Minus stars from the NBA and EuroLeague, FIBA’s first November Basketball World Cup qualifiers tipped off on Thursday and Friday, before concluding on Saturday. There was plenty of action across the continent’s, and while the best players may be missing, perhaps FIBA’s plans were in action.
The sport’s governing body hopes the Basketball World Cup qualifiers in November, February, and July will spark a renaissance in international basketball. This will happen by getting big nations playing hoops in the homes of smaller basketball countries. Arguably, the first step of this process was in evidence over the last two days:
Israel looked far too strong for Estonia at home and put 20 points on their opponents for a cruising 88-68 win. Turkey had a little more to do, but managed to pass Latvia with an 85-73 victory. Also enjoying a home stroll was the Czech Republic with an 89-69 win over Iceland. A much closer game took place in Finland, where Bulgaria collected an important 80-82 win on the road.
Croatia was expected to beat Holland, but without plenty of key players, the Croats fell to a 68-61 loss. Serbia, too, is missing plenty of NBA and EuroLeague firepower, but got its Basketball World Cup qualifying campaign off to a flying start with an 85-64 home win over Austria. Italy too managed to taste success in front of its own fans with a narrow 75-70 victory over Romania.
Elsewhere, Slovenia, hot off its summer gold at Eurobasket 2017 defeated Belarus 84-74 without many of the stars who propelled the country to its first international title. Belgium welcomed neighbour France but could not win, with Les Bleus securing a 59-70 road pick up. Greece was severely tested in the United Kingdom, as a resurgent UK team took it to the wire before the Greek team prevailed 92-95.
Poland used home advantage to pick a handy 70-60 win over Hungary, while Bosnia met hosted Russia and edged an 81-76 success. Lithuania was the biggest scorer in the European games as it defeated Kosovo 61-99 away from home. Germany held strong against Georgia at home and took a 79-70 win. Finally, a depleted Spain took out Montenegro 66-79.
Qualifiers in the Americas will be played over Friday nights, but there were four contests to open the international week on Thursday. In those games, Argentina swamped Paraguay and collected a 96-63 win in Mar Del Plata, while Mexico passed Cuba with a 72-66 scoreboard. USA is playing with a z-list roster as the NBA stars are not available, but still the reigning champs secured a 78-85 win over Puerto Rico. Finally on Thursday, Uruguay downed Panama at home with an 86-78 win.
Asian qualifiers also tipped off on Thursday, before concluding on Friday. In yesterday’s games, China crushed Hong Kong 96-44. But the attacking story of the day happened in Lebanon as the hosts plundered 107 points to defeat traveling India 107-72. Anything Lebanon can do, Jordan can do better it seems. The Jordanians visited Syria and collected a huge 72-109 rod win. Finally on Thursday, South Korea edged New Zealand 80-86 away from home.
On Friday, Australia joined this round’s century club with a 66-104 win over Taiwan, while Iraq and Iran met in a Middle East derby, which Iraq won at home by 74-66. Philippines travelled to Japan and came away with a handy 70-77 success to gets its Basketball World Cup qualifiers off to a winning start. Finally in the Asia bracket, Kazakhstan posted a 70-82 road win over Qatar.