Carmelo: ‘Nobody’ will want to play for Hawks

“We would never look at a situation like that, I don’t care what it is.”

      
 

 

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Rudy Gay fumes over ‘dirty play’ that injured jaw

Gay says he has a fracture in his jaw, a broken tooth and will probably need a root canal.

      
 

 

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USA’s Gay fuming over ‘dirty play’ that broke jaw

Gay says he has a fracture in his jaw, a broken tooth and will probably need a root canal.

      
 

 

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Serbia holds off France, will play US for gold (Yahoo Sports)

France's Boris Diaw jumps for a shot during the Basketball World Cup semifinal between Serbia and France in Madrid, Spain, Friday, Sept. 12, 2014. The 2014 Basketball World Cup competition will take place in various cities in Spain from Aug. 30 through to Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Andres Kudacki)

All those years on Serbia’s national team, and one chance kept eluding Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic. Teodosic scored 24 points and Serbia reached the championship game of the Basketball World Cup by holding off France 90-85 on Friday night. It’s an unbelievable chance to do something great in our lives.” The teams have never met at the senior men’s level since Serbia became an independent nation. ”Every player when he was a kid was dreaming to play in a world championship final, and especially against States,” Teodosic said.


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Duke Basketball: What Are Blue Devils’ Chances to Enter ACC Play Undefeated?

The expectations are the same for the Duke basketball program every season—win the ACC, challenge for the Final Four and be one of the best teams in the country.

The Blue Devils have an opportunity to prove their mettle before ACC play even begins during the 2014-15 campaign thanks to a difficult nonconference schedule. While their performance in February and March will ultimately define the season, a perfect record entering ACC play would do wonders for the team’s confidence and eventual seeding on Selection Sunday.

So, what are the chances that Mike Krzyzewski’s squad actually wins every nonconference game?

It is important to manage expectations and point out that the Blue Devils will be a very different team in March than in November and December. They are quite young and have a number of freshmen in critical roles who will likely develop and improve over the course of the season.

That alone hurts any chances at an undefeated run.

Outside of the personnel, the obvious thing to look at when discussing any chances at an undefeated nonconference record is the actual schedule.

To start with, there are a set of games every season that Duke should win simply by rolling the basketballs out. The talent gap between Duke and these schools is simply too great to realistically pick against the Blue Devils, and all of these schedule-fillers are at home this year in front of the Cameron Crazies.

Yes, Duke still has to come ready to play to avoid a situation like the Mercer loss, but we are going to assume games against Presbyterian, Fairfield, Furman, Army, Elon, Toledo and Wofford are all victories.

That leaves Michigan State in Indianapolis, Temple in Brooklyn, Stanford or UNLV in Brooklyn, a road tilt with Wisconsin and a battle with Connecticut in New Jersey.

While all of these teams are certainly challenging, the fact that none of these games are in Durham is concerning with so many freshmen on the Duke roster. It is difficult to see Duke emerging from this slate undefeated.

The game at Wisconsin stands out as the biggest chance at a potential loss, especially since it is in the raucous Kohl Center. Jahlil Okafor will be tasked with slowing down veteran Frank Kaminsky, who will likely look to pull the Duke man away from the paint with outside jumpers and pick-and-rolls.

Remember, the Badgers nearly missed an appearance in the national title game last season and return most of their core. Kaminsky will be joined by Sam Dekker, Traevon Jackson, Josh Gasser, Nigel Hayes and Bronson Koenig. That combination of talent and Final Four experience will be difficult to beat for Duke, especially in a hostile environment.

The Blue Devils will also get a stiff test from the Spartans in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis in mid-November. Michigan State beat a freshmen-oriented Kentucky team last year at the start of the season and will look to do the same to this young Duke squad before Okafor and company truly settle into their roles.

Michigan State lost some talent of its own, but Tom Izzo still has Branden Dawson, Travis Trice, Matt Costello and Denzel Valentine at his disposal. Dawson in particular should be a star this year, and Chris Johnson of Sports Illustrated actually named him one of the best 20 wing players for the 2014-15 season.

Elsewhere, Temple, Stanford and UNLV are all potential NCAA tournament teams as well.

