 10-for-30, but managed to take advantage of several trips to the foul line. A Dirk Nowitzki-less German team has plenty of talent, but fell just short to the Argentinians. Demond Greene, a guard for Olympia Larissa, led the team with 20 points. Tibor Pleiss, the 31st overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft, scored 12. Elias Harris and Robin Benzing, two of the top prospects of the 2011 Draft, scored 6 points and 5 respectively.
The Tournament's home team, Turkey, used a overbearing 4th quarter to pull away from the underwhelming Ivory Coast team, leading to an 86-47 final. Ersan Ilyasova scored 17 and grabbed 8 rebounds, while Hedo Turkoglu couldn't find his shot, finishing 0-for-6 from the field, but found other ways to contribute with 7 boards, 7 assists and 4 steals. Two young and promising big men, Omer Asik (Chicago Bulls) had a game-high 12 rebounds and Semih Erden (Boston Celtics) had 6 points and 4 boards.