FIBA World Cup 2014, USA and Lithuania in semis

We are at the business end of the FIBA World Cup 2014 now as the quarter final stage gets underway in Spain. There were two games on day one of the stage, with the USA sweeping to the semi-finals in commanding fashion and Lithuania also progressing to the new round after a trickier encounter. Tomorrow’s clashes between Serbia/Brazil and France/Spain will decide which nations complete the semi-final picture.

Lithuania vs. Turkey

The quarter-finals got underway in Barcelona with this clash between Lithuania and Turkey, with the Lithuanians prevailing 73-61 to progress to the semis of the FIBA World Cup 2014. After reaching the final during their home tournament in 2010, Turkey now leaves at the quarter-final stage, while Lithuania heads to the semi-finals for the second World Cup in succession.
Jonas Valanciunas got the scoreboard rolling to give Lithuania the first lead of the game, but Kerem Gonlum registered Turkey’s first points with a dunk seconds later (2-2). Traded baskets put the game at 4-4 before Turkey went ahead 4-8 thanks to Omer Asik and Emir Preldzic. Valanciunas continued to pace Lithuania through the first 10 minutes, but Turkey was in an early groove and won the first quarter 13-18.

The Turkish contingent got the board ticking in the second frame thanks to Oguz Savas extending their lead to 7 points (13-20). Legendary centre Darjus Lavrinovic opened Lithuania’s account in the second with success from downtown (16-20) before a near two minute scoreless streak hit the game. Lithuania recommenced the scoring thanks to another triple from Lavrinovic and then continued to outpace Turkey for the rest of the quarter. By halftime Lithuania had turned the game and led 33-28.

Jonas Maciulis put the team even further in front by sinking from beyond the arc at the start of the third (36-28), but the Turks responded by cutting out the scoring, stopping the Lithuanians for three minutes while Asik, Sinan Guler and Ender Arsland stole back the lead at 36-38. The teams exchanged successful plays through the remainder of the stanza, but Lithuania held a 47-44 lead at the last split.

Turkey tried to respond in the last quarter but Lithuania exposed the gaps and its key players controlled the game, letting the team ease down the straight to win the game.
Renaldas Seibutis paced the winning effort with 19 points, while Martynas Pocius had 13 points, Valaciunas 12, and Lavrinovic 11 points.

Gonlum top scored for Turkey with 13 points and was followed by Arslan with 12, Asik with 11, and Preldzic with 10 points.

Slovenia vs. USA

Team USA destroyed European underdogs Slovenia 76-119 to reach the semi-finals of the FIBA World Cup 2014. The success sees the reigning champs move one step closer to defending their title for the first ever time as the 4 times champions and 7 time finalists have never won consecutive World Cup events. As for Slovenia, its impressive run in the competition is over, but the team will probably think that it could have gone further if not faced with a very good US outfit.

Slovenia would be able to score consistently throughout the game, but it came at a cost as the US piled on the points at the other end. The game started slowly with only one point in favour of the USA during the first 90 seconds. Domen Lorbek handed Slovenia its first lead shortly afterwards (2-1) before the US replied through Kenneth Faried, who was pacing the team through the opening exchanges. For much of the frame the teams went blow for blow, but eventually the firepower of Team USA told as they took a 22-29 lead after 10 minutes.

Many teams have faltered against the tournament favourites during the second quarter, but Slovenia continued its solid offensive play. Klemen Prepelic opened the 10 minutes for the Europeans, but the US immediately hit back via Klay Thompson from downtown and Anthony Davis, who made 50% of his shots from the charity strip (24-33). A nine point lead had been opened, but Slovenia simply kept doing its thing, matching the US through the stint to tie the frame 20 apiece (42-49 at halftime).

The third quarter proved huge for the US, but once again it was Slovenia who opened the scoring thanks to a layup from Goran Dragic. Indeed, the Dragic brothers (Goran and Zoran) were at their annoying best, giving the Americans something to think about on a regular basis. However, Stephen Curry picked up his only six points of the game at a key moment in the third to spur the US on, starting a 17-5 run through the middle of the quarter that put plenty of distance between the teams. Slovenia continued to work the hardwood and scored 22 points through the stanza, but the US had found a scoring rhythm and nailed 37 points. The score now ominously read 64-86 after 30 minutes.

That destructive run had hit Slovenia hard, while the US found some extra wind in the sails, managing to swat the Europeans aside in the fourth quarter. Slovenia’s scoring deserted the team as the favourites piled on the pressure at the other end, scoring 33 points to win the game comfortably. After a tricky first half, the USA proved its class in the final 20 minutes against a very good Slovenia setup.

Klay Thompson scored 20 points for the winners from the bench. There were two double-double efforts on the US roster, with Faried scoring 14 points and claiming 10 rebounds, while Davis had 13 points and 11 boards. Harden James helped the victory with 14 points, while Derrick Rose also came from the bench to score 12 points, matching the total from Kyrie Irving.

Goran Dragic paced Slovenia with 13 points and was followed by brother Zoran with 11 points. Lorbek also scored 12 points in the losing effort.

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