TrueHoop: Hedo Turkoglu

Monday Bullets

August, 20, 2012
8/20/12
3:08
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
Archive
  • SI's Zach Lowe breaks down the financials of Serge Ibaka's $48 million dollar extension, and what they mean for James Harden: "If Harden gets that max deal from Oklahoma City, the Thunder will be paying the tax for at least the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. Assuming a max deal for Harden and that Oklahoma City gets the No. 30 pick in each of the next two drafts, the Thunder would be set to have about $75.5 million committed to 10 players in 2013-14 and $77 million committed to the same number of players in 2014-15. Fill out the rest of the roster on the cheap -- forget the mid-level exception -- and Oklahoma City will be looking at $80 million payrolls in those seasons. The tax line is at $70.4 million now, and it will go up as league revenues rise. But most projections have the tax line somewhere around $75 million in the 2015-16, and very solid growth (about 3 percent) would have it jump only to $72.5 million in 2013-14 and $74.6 million in the following season. Note again: These are estimates. Under the harsh new tax rates that kick in for the 2013-14 -- just in time! -- the Thunder would be paying a tax bill ranging from $7.5 million to $12.5 million or so, depending on the exact tax level and how much the team’s ownership is willing to spend on the back of the roster. Is Oklahoma City, the league’s second-smallest market, willing to spend something like $85 million or even $90 million to fill a team?"
  • Bradford Doolittle projects only one team in the East to win 50 games (Insider) and for the Hawks to be the No. 2 seed despite losing Joe Johnson.
  • Jason Richardson learned how to play off a dominant big man with Dwight Howard in Orlando. That should work out well in Philadelphia, where he'll be paired with Andrew Bynum.
  • Philadunkia's Steve Toll imagines Masai Ujiri reacting to opportunity to trade for Iguodala: "He was told Andre Iguodala and he probably said something like, 'hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm let me think on it and I’ll call you back' then proceeded to rip his shirt off like vintage Hulk Hogan and go running around the Denver front office like a crazy person yelling 'Iguodalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was just gifted Iguodalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa for Afflalo and Harrington, Iguodalaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!'"
  • Answer: A Felix the Cat flag, screenplays and a stuffed turtle. Question: What did you miss at Michael Beasley's estate sale?
  • Darius Soriano of Forum Blue and Gold digs into Dwight Howard's somewhat maligned offensive game and finds a lot to like, especially in pick-and-rolls: "Beyond his finishing, however, the authority in which Howard dives into the teeth of the defense instantly draws extra defenders to him. This magnetism creates the floor spacing and passing angles his teammates feast on. With Howard on the floor the three point shooting percentages of Ryan Anderson, Hedo Turkoglu, and Jameer Nelson were all much better than when he was on the bench."
  • Blake Griffin's face-up game needs work.
  • Meet future NBA player Mirza Teletovic. He plays a bit like Ryan Anderson, says Sam Meyerkopf of Euroleague Adventures.
  • SB Nation's Andrew Sharp hilariously explains that it's been a great decade to be a Wizards fan if you are into endearingly dysfunctional players. And funny names.
  • On Ball Don't Lie, Dan Devine explains why Monta Ellis and Brandon Jennings have a lot to figure out next season: "In sum, teams playing the Bucks feasted when Jennings and Ellis shared the court, scoring an average of 107.7 points per 100 possessions of floor time, more than five points-per-100 below Milwaukee's season defensive mark, according to NBA.com's metrics. To put things in perspective, only one team put up defensive numbers that inept over the course of the full 2011-12 season -- when Jennings and Ellis shared the backcourt, the Bucks ceased being a slightly-worse-than-average defensive team and became the Charlotte Bobcats (107.8-per-100 allowed)."
  • In an interview with Patrick Hayes, Kirk Goldsberry (of Court Vision fame) reflects on seeing statistics in action during the NBA playoffs: "I put out the chart in April, which showed how extremely effective Durant is from the top of the arc. It’s his favorite shot, he shoots a ton there, he owns that spot. The fast forward to the playoffs when the Lakers are playing the Thunder, then last possession of the game, Durant is approaching the top of the arc and Ron Artest is for some reason sitting back six feet and we all know what happened -- Durant nails that shot. What struck me was why didn’t the Lakers know that was his best shot?"
  • A Lakers fan who feels guilty, sort of, about his team's embarrassment of both basketball and literal riches.

Lineups that are killing it in the East

March, 14, 2012
3/14/12
2:31
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
Chicago BullsChicago Bulls
PG Derrick Rose  SG Ronnie Brewer  SF Luol Deng  PF Carlos Boozer  C Joakim Noah
Minutes Played: 284
Offensive Rating: 111.6 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 91.8 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
In 2010-11, the Bulls were a middling offensive team that relied on one dominant mode of attack -- a dynamic Rose at the top of the floor. This season, Rose is still the prized asset in the Bulls' scheme, but he's orchestrating a deliberate, savvy offense that's expanded its breadth.

This unit plays at a plodding pace of 90.9 (which would rank them last in the NBA), but it's a tight, killing-you-slowly kind of assault. How many teams pressure you with a point guard like Rose, who collapses the defense anytime he works off the dribble, but can also feed the post and have three quality options from there? When you watch these Bulls move around the court with purpose, it's hard not to see hints of the best of the Deron Williams-Boozer era in Utah -- only better, because Noah's screens and ball skills are so exceptional for a big man.