It’s a testament to the overall depth of Duke’s schedule that we haven’t even focused on the fact that there is a game with the defending national champions Connecticut. Sure, the Huskies lost Shabazz Napier and DeAndre Daniels, but Ryan Boatright and North Carolina State transfer Rodney Purvis should make an excellent backcourt combination that can put pressure on opposing ball-handlers yet again.

Connecticut made a living on forcing turnovers that way in the NCAA tournament.

Coach Kevin Ollie certainly had high praise for Boatright, via Jeff Borzello of CBS Sports:

I knew Ryan was going to be an effective defender three years ago. It’s nothing new to me. We wanted him to be more consistent with it and I think he’s starting to do that, and just affect the game in so many different ways. He had to mature as a young man and a basketball player. It’s not all about scoring. He can impact the game in so many ways and he’s starting to do that at the highest stage.

Boatright’s defense and overall ability to change the game in so many ways will be a challenge for young Tyus Jones.

We are not here to say going undefeated in nonconference play will be impossible for Duke. After all, we are talking about one of the most talented teams in the country, one that is on the short list of national title contenders. However, with so many challenging games away from home and a young core that likely won’t hit its stride until midseason, the Blue Devils are facing an uphill battle. 

Ultimately, fans would likely trade a few more wins in March for a couple of November and December losses.

 

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Minnesota Timberwolves: Timberwolves playing well in international play

The Minnesota Timberwolves only have three players in the FIBA World Cup this summer, but so far Ricky Rubio, Gorgui Dieng and (J.J) Jose Barea have looked great. The tournament, held in Spain this year, is a mix of NBA players and the top international players so while the competition isn’t as fierce as it is in the NBA, there still are a lot of international teams  with a good amount of talent.
Rubio is the starting point guard for the Spanish national team, and so far in international play he is tied for the lead in assists per game at 5.8 assists. This might seem not very high, but Spain has been splitting a lot of time between its guards, so his assists per 40 minutes in the tournament is 11.7 assists which is the highest by a good margin in the tournament. Additionally, Rubio is leading the tournament in steals per game and he has been playing good defense throughout the tournament. One knock on Rubio’s performance throughout this international tournament, would be his tendency to turnover the ball

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Biggest Takeaways from Saturday’s FIBA World Cup of Basketball Round of 16 Play

After the first day of elimination-round competition at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, four teams survived the round of 16, while eight others will attempt to do the same on Sunday.

The United States, France, Slovenia and Spain all advanced to the quarterfinals on Saturday in their first contests since preliminary-group play. There were no surprises so far, but the toughest matchups await—including a potential meeting between Team USA and Spain in the Final.

The U.S. has yet to be tested during tournament play, and its win over Mexico was no different. The 86-63 victory actually looks closer than it was thanks to a strong fourth quarter by Mexico. 

Meanwhile, Croatia’s late-game run was almost enough to upset the French (who prevailed 69-64), and Slovenia bested the Dominican Republic by a modest 10 points.

But Spain continued to mirror the United States’ dominance with an 89-56 victory over Senegal. With the Spaniards and Americans blowing opponents out left and right, their eventual meeting in the Final may be all but certain by now.

In the meantime, here’s what we can take away from Saturday’s action.

Begin Slideshow

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US to play Slovenia in World Cup quarters (Yahoo Sports)

DeMarcus Cousins of the U.S, left, shoots over Mexico's Adrian Zamora during Basketball World Cup Round of 16 match between United States and Mexico at the Palau Sant Jordi in Barcelona, Spain, Saturday, Sept. 6, 2014. The 2014 Basketball World Cup competition will take place in various cities in Spain from Aug. 30 through to Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — The United States and Slovenia will meet in the quarterfinals of the Basketball World Cup after both won in the round of 16 on Saturday.


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Breaking Down Team USA’s Dominance in Group Play by the Numbers

Team USA was expected to dominate at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain, and dominate it did in the first week of action. 

If the group stage proved anything, it was that the 5-0 Americans were on a different level than the rest of the Group C field. The Dominican Republic, Finland, New Zealand, Turkey and Ukraine all had memorable moments, but each of them ended up on the wrong side of the scoreboard when they squared off with the United States. 

But how dominant were the Americans? 

First, let’s take a gander at their margin of victory in the quintet of successful outings: 

Both ends of that chart are undeniably impressive. 

Not only did Team USA manage to destroy Finland in a 114-55 opener, one in which the Finns scored just two points (with no made field goals) during the second quarter, but the worst game featured a 21-point victory over Turkey. 

