With all 24 teams in action on Day 5 of the FIBA World Cup in Spain, there are opportunities galore for squads to take one more step toward the knockout round.
Although there is still another round of group games to be played Thursday, several teams entered Wednesday's slate with a chance to punch their ticket to the next stage. Others are fighting for their FIBA World Cup lives, but one victory can change the outlook in a big way.
The United States and Spain remain the odds-on favorites to reach the final, but the other 22 nations involved have no plans to pack it in and go home. In fact, some of them may have proven on Wednesday that they have what it takes to push the likes of Team USA and Espana to the limit.
Here is a full rundown of how every Day 5 game has played out thus far, as well as a closer look at the current state of the group standings.
|2014 FIBA World Cup Group Standings|
|Group A||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group B||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group C||Team||Wins||W||Scoring +/-||Points|
|Group D||Team||Wins||Losses||Scoring +/-||Points|
Day 5 Results
Spain 88, France 64
As the United States was earning its group-clinching win in fine fashion, its greatest competition at the World Cup was doing the same. Led by five players in double figures, Spain pulled away from France in the second half to earn an 88-64 win and essentially clinch its Group A championship.
While Brazil can technically win the group, it'd take a nearly impossible turn of events. Spain currently has a point differential of plus-110, 90 points better than Brazil. The Brazilians would need to defeat Egypt and have Spain lose to Serbia on Thursday, with a combined scoring differential of 91 between the teams.
In other words: Nope.
Marc Gasol led the way for Spain against France with 17 points and six rebounds, while brother Pau Gasol added 15. Juan Carlos Navarro, Sergio Llull and Serge Ibaka rounded out the double-digit scoring. The Spaniards shot 50.8 percent from the floor while holding a struggling France bunch to just 38.6 percent.
Nicolas Batum matched Antoine Diot with a team-high 11 points but shot 5-of-15 from the floor. He was the only French player to attempt 10 or more field goals. Boris Diaw turned in his worst outing of the tournament, scoring three points on 1-of-6 shooting while struggling to defend the Gasols down low. NBAers
Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier both played solid enough in limited minutes, but it wasn't enough against a Spain team that seems destined for the final. France, which drops to 2-2, can clinch a spot in the elimination round with a win over Iran on Thursday.
United States 106, Dominican Republic 71
Two weeks apparently weren't enough for the Dominican Republic to build a basketball program on par with the United States.
In a game that in many ways mirrored their exhibition contest in New York City, the United States scuffled in the first half before pulling away in the second en route to a 106-71 win over the Dominican Republic.
As it has been for the entirety of the Spanish trip, the U.S. effort was led by its interior presence. Kenneth Faried scored a team-high 16 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 13 off the bench and Anthony Davis was a two-way menace in a 10-point, seven-rebound, five-block contest. With the United States ahead by only 15 points heading into the halftime break, Davis and Faried took over, scoring five of the team's first seven baskets to put any thought of an upset to bed.
The starting frontcourt has been sensational throughout the tournament, dominating opposing teams with their size and energy. Davis, who was mostly nondescript offensively, was unstoppable on the defensive end—almost making the paint uninhabitable for the Dominicans.
The blowout win moved Team USA to 4-0 and clinched Group C. The Americans have outscored their opponents by 142 points, by far the best in the tournament. They will close out group play on Thursday against Ukraine before starting knockout play against the fourth-seeded team of Group D over the weekend.
The Dominican Republic drops to 2-2 and sits in a tenuous fourth-place spot heading into Thursday. The Dominicans can clinch a knockout round berth with a win over Turkey, but will have their eyes glued on the Finland-New Zealand game nonetheless. Should Finland pull off the upset, the Dominican Republic should advance based on point differential. There is almost no scenario in which a New Zealand win and Dominican Republic loss puts the Dominicans through—unless the U.S. absolutely obliterates Ukraine.
Either way, there wasn't much to write home about here.
Australia 70, Mexico 62
Australia is without recognizable names such as Andrew Bogut and Patty Mills at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but that hasn't stopped the Boomers from having a fantastic tournament thus far. The Aussies continued their impressive run Wednesday with a 70-62 win over Mexico to improve their record to 3-1.
San Antonio Spurs forward Aron Baynes paced Australia with 21 points, while Mexico struggled from the field as a team; shooting just over 40 percent.
Utah Jazz rookie Dante Exum was once again a virtual non-factor for Australia as he registered one rebound and one assist in limited minutes. Chris Mannix of SI.com is among those who expected him to have a bigger role:
Based on the way Australia has been playing, though, it is tough to question its methods. The Aussies seem like virtual locks to move on to next round at this point, and they have a legitimate shot to finish on the podium.
