2010 FIBA Worlds: USA vs. Croatia & Other Day 1 Games of Interest
FIBA Worlds play kicks off with 12 games on Saturday. We wanted to highlight the top games of the day and give a quick scouting report of Croatia.
---Team USA vs. Croatia, 12 pm EST (ESPN3.com, ESPN Classic)---
A few bullet points on what Team USA should expect from Croatia
- Ante Tomic is the primary interior option: The Utah Jazz draftee combines deft footwork with a feathery touch to do damage on offense. Can bury hooks with both hands. Croatia will try to establish Tomic early on the block. Can hit jumpers out to 17 feet. Good offensive rebounder. Pretty good passer who puts good zip on the ball.
- Be physical with Tomic right from the start: The slightly built Tomic does not enjoy contact and has a tendency to disappear for extended stretches. Ante is often pushed off his spots on both ends of the floor. I realize Team USA does not have a lot of fouls to give on the frontline, but I think physical post play is worth it to get Tomic uncomfortable early.
- Contain the big PG combo of Roko Ukic & Zoran Planinic: Yeah, I know NBA fans might scoff at that notion, but Ukic and Planinic are good FIBA PGs. Both are adept at getting in the lane. Ukic can finish & dish, while Planinic is mostly looking to dish. Both guys don't always need screens to shake themselves free. Both are generally shaky shooters, but Ukic shot the ball well last year. Ukic has looked sharp in the prep phase and continues to show an improved outside touch.
- Strength lies on the perimeter: Croatia has five to six guys who can handle the ball and most of their perimeter players are reliable shooters (besides Planinic). Croatia likes to get their guards working off of side ball screens, particularly Ukic. Many of the core players have been playing together for awhile
- Marko Popovic = the Croatian Vinnie Johnson: Combo guard Marko Popovic comes off the bench and has the ability to score points in bunches. Popovic will also handle the ball some, but his specialty is to shoot coming off ball screens. Though, Marko is not very big (6-1) and could be contained by Westbrook or Iggy.
- Marko Tomas & Bojan Bogdanovic are multi-skilled options at SF: Tomas is a dangerous shooter on the catch or off-the-dribble. Adept at quick dribble pull-ups. Tomas is a solid athlete who can put the ball on the deck to the left or right & finish in the lane. Good ball-handler who use some isos and ball screens. NBA prospect Bojan Bogdanovic can do a lot of the same things that Tomas can but will mostly be a spot-up shooter in this tourney.
- Have to locate Marko Banic: Burly PF Marko Banic is a smart player who does a great job at finding the open spots in their offense. Effective scoring off cuts and likes to squirt to open space inside the arc looking to spot-up. Can knock down mid-range jumpers all over the floor, but particularly likes to set up shop on the baseline for short-corner jumpers. Always shoots a high pct. Need to get a body on Banic because he's great on the offensive glass. Banic uses his body well to be a physical post defender.
- Keep Croatia off the offensive boards: Croatia is usually a good offensive rebounding team. Mentioned Tomic and Banic's off. rebounding ability above. 6-10 PF/C Kresimir Loncar is another good off. rebounder on the frontline. Loncar can hit jumpers as well, sometimes behind the arc.
Summary: Will be interesting to see how Croatia handles the pressure. They seem well-equipped with multiple ball-handlers, plus, Ukic and Planinic are familiar with NBA defenders. Croatia has shown some zone looks in the exhibition stage and expect plenty of zone vs. USA. Can't see Croatia going too much with man as Banic & Loncar are non-athletes and would get torched by Durant/Granger/Gay. Croatia is a good overall shooting team and if Tomic can stay assertive the whole game, they could stay competitive.
--Other top games on Saturday (All games on ESPN3.com):
1) Russia vs. Puerto Rico (11:30 am EST): A battle of closely matched teams that could determine the 3-seed & 4-seed in Group C. Russia is renown for their defense and expect them to mix up looks--matchup zone. But Russia lacks a dynamic scoring threat which holds them back some. Though, their spacing and ball-movement can be nice for stretches of the game. Russia's Timo Mozgov and Sasha Kaun will trade minutes at center. Neither has a post game, but both can be effective rolling to the rim. Puerto Rico is very deep and likes to jack up the long ball. Carlos Arroyo and JJ Barea will dribble all over the place and PJ Ramos is a viable option down low. Vik Khryapa, Russia's top player, is out with injury, so the edge goes to Puerto Rico. Russia should keep this game close because of their defense and they tend to guard the 3pt. line well, Puerto Rico's bread-n-butter.
2) Argentina vs Germany (2:30 pm EST): The best game in Group A on opening day. Germany has the size advantage--start Robin Benzing (6-10), Jan Jagla (6-11) & Tibor Pleiss (7-0) upfront. Expect a lot of post ups, especially with Argentina's lack of length. Germany shoots the ball well. The PG matchup between Pablo Prigioni (Arg.) & Stefan Hamann (Germ) could be interesting. 6-5 Hamann is a good defender and Prigioni sometimes has problems against bigger points. Luis Scola is a efficient beast in FIBA play. Will see if Jagla's length can bother him. Germany should be competitive and this is not an easy out for Argentina.
3) Spain vs. France (2:00 pm EST): Probably won't be close but there will plenty of NBA-related talent on the floor. Last met in the Eurobasket quarters, where Spain overwhelmed a previously undefeated France team, 86-66.
4) Canada vs. Lebanon (11:30 am EST): Could determine who gets the last playoff spot out of Group D. Canada is rather limited on offense and could be is worst shape if Andy Rautins has to sit with a bum knee. Canada does tend to play solid defense, led by Miami Heat center Joel Anthony, which dampens the effect of the anemic offense. Lebanon is not the deepest team but they have better offense talent than Canada. Lebanon is led by former Vanderbilt stud, Matt Freije, who's a (very) poor-man's Dirk. Freije's got 3pt. range and can put the ball on the deck to get himself into mid-range scoring opportunities. Jackson Vroman is an active athlete who runs the floor well, passes, bangs the offensive glass (dangerous on put-backs) and finishes strong. 6-6 forward Fadi El Khatib is a multi-skilled threat who handle the ball, rebound, pass, post-up and create shots for himself. if Rauitns can't go, got to give Lebanon the slight edge.