Yikes. 

Over the course of those five games, the United States outscored its opponents by 166 points, giving the team an average victory of 33.2 points. Take a look at how that stacks up against the other largest group-stage margins in the World Cup field: 

Other than Spain, a dominant team in its own right, no one has come close to touching that overall advantage. Not even Greece and Brazil, impressive as they each were in the group stage. Plus, 63 points of Brazil’s margin came in one game against Egypt.

How did this happen for the States?

It wasn’t just a dominant offense, one led by the many capable guards and a frontcourt that absolutely thrived against the overmatched Group C bigs. It was also due to the swarming defense that pressured ball-handlers at all times, cut off virtually every passing lane, rejected shot after shot and contested what seemed like each and every attempt. 

It’s not easy to rank near the top on both ends of the court, but that’s exactly what the Americans did while playing in Bilbao: 

Also notable is how the scoring came about for Team USA. 

Though no one on this squad has come close to leading the tournament in points, that hasn’t been necessary. Four players averaged double figures through the first five contests, and virtually everyone contributed.

And efficiently at that.

There are so many takeaways from that graphic. 

First, Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried have been absolutely marvelous, the latter coming at the surprise of just about everyone. Even the most optimistic Denver Nuggets fans couldn’t have expected Faried—who was a surprise inclusion at camp in Las Vegas, much less a shocking piece of the final roster—to be this good game in and game out. 

After Team USA feasted on Turkey, the Denver big man told the assembled masses, via NBA.com’s Sekou Smith, “Every time I step on the basketball court, you never know it could be your last game, so I like to play my hardest in every game. When you love the game like that it tends to reward you back.”

Think about those numbers. He’s averaged 13.8 points per game, more than anyone on the roster outside of a unibrowed big man, and he’s done so while shooting 79.1 percent from the field. 

But look at the chart again. 

Team USA has been this dominant even with Stephen Curry and Derrick Rose struggling to find the bottom of the net on a consistent basis. If they get going, the field won’t stand a chance during elimination play. After all, the backcourt was always supposed to be the strength of this team.

Not so far, even looking beyond points: 

Efficiency is a box score metric that takes everything into account, whether it’s blocks or missed shots. There are certainly major flaws (including weighting everything with no coefficients), but it’s still useful for capturing production in a one-number-represents-everything snapshot.

Above, you can see the efficiency scores for each Team USA player, though it’s also worth noting you can manipulate that graphic to view each type of major box score stat. 

Who would have guessed that the two most efficient players would be big men? How about three of the top five? 

“With a little help from big men Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried, the United States looks to have forgotten it’s playing without a handful of the NBA’s top superstars,” wrote Bleacher Report’s Stephen Babb, and that sentiment really isn’t hyperbolic. But did anyone expect Faried to be one of the two names seen in this light, especially at the expense of an All-Star backcourt member?

As Team USA heads toward a seemingly inevitable showdown with Spain, that’s a great sign. 

The group stage was filled with dominance by the Americans. Now it’s time to see if that continues when one loss can knock a team out of the running.  

 

Editor’s Note: With these graphics, scrollover technology will not work on mobile devices. 

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Did Group Play Reveal Any Secrets to Beating Team USA?

Team USA completed group play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup with its fifth consecutive blowout win Thursday, and it now heads into the round of 16 looking as invincible as ever.

Still, it’s worth noting there is a handful of weaknesses the U.S. must address before it faces more serious competition.

The Americans’ latest triumph came against Ukraine. The final score of 95-71 actually dragged down the average margin of victory (33 points) it had accumulated in the first four games. Put another way, the U.S. has yet to be even remotely challenged.

Kenneth Faried was, again, a monster. He piled up 10 points and eight rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting in 24 minutes. James Harden led the team with 17 points on just 12 shots. And as per usual, the U.S. forced plenty of turnovers (19) and had no trouble running up the score in transition.

Ukraine coach Mike Fratello did his very best to strategically channel the 1990s Cleveland Cavaliers he coached, employing a slow-it-down approach that was intensely boring and mildly effective…for a while. By clogging the lane on defense and forcing the ball inside on offense, Ukraine limited Team USA’s breakaway attempts and avoided turnovers.