Puerto Rico 77, Philippines 73
In a Group B battle of two winless teams, it was Puerto Rico that finally came away victorious as it defeated The Philippines 77-73 in an entertaining game that went down to the wire.
Neither nation is known for their influence over the NBA, but each team was largely sparked by huge performances from NBA players. For Puerto Rico, it was Minnesota Timberwolves guard J.J. Barea who went off to the tune of 30 points.
The Philippines were led by 25 points from Brooklyn Nets big man Andray Blatche, but he ultimately didn't receive enough help from his supporting cast.
Gilas Pilipinas led for much of the game after jumping out to a 25-13 advantage in the third quarter. In the end, Puerto Rico was able to overcome its biggest halftime deficit in 24 years, per Guido Guida of NBA Italy.
The loss puts The Philippines in a nearly impossible position in terms of advancing to the knockout round, but Puerto Rico suddenly has a pulse after starting 0-3.
New Zealand 73, Ukraine 61
What a difference a day makes at the FIBA World Cup. After upsetting Turkey on Tuesday, Ukraine seemed to have momentum on its side heading into a tilt with New Zealand Wednesday. Conversely, the Kiwis were dispatched fairly easily by Team USA, but it seems as though they gained some valuable experience against an NBA-laden squad.
Ultimately, New Zealand took control against Ukraine in the second quarter and never looked back as it prevailed 73-61 and picked up its first win in Spain. The victory temporarily pushed New Zealand past the knockout stage cutoff line, but its performance in the final group game will determine whether or not it advances.
The Kiwis were bolstered by 39 points off the bench, as well as 19 from former Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers guard Kirk Penney.
Despite the game being well in hand, both teams competed hard until the bitter end. According to ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, that was due to the possibility of point differential coming into play at the conclusion of the group stage:
New Zealand may still have an uphill climb in front of it, but this was a landmark win that could generate plenty of confidence moving forward.
Iran 88, Egypt 73
Both Iran and Egypt struggled out of the gates as part of arguably the deepest and best overall group at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, but there had to be a winner when they met Wednesday. Iran was the side that was able to keep its knockout round hopes alive with an 88-73 victory over the Egyptians.
The 15-point margin was largely the product of Iran jumping out ahead by 12 points in the first quarter. From that point forward, however, it was a competitive affair, according to Zach Harper of CBSSports.com:
As is often the case with Iran, center Hamed Haddadi was the dominant force in the game with 23 points, 15 rebounds, four assists and two blocks. The overmatched Egyptians simply didn't have an answer for him in the paint.
Forward Arsalan Kazemi became the first Iranian to be drafted into the NBA when the Washington Wizards took him in the second round of the 2013 draft. He was later dealt to the Philadelphia 76ers and has NBA aspirations, per FIBA.com.
"I'm still in contact with (Sixers general manager) Sam Hinkie and I believe when the time is right, I will get the call back and will be part of the 76ers," Kazemi said.
Kazemi had just two points off the bench against Egypt, but he will have at least one more chance to impress at the FIBA World Cup, and perhaps even more if Iran can orchestrate a shock advancement to the knockout stage.
Argentina 81, Senegal 46
Argentina has had its ups and downs thus far at the FIBA World Cup, but the veteran-laden team imposed its will Wednesday in a dominant 81-46 win over Senegal.
The Argentinians are now 3-1, and they certainly look like viable candidates to advance to the semifinals or perhaps even beyond that.
A trio of players with NBA experience led the way for Argentina as Luis Scola, Walter Herrmann and Pablo Prigioni accounted for 43 of the team's points. On the other side, their African opponents shot a measly 33 percent from the field.
Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng led the way with 11 points, although it certainly wasn't his best performance of the tournament. Even so, there is a great deal of excitement surrounding the way Dieng has played, per Timberwolves PR on Twitter:
This was a somewhat disheartening performance from Senegal's perspective, but it is still in line to make it through to the knockout round, which would ultimately be a positive result.
Slovenia 93, Angola 87
Angola was in position to possibly pull off the biggest upset of the 2014 FIBA World Cup thus far, but undefeated Slovenia buckled down in the fourth quarter and came away with a 93-87 win to remain perfect.
The African side carried a one-point lead into the fourth quarter, however, the Slovenians outscored them by seven in the final frame. That was particularly impressive considering the fact that they did so without Phoenix Suns point guard Goran Dragic.
