Fiba World Cup: Can anyone slow down US, Spain?
MADRID — From the start of the 2014 Fiba Basketball World Cup, the United States and Spain have been on a collision course from two different sides of the bracket.
Slovenia get their chance to derail the American express in the quarterfinals while extra motivated France face off again with Spain.
The United States have been beating opponents by 31.5 points and no one has challenged them closer than 20 points.
Still, US coach Mike Krzyzewski warned against overconfidence as his team plays against Slovenia – a side the Americans beat in a warm-up just before the World Cup.
“You have to forget the friendly, because they were holding their guys back. They were going to get started right there in pool play, and Goran (Dragic) was held down in minutes in that game,” Krzyzewski said.
“So, they’ve gotten better, and he has become even more of a factor as the leader of the team. But for us, too, we’ve gotten better since then.”
Five Americans average in double figures, led by big man Anthony Davis at 13.8 points per game.
Goran Dragic is a much bigger piece of the puzzle for Slovenia with 16.5 points a game and combines with his brother Zoran Dragic and Domen Lorbek for a pretty lethal trio on the perimeter.
The first quarterfinal in Barcelona has Lithuania taking on Turkey.
Lithuania have lost just once in the competition despite losing their point guard Mantas Kalnietis just days before the World Cup started.
With Kalnietis in Spain looking on, Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas has been the man for the Lithuanians, leading the team in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots.
Turkey meanwhile never give up and have shown the ability to win games late with big shots – see Cenk Aykol’s three-pointer late against Finland to force overtime and Emir Preldzic’s long ball with five seconds to play in their Round of 16 victory over Australia.
While the Barcelona quarterfinals will be playing on Tuesday, the Madrid quarterfinals – Serbia v. Brazil and Spain v France – take play on Wednesday, with all four teams coming from Group A in Granada.
Serbia will be underdogs against Brazil, having lost to them in group play. But Serbia were also underdogs against Greece and they blew out the previously-undefeated Greeks.
The Serbs know they can knock off Brazil as they turned a 16-point halftime deficit into a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing 81-73.
Still, Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic was full of praise of Brazil, whose only loss thus far was against Spain.
“They have incredible experience, are an incredible team, maybe the best Brazilian team ever,” said Djordjevic.
The final quarter will be France v Spain, who won the group stage game 88-64.
France on Monday were named as hosts of the EuroBasket 2015 and the team will be that much more excited. Les Bleus also knocked off Spain in the semifinals of EuroBasket 2013.
Spain have been dominant so far, especially Pau and Marc Gasol, who are combining for 31.8 points per game.
The semifinals are Thursday and Friday.
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