After almost every favorite team gave rest to their stars in the third day of the championship, so we pick up the action on Monday. The system of competition determines that three teams from each group can qualify to the final round of eight, divided in two new groups of four (Group E and Group F). The other four that were eliminated play against each other to determine 13th to 16th places.
Group E consists of Brazil, Australia, Poland, Russia, Latvia and Argentina and Group F sees the USA, Lithuania, Croatia, Serbia, Canada and Egypt take part. China, Korea, Tunisia and Chinese Taipei will be fighting for consolation prizes.
The first day of the second round had one great game and a few competitive ones. Lithuania, who at this point the main favorite to win the championship, beat Serbia easily, 71-54. The superstar of the tournament and Raptors 5th pick Jonas Valanciunas had his worst shooting game but still managed to score 18 points (6/14 FG – 6/7 FT), grab 13 rebounds and block 3 shots in 34 minutes of action.
For Serbia, point guard Aleksandar Cvetkovic had another solid scoring game with 15 points but delivered just 1 assist. He’s one of the leading scorers of the competition but he should look more to his teammates. After his first game, he’s contributed only 5 assists in his last three outings.
Powered by a well-balanced scoring attack, the US blew out Canada 83-54, accounting for the Canucks’ second such loss . Brazil beat the home team, Latvia, 88-73. For Latvia, Spurs’ second round pick Davis Bertans scored 15 points and went 1/5 from downtown. Although some scouts considered him one of the best pure shooters in the draft, he’s not living up to the hype and isn’t having a great shooting tournament – tther than the second game, he’s shooting a pathetic 1/20 from outside. For Brazil, 7-foot center Lucas Nogueira had another weak game with just 6 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks in 11 minutes. This tournament is proving that even though he has potential, he’s still very inconsistent and a long ways from anything close to resembling the NBA.
Croatia was expected to crush Egypt but the North Africans proved to be pesky opponents. It was a very close game that was decided in the last possession with Egypt missing a three-point attempt that would have won the game. The final was 83-81 with Dario Saric having a monster all-around game in 37 minutes. He scored 19 points (7/12 FG – 2/3 3PT FG), collected 16 rebounds and dished out 7 assists. With this performance he passed Valanciunas as the tournament’s leading rebounder. He’s showing why scouts have him as a lottery pick if he stays in the 2013 draft. He’s a 6’9’’ forward who spent time as a point guard and is very good at distributing the ball.
Another highly touted prospect, Mario Hezonja scored 15 points with 3 rebounds and 4 assists in 30 minutes. He’s one of the youngest players in the championship (born in 1995) and is showing great athletic and scoring ability, there’s no doubt that you’ll be see his name popping up in mock drafts sooner than later.
In another excitingly game, Australia beat Russia 85-78. For Russia, their two best players stepped up – Karasev and Kulagin, the latter is considered their top prospect, and they scored 19 points each but the best player in the game (and probably one of the best in the tournament) was Anthony Drmic with 22 points. He’s a 6’5’’ small forward born in 1992 that is surprising everyone in Latvia. He plays in his country and he doesn’t even have a profile in most NBA Draft sites but he’s having a great championship. He’s the leading scorer with 23.2 points-per-game and is rebounding very well for position with 5.5rpg. Even though he isn’t considered to have the same potential as Valanciunas, Nogueira, Saric or Hezonja, he’s opening some scouts’ eyes with his performances.
As for tomorrow, Croatia-Serbia and Lithuania-USA will take all the attention because they’re probably the four best teams in the championship. But Australia-Brazil, Argentina-Russia and Poland-Latvia are also potentially exciting games.
I’ll try to write an update for tomorrow’s games and remember that after this round, every game will be broadcasted by fibatv.com and you can watch it online starting July 8th.
Here’s an interview with Jonas after the victory against Serbia: