After two days of jam-packed action in Spain at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Monday will prove a bit of a reprieve for some teams. While there are still more than enough games to fill your entire Labor Day, half of the 24-team field gets a day off to relax in the Spanish sun.
Included in those teams is the United States, which survived a first-half scare against Turkey Sunday to walk away with a 98-77 victory. Kenneth Faried scored a team-high 22 points and Anthony Davis added 19, as the U.S. used its size advantage to overpower the upset-minded Turkish side. The pre-tournament favorites are back in action Tuesday when they take on New Zealand, the only Group C side without a win thus far.
Given its up-and-down play against Turkey, the United States might instead want to use its day off to scout co-favorite Spain. Led by Marc and Pau Gasol, the Spaniards get their biggest test of the tournament in the Day 3 finale against Brazil. The result should determine the outcome of Group A, with both squads coming into the day's action unbeaten.
The more stressful action got underway early, though, with teams battling to stay alive and advance to the knockout round. With that in mind, let's check in on all the World Cup action.
Day 3 Results and Recap
|Serbia def. Iran (Group A)||83-70|
|France def. Egypt (Group A)||94-55|
|Spain def. Brazil (Group A)||82-63|
|Senegal def. Croatia (Group B)||77-75|
|Argentina def. Philippines (Group B)||85-81|
|Greece def. Puerto Rico (Group B)||90-79|
The first two days of World Cup action didn't see too many surprises. Spain and the United States flexed their muscles, mid-tier countries battled through the most exciting contests and Argentina showed just how quickly an aging team can start to fall apart.
Senegal ensured things wouldn't be so predictable early Monday morning. Spurred by a dominant outing from Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng, Senegal played Croatia basket-for-basket for the first three quarters and staved off a last-ditch comeback effort for a 77-75 upset.
Dieng scored 27 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked two shots as the Croatians struggled to find an answer. He also went 11-of-12 from the charity stripe, a streak Timberwolves fans will undoubtedly hope carries over to the NBA season.
Expected to be one of the teams cut from Group B after a blowout loss to Greece in the opener, the Senegalese are now in a good position with two straight wins. They were helped along in their effort later in the afternoon by Argentina, which continued its less-than-stellar play but was able squeak by for a close win over the Philippines.
Continuing his all-around brilliant tournament, Luis Scola scored a game-high 19 points in the 85-81 win. The Philippines had multiple opportunities in the last minute to tie the game or go ahead, but an ill-timed turnover from Jayson Williams and two missed threes from Andray Blatche clinched their fate.
Blatche, whose decision-making on the threes could have been better, finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds. He's been the star of a surprisingly competitive effort from the Filipinos, who have lost their three games by a total of 19 points. Ranidel De Ocampo scored a team-high 18 points and Jim Alapag knocked down five threes off the bench in the loss.
The Philippines will need to defeat Puerto Rico and Croatia in back-to-back days if it hopes to advance. Argentina, which got 17 points from Marcos Mata off the bench, should be through and may now have a chance to take Group B thanks to Croatia's loss.
Things went far more as planned on the other side of the bracket, which saw Serbia and France earn easy wins over the group's worst competition. Nemanja Bjelica scored 18 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic helped out with 16 and Serbia shot over 58 percent in an 83-70 win over Iran. Hamed Haddadi and Samad Nikkhah Bahrami combined to score 49 points in the loss for Iran, which dropped to 0-3.
France also didn't need much effort to earn an overwhelming 94-55 triumph over Egypt. Every French player scored at least a basket, while the starters spent most of their afternoon on the bench. Egypt, led by Ibrahim Elgammal with 12 points, made less than one-third of its shots.
The first of the evening matches saw Greece defeat Puerto Rico to move to 3-0 for the tournament and gain a stranglehold on Group B due to Croatia's upset loss earlier in the day.
FIBA tweeted out the game's final score and Greece's tournament standing:
Greece remained consistent throughout the match, scoring at least 20 points in each quarter along the way. The team's size advantage was well on display, and that led to 44 points in the paint—16 more than Puerto Rico accumulated—and 37 total rebounds.
Nikolaos Zisis was absolutely on fire for the Greeks, collecting 19 points while shooting 77.8 percent from the floor and an impressive 80 percent from downtown. Kostas Kaimakoglou was a monster in the paint, leading both teams in total rebounds with 11.
Puerto Rico saw two great scoring efforts from Renaldo Balkman and Jose Barea, as the duo combined for 44 of the team's 79 points. Although, shooting 38.7 percent from the floor as a team just wasn't good enough to come away with the win.
The day's final contest featured a matchup of unbeaten teams. Brazil took on world No. 2 Spain looking for an upset victory and big advantage in Group A. Well, that didn't come close to happening, as a 30-point first quarter for the Spaniards propelled them to a decisive 82-63 win and 3-0 record in tournament play.
Paul Gasol was amped up for the game, and it showed:
Gasol was simply too much for Brazil to handle. He dominated the interior, and even showcased a nice stroke from outside, racking up a game-high 26 points while shooting 73 percent from the floor. Gasol also racked up a game-high nine rebounds along the way as well.
Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol weren't exactly huge offensive threats on Monday, tallying a combined 13 points; however, both showcased their defensive abilities, helping Spain hold Brazil to shoot 41 percent from the floor as a team.
Anderson Varejao was held to make just 5-of-8 attempts from short range, resulting in a 10-point performance—good enough for second on the team behind the 11 points of Leandro Barbosa.
Spain continues to look more and more like the biggest threat to Team USA in this year's FIBA World Cup.
Follow Tyler Conway (@tylerconway22) on Twitter