The 2014 FIBA World Cup has featured some elite-level competition between the best basketball-playing nations in the world, and Day 4 from Spain has been no different.
The United States will look to maintain its undefeated mark in a David vs. Goliath matchup against New Zealand in addition to a host of other intriguing games from Groups C and D. Every team competing on Tuesday still has a legitimate chance to advance out of the group stage and into the knockout round.
With that in mind, here is a look at the current group standings, as well as all of the results from Tuesday's slate thus far.
|Group A||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group B||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group C||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group D||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
Day 4 Results
Mexico 79, Angola 55
Tuesday's action kicked off with a Group D clash between Mexico and Angola. Both teams entered the tournament as decided underdogs, but they are now in the mix to advance to the next round as they each have one victory to their credit.
Angola entered the game having already beaten Korea, but the African side was unable to build from that as Mexico picked up its first win of the tournament.
The Mexicans led by just one point at halftime, but they turned up the defensive intensity in a big way during the second half as Angola mustered just 20 points in the third and fourth quarters combined.
According to Carlo Singson of NBA Philippines, the win was Mexico's first over Angola:
Mexico is looking to win its first match against many-time Africa champion Angola. They lead 53-43 in the 3rd.— Carlo Singson (@SingsonCarlo) September 2, 2014
Mexico was bolstered by 24 points from former Fresno State guard Hector Hernandez. Also, NBA free agent Gustavo Ayon added 17 points and 12 rebounds for the 2013 FIBA Americas champions.
That should help Ayon's case in terms of potentially landing a deal with the defending champion San Antonio Spurs, who have expressed interest, per ESPN's Marc Stein:
Interesting rumble just dribbled in on eve of FIBA World Cup: Reigning champs San Antonio have registered interest in Mexico's Gustavo Ayon— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) August 29, 2014
Mexico and Angola are both on equal footing at this point, but there is no question that the Mexicans have now established themselves as likelier candidates to move on to the knockout stages.
Ukraine 64, Turkey 58
The United States remains the team to beat in Group C, but Ukraine emerged as a threat to go deep in this tournament by virtue of a 64-58 victory over Turkey on Tuesday.
Expectations for Turkey were high entering this game after leading Team USA by five at the half during Sunday's game. The Americans eventually stormed back and beat Turkey by 21 points, but it was an impressive showing from the Turkish side nonetheless.
Perhaps Turkey's meltdown against the United States damaged its psyche as it could barely get out of its own way against Ukraine offensively. As pointed out by HoopsHype, though, both teams struggled from the field throughout the contest:
How ugly is the Ukraine-Turkey game? Only one of 20 players is shooting better than 50 percent. Two minutes to go and the score is 56-52.— HoopsHype (@hoopshype) September 2, 2014
New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik was a force for the Turks as he dropped 16 points and nabbed 20 rebounds, but only one other player scored in double figures for Turkey.
Ukraine was led by 19 points off the bench from guard Olexandr Mishula, while former Sacramento Kings guard Pooh Jeter added 10 points and six assists.
Despite the loss, Turkey remains in position to advance out of the group stage provided it doesn't implode in the coming games, per Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press:
Ukraine beats Turkey 64-58, now 2-1. Turkey is 1-2 but not in bad shape to advance if point differential needed by staying close in US loss.— Brian Mahoney (@briancmahoney) September 2, 2014
Ukraine essentially stamped its ticket to the next round and has a great opportunity to finish second in the group. The Ukrainians may not have any big-name players, but head coach Mike Fratello has the world's 45th-ranked team playing like a potential medal contender.
USA 98, New Zealand 71
The United States extended its perfect start at the 2014 FIBA World Cup Tuesday with a routine 98-71 win over New Zealand. Team USA was expected to coast past a team with no NBA players, and that is exactly what they managed to do.
New Zealand had its moments throughout the game and performed admirably, but the Americans had no interest in a repeat of the Turkey game. After needing a strong second-half performance to beat the Turks, USA guard James Harden admitted that they took their opponents lightly, according to The Associated Press (h/t USA Today).
"I guess we felt like (the Finland) game was pretty easy and tonight was going to be the same way, but Turkey came out and they gave us their punch from the beginning," Harden said. "We took it and we were sluggish. That second half we played a lot better."
The United States scored 57 points in the first half and led New Zealand by 22 at the break on Tuesday, so maybe the Turkey game was the scare that Team USA needed.
Head coach Mike Krzyzewski's team has gotten offensive production throughout the lineup over the first three games of the tournament, and that continued against New Zealand, per USA Basketball on Twitter:
Big man Anthony Davis has been Team USA's biggest driving force in Spain thus far, and his incredible skill set was on display yet again Tuesday afternoon, according to Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com:
Anthony Davis stole a pass then dribbled 60 feet past everyone for a dunk. Rare talent. He has 19 points after 17 and 19 in prior two games— Jim Eichenhofer (@Jim_Eichenhofer) September 2, 2014
In the end, the United States simply won a game that is was supposed to win. It wasn't a perfect performance by any means, but Team USA was able to work on all facets of their game and should be better prepared for an increased level of competition.
Australia 82, Lithuania 75
In perhaps the most evenly matched game of the day, Australia held off Lithuania 82-75 and at least temporarily vaulted to the top of the Group D standings.
The Aussies were bolstered by a diverse offensive attack that saw four players hit double figures in scoring. Most impressively, Australia operated like a well-oiled machine even with 2014 NBA draft fifth-overall selection Dante Exum playing limited minutes.
Australia was also able to buckle down defensively. According to NBA on ESPN, Lithuania failed to crack double digits in the second quarter of play:
With that said, the Lithuanians managed to play much better to start the second half as they dropped 28 points in the third quarter. Former NBA draft pick Renaldas Seibutis paced Lithuania with 21 points, but no other starter was able to muster more than four points.
One person who is likely to watch the film from this game intently at some point is Coach K. Per NBA.com's John Schuhmann, Team USA could potentially meet both Australia and Lithuania at some point.
Good win for Australia. Group D is pretty good w/ Slovenia, Australia & Lithuania. USA could face 2 of those 3 in knockout rounds.— John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) September 2, 2014
While neither team is considered to be among the elite, they both showed why they are threats to contend for a bronze medal in this tournament at the very least.
Slovenia 89, South Korea 72
Just a couple hours after Australia seized first place in Group D, Slovenia returned to the top spot by virtue of a comfortable victory over South Korea.
The Koreans remain winless in Spain, while Slovenia is still among the four unbeaten teams with a record of 3-0. Korea surprisingly held a two-point lead at the end of the first quarter, but Slovenia was able to rebound and truly put the game away in the third and fourth quarters.
As has been the case throughout the tournament thus far, Slovenia was bolstered by the excellent play of Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic. "The Dragon" is coming off a breakout NBA season, and his form has most definitely carried over to the FIBA World Cup.
Dragic ended the game with 22 points, and he was the driving force behind Slovenia's ability to separate itself from Korea in the third quarter, per Matt Petersen of Suns.com:
Dragic/Slovenia finally hit the run they'd been waiting on. Two-point game turned to 15pt lead in a six-minute span. Dragic w/16pts total.— Matt Petersen (@TheMattPetersen) September 2, 2014
Slovenia is now firmly in control of the group, and it has a great chance to cement a perfect record with games against Angola and Lithuania remaining. Things will get much tougher with the likes of Team USA and Spain looming in the knockout rounds, but Slovenia has clearly established itself as one of the best teams at this event.
Dominican Republic 74, Finland 68
Superior scoring balance allowed the Dominican Republic to stay in front after taking a strong nine-point halftime advantage and stave off Finland's comeback attempt in a 74-68 victory.
Four players from the winning side scored in double figures. The Dominican Republic featured two former Louisville Cardinals in their starting five in point guard Edgar Sosa and current NBA player Francisco Garcia, who had 16 points.
Ex-Kentucky Wildcat forward Eloy Vargas had 18 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to make the big difference on the inside for the Dominican Republic.
A penchant for three-pointers saw Finland make just 25 of 70 attempts from the field, though they were 11-of-31 shooting from beyond the arc. The only player in double digits was point guard Petteri Koponen, with a game-high 23 points and nine assists in a losing effort.
Koponen was evidently disappointed afterwards, as HoopsHype captured on Instagram:
The Finnish star is seeking to make his NBA debut in 2015 after being a first-round pick of the Philadelphia 76ers in 2007. Now the Dallas Mavericks have his rights, and Koponen is eager to get going, per ESPN.com's Marc Stein:
I always said my dream is to play in the NBA. Every summer we talk a little bit with Dallas to see what the situation is and what they think. I've got one more year left on my contract in Russia and then of course I would like to come over. I hope I get some options to go there and show I can play at that level.
This might have been an international basketball competition, but Koponen at least showed signs he could cut it in the Association with brilliant play on Tuesday.
As for the remainder of the FIBA World Cup, Group C is now firmly in the United States' control. They will try to cap off a perfect 5-0 record before the Round of 16 in facing the Dominican Republic on Wednesday, followed the next day by a matchup with Ukraine.
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