Team USA Closes Door on Slovenia
The Americans struggled out of the gate on Tuesday; especially James Harden missing all 8 shot attempts in the first half. The score was 49-42 at the half and the U.S. was struggling to score in the half court. The second half was a different story as Slovenia began to crack under the pressure of the American defense, leading to fast breaks and alley-oops galore.
This was not a particularly impressive performance from Davis. While he did put up 13 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 blocks he took 11 shots and struggled to create his own offense despite numerous opportunities. The U.S. is still going to Davis in the post but the results and execution have been lacking.
Lithuania Up Next
Omer Asik was unable to pull Turkey past Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania in the first quarterfinal game, setting up a challenging semifinal for the Americans on Thursday. Asik, battling the flu, was most effective in the first quarter. He led all players with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 blocks in the first ten minutes.
Turkey and Lithuania went back and forth throughout the first three quarters before a Lithuanian run early in the fourth put the game largely out of reach. Unsurprisingly, Asik was on the bench during that critical scoring barrage. Asik ended the game with 11 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks, and a steal on the night in 27 minutes.
Valanciunas kept pace with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and a blocked shot of his own. The match up between he and Anthony Davis will be quite interesting to watch. Valanciunas plays much more on the low block than either Gasol brother and is a load to handle in the paint. How Coach K deals with him (might we see AD beside DeMarcus Cousins?) may foreshadow what might occur against Spain.
Spain plays France Today
A rematch of their Eurobasket semifinal from last summer. In that game Tony Parker led the French past Spain 75-72 in a thrilling overtime game, scoring 32 points. Of course, Parker (and New Orleans Pelicans Alexis Ajinca) will not be suiting up for France this go around while the Spanish add Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka to their 2013 roster.
Matched up in Group A Spain trashed France 88-64 last Wednesday. The Gasol brothers and Ibaka combined for 42 points and 18 rebounds on just 25 shot attempts. France will need to keep Rudy Gobert out of foul trouble and get a more efficient game out of Nicolas Batum to keep this game competitive in Madrid; which is sure to be overwhelmingly supportive of the host team. The game can be seen on ESPN2 at 3pm Central.
Season Fast Approaching
Training camp opens for the Pelicans on September 29th, 19 short days from now. The first preseason game, October 4th against the Miami Heat in Louisville, is just 24 days away. New Orleans tips off the regular season on October 28th at home against the Orlando Magic, a scant 48 days away. Possibly thanks to AD's participation with Team USA this has felt like the shortest off-season in basketball history.
Speaking of Home Court
Zach Lowe had this interesting tidbit in his Tuesday column yesterday.
19. New Orleans Pelicans
We’ll have to redo this ranking once the season starts. The Pelicans have a brave proposed court redesign that might be the league’s boldest, but they have not received final approval to deploy it this season, per several league sources.
Last year’s debut was a solid first crack, with an angry pelican holding a ball in its beak at center court, a soft gold painted area that was probably too dull, and the nifty incorporation of the fleur-de-lis in two of the four corners.
Let’s place them here for now and revisit later.
I do not know whether we should be excited or terrified of a "brave" design. Anything categorized as such is surely going to draw a significant reaction one way or another. While I tolerated the initial design it was a bit on the bland side. For my tastes I would prefer either the "Crescent City Basketball" (previously on the sideline at half court) or the "NOLA" logo at half court instead of the primary logo. I doubt putting a secondary logo at half court is what constitutes the description of "brave" from Lowe.
Lithuania Game on Thursday
Anthony Davis and Team USA will play Jonas Valanciunas, Donatas Motiejunas, and Lithuania on Thursday. The game can be seen on ESPN at 3pm Central. The front line of Valanciunas (6'11" 245+) and Motiejunas (7'0" 225+) should be the firmest test yet of Coach K's small ball lineup of Davis (6'10" 240+) and Kenneth Faried (6'8" 230+).
The current 'strategy' of awful one-on-one basketball ending with desperate lunges toward the basket where Davis and Faried clean up is probably not going to be nearly as successful against Lithuania's NBA-level length. Twin brothers Darjus and Ksystof Lavrinovic both come off the bench backing up Valanciunas and Motiejunas. While older at age 34, both provide size (6'11" each) that previous U.S. opponents lacked.
This game will likely be competitive throughout. After a week and a half of lazy blow outs it will be a nice change of pace.