In fact, Dragic was the main reason why Slovenia was in the lead at halftime, according to Matt Petersen of Suns.com:
He didn't score a single point in the second half, though, and it will be interesting to see if an injury of some kind factored into the decision to sit him.
Angola's combination of guard Roberto Fortes and center Yanick Moreira accounted for 41 points, however, it wasn't quite enough to come out on top. The Angolans aren't out of it yet, but they will need an upset win over Australia on Thursday and some help in order to move on.
Turkey 77, Finland 73
In what was unquestionably the most exciting game of the 2014 FIBA World Cup thus far, Turkey overcame a 14-point halftime deficit to defeat Finland 77-73 in overtime.
The Finns seemed to be in complete control of the game in front of a pro-Suomi crowd, but Turkey's never-say-die attitude prevailed in the end.
The Turks were on the verge of a third consecutive loss after squandering a halftime lead against Team USA and then getting upset by Ukraine. Thanks to perseverance, skill and a little luck, though, Turkey left the Finnish faithful in shock.
Finland star Petteri Koponen needed to hit just one of two free throws to end the game late, but he missed both, which allowed Turkey to force overtime with a dramatic three, according to Brian Mahoney of The Associated Press:
Several players contributed to Turkey's success in the game, but New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik was the key. He ended up with 22 points and eight rebounds, while matching the best offensive output of his NBA career, per Jim Eichenhofer of Pelicans.com:
The win has to make Turkey feel much more secure about its chances of moving on. Conversely, Finland is all but eliminated by virtue of a 64-point deficit in terms of differential.
Finland played well enough to win for a good portion of the game, and there is no doubt that everyone involved with the national team will be lamenting this loss for a long time.
Brazil 81, Serbia 73
Wednesday's Group A clash between Brazil and Serbia featured a myriad of momentum shifts throughout, but Brazil was ultimately able to rebound from a woeful third quarter and triumph to the tune of a 81-73 score.
The Brazilians came flying out of the gate and led Serbia by 16 points at halftime. The third quarter was all Serbia, however, as it outscored Brazil by 20 points to seize the lead. As pointed out by NBA.com's John Schuhmann, the Serbians' offensive efficiency in the third quarter was unreal:
It would have been easy for Brazil to wither after blowing such a sizable lead, but that wasn't the case. Forward Marquinhos Vieira stepped up to lead the Brazilians with 21 points on the game, while Golden State Warriors guard Leandro Barbosa chipped in 16 as well.
Brazil was in foul trouble for much of the second half as NBA big men Tiago Splitter, Anderson Varejao and Nene all played with four fouls. Serbia had 14 more attempts than Brazil from the free-throw line, but that was enough to pick up the win.
The win puts Brazil in ideal position at 3-1 behind only Spain in Group A. Even at 2-2, though, Serbia is in no danger of getting knocked out, and it will have plenty more to say before this tournament is over.
Lithuania 79, South Korea 49
South Korea gave its fans a glimmer of hope early in Wednesday's meeting with Lithuania, but the European side proved to be too much as it took control from the second quarter on and tallied a routine 79-49 victory.
Much to the surprise of essentially everyone in the basketball world, the Koreans held a 19-17 lead after one quarter of play. That was quickly erased, though, as Lithuania outscored Korea by 12 points in the second and never took its foot off the gas.
The game was truly put away in the third quarter when South Korea couldn't get anything going offensively. According to EuroHoops.net, the Koreans could muster only four points in that frame, which was a microcosm of a putrid shooting performance overall:
Korea shot under 38 percent for the game, while Lithuania shot nearly 49 percent and grabbed 18 more rebounds than the Koreans as well.
Houston Rockets forward Donatas Motiejunas and Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas combined for 30 points, and they figure to represent Lithuania's best chance at earning a podium finish in Spain this year.
Greece 76, Croatia 65
There was plenty on the line when undefeated Greece butted heads with Croatia in a Group B affair Wednesday, and the spoils went to the Greeks as they won 76-65 and continued their perfect run at the FIBA World Cup.
As good as Greece has been, a loss could have been disastrous. According to Tas Melas of NBATV, the Greeks needed a victory over Croatia to decrease the likelihood of meeting host Spain prior to the semifinals:
Greece was successful in that regard as it essentially led from wire to wire. The Greeks benefited primarily from a balanced offense that saw five players score at least eight points. Also, guard Nikos Zisis was a fantastic facilitator throughout with 12 assists.
The Croatians still figure to play beyond the group stage, but a second loss means that their road through the tournament will be even more difficult. As for Greece, it has to be considered the favorite to win bronze provided it is unable to unseat Spain down the line.
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