A 19-14 Ukraine lead after the first quarter showed the plan, conservative as it was, got some results.

However, it’s hard to know whether the disappointing opening quarter was caused by the opponent’s tactics or American disinterest, as is so often the case with Team USA. The U.S. has always struggled to get engaged early—a problem that stems from knowing it can flip the proverbial switch whenever necessary.

The U.S. did just that after the first quarter, blitzing Ukraine with a 30-13 advantage in the second. The result was never in doubt after that.

What Ukraine did wasn’t nearly enough to scare Team USA. But if a team were to combine that grinding approach with what we saw from Turkey, might there be cause for some concern?

The Turkish squad took a five-point lead into halftime against the Americans, utilizing a confounding matchup zone that had elements of a basic 2-3 but also featured shades of a box-and-one when Stephen Curry was on the floor.

Turkey changed up coverages on almost every possession, going from man to zone on inbounds plays and rarely stuck with the same game plan for more than a few possessions at a time. Early in the contest, against a typically lackadaisical U.S. side, it worked pretty well.

The U.S.’s stagnant half-court offense (in which, annoyingly, there’s almost no off-ball movement whatsoever) was somewhat exposed. And the use of full-on zone defenses obviously bothered American players who so rarely see them.

Then again, maybe that first half against Turkey offered no real cause for concern.

Per Nate Duncan of BasketballInsiders.com:

The US did struggle to score in the first half, managing only 35 points on 40 possessions.  But the zone was not the culprit, as the US largely had good possessions.  I counted only five possessions that were suboptimal from a process standpoint, i.e. possessions that ended badly due to a poor decision or inability to get a good shot.  Instead, the US was done in by factors of their own making. There were three completely unforced turnovers where they simply misthrew passes to wide open shooters.  And those shooters, in large part Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, missed a lot of open shots, especially in the first quarter when the US was 1-9 from distance.

To Duncan’s point, the U.S. crushed Turkey in the second half:

Other than those two games, Team USA hasn’t had to sweat. Finland was beaten before it took the floor, as evidenced by awe-induced turnovers and general hesitation. New Zealand and the Dominican Republic never caused much concern either.

All we can say so far is the U.S. has shown some small vulnerabilities when it has to score in ways that don’t involve steals and breakaways. Any strategy that slows the game down is a good one for opponents. But the unparalleled athleticism and depth on the roster make it almost impossible for teams to keep the U.S. from turning things into a turnover-fueled track meet eventually.

Are there problems? Sure; it’d be great to see Team USA execute better in the half court and get more ball movement. A little focus at the opening tip might also be nice.

But those are issues that have always afflicted the USA, and they’ve rarely resulted in disaster. It’s hard to worry about the finer points of pin-down screens and ghost cuts for a team that knows it can go on a run to blow any game open at will.

Call it 2010-2014 Miami Heat syndrome.

As was the case for those Heat teams, though, it only takes one opponent with sufficient skill to study up and capitalize on well-known weaknesses.

Spain might be that opponent, as you’ve no doubt heard countless times since this tournament began.

The Spaniards won’t be intimidated like Finland was. They won’t have to play a gimmicky, shifting style on defense like Turkey did. And they won’t have to resort to lulling the U.S. to sleep like Ukraine.

If Spain wants to, it can bring all those tactics to bear in the inevitable gold-medal game. But it will also have a few other things to throw into the mix: superior frontcourt size and talent, a core that has been together for nearly a decade, better chemistry and a functional half-court offense—just to name a few.

America is still deeper than Spain, and it is far, far better equipped in the backcourt. The U.S. is also the superior team athletically.

But the talent gap between these two predestined foes isn’t some yawning chasm. With the Gasol brothers, Marc and Pau, Serge Ibaka and NBA-tested guards, Spain can go toe to toe with Team USA. And now that it’s seen some pointers on what works well against the tournament favorites, Spain should feel prepared for the matchup.

There are no secrets to beating Team USA.

Basically, an opponent needs enough talent to avoid being physically overwhelmed and a willingness to learn from what others have done. We should expect a focused, prepared Spanish team to have both of those attributes.

Of course, we should also expect the U.S. to flip the switch a little earlier against the one foe everyone keeps saying is its only real threat. For all the good Spain’s talent and game-planning will do, there’s nothing more potent than some good old fashioned American motivation.

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