This group also features two world-class athletes in Deng and Brewer who understand how to play off a penetrator, as well as a couple of big guys who know how to hit a cutter. Ever since Derrick Rose arrived on the scene in Chicago, we've been hearing about how the Bulls have a fatal hole at shooting guard. Bulls fans, you have your shooting guard. His name is Ronnie Brewer.

The rap on Brewer has always been that he can't space the floor. Fair enough, because Brewer is a subpar shooter from beyond 10 feet. But elite teams find workarounds for flawed players, and the Bulls have maximized Brewer's many strengths beautifully. Spacing is a nice attribute to have in an offense, but movement is woefully underrated in today's game. And you won't find a lot of players who move more intently off the ball than Brewer. He might not hit a shot for you from 24 feet, but he never stops moving. Feed, clear, cut and repeat.

Would there be more space for Rose to work if he had a couple of wings who were better conventional shooters than Brewer and Deng? Possibly, but there are more ways to bludgeon an opponent than a drive-and-kick. Putting bodies in motion and forcing opponents into bad decisions with endless actions has its virtues.

How it works defensively
The vaunted Tom Thibodeau defense is no longer an exotic mystery cooked up in some lab in Cambridge, Mass. It's simply standard operating procedure for several NBA defenses -- but few, if any, of the imitators run it with the precision this unit does.

On nearly every half-court possession, the Bulls' defense has one objective -- keep the ball out of the middle of the floor. Once they have you confined to the sideline and you try to, for example, run a pick-and-roll, the Bulls will strangle you like a python by trapping, then bringing a third defender to the ball side of the paint to add further pressure.

What makes this unit particularly deadly when they implement this defense? Let's start with Joakim Noah. Bringing three guys to the ball is all well and good, but it doesn't help if you don't have two defenders who can cover the rest of the floor in what's essentially a two-man zone. There isn't a big man who performs this task better than Noah. He instinctively knows where the offensive threat is coming from -- when the ball will be reversed out of that pressure, to whom it will go to and how to best help without compromising the system.

Throw in two lanky defenders like Brewer and Deng, whose length, agility and smarts allow them to both stifle defenders on the ball or work as Noah's partner in that backside zone, and you have the components for the most difficult defense to score against in the NBA.


Orlando MagicOrlando Magic
PG Jameer Nelson  SG J.J. Redick  SF Hedo Turkoglu  PF Ryan Anderson  C Dwight Howard
Minutes Played: 178
Offensive Rating: 118.3 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 98.4 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
How good has this group been with the ball? There isn't a five-man unit that's recorded a higher offensive rating or a larger point differential in its favor. This isn't Orlando's most-used unit -- that would be the starters with Jason Richardson at shooting guard instead of Redick (402 minutes on the floor versus 178). The starting five aren't chopped liver, but the Redick-at-the-2 unit blows them away.

In many respects, this unit evokes the halcyon days of the Magic, circa 2009. Stan Van Gundy is one of the great pragmatists in the league. He deftly appraises his personnel on the floor and always seems to find a way to maximize those players' strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. These are familiar schemes that leverage Howard's presence down low to open up the perimeter for the Magic's snipers along the perimeter -- specifically Redick and Anderson.

Many times it starts with a high pick-and-roll with Nelson and Howard. The Magic get penetration or a deep feed to Howard in the paint, which forces the defense to collapse. When that happens, you know the drill -- a kickout to Redick or to a lifted Anderson for a clean look at a 3-pointer. Nelson has also developed a nice pick-and-pop rhythm with Anderson to find him open shots.

Other times, they initiate offense through Turkoglu on the left side. Turkoglu's efficiency numbers have fallen off since 2009 (he's shooting poorly and turning the ball over too frequently), but he's still capable of putting the ball on the floor and finding shots for others, and getting Howard the ball where he likes it. Redick is in constant motion in the Magic's half-court sets, breezing around baseline screens, getting free via pin-downs and using his escape dribble along the perimeter to find space.

And that's how an NBA unit chalks up a gaudy true shooting percentage of 60.5 percent, even with a below-average free throw rate.

How it works defensively
This unit earns its money on the offensive end -- a 98.4 defensive rating isn't anything to be ashamed of, but doesn't qualify as elite. Still, these five are getting a sufficient number of stops.

Unlike their contemporaries up in Chicago, Orlando places more of a premium on chasing shooters off the 3-point line, and they have the luxury of staying at home because they have a very large man with very broad shoulders manning the basket area and cleaning up any blow-bys that might occur. How is that going? Opponents are shooting 24 percent from beyond the arc against this unit and converting only 4.8 3-pointers per game. That is what chopped liver tastes like.

As imposing as Howard is under the basket, altering shots and intimidating, his pick-and-roll defense is also a key ingredient to this unit's defensive success. The Magic don't need to rotate all that often and, when they do, Howard recovers promptly to the back line and those rotators can immediately dash back to the perimeter where they can contest long shots with a close out, or just stagnate the offense.

One-on-one defense can occasionally be problematic, but Redick's tenacity -- both on-the-ball and chasing rabbits like Ray Allen around screens -- is vastly underrated. Turkoglu is no Tony Allen, but his length and awareness of where Howard is lurking makes him an adequate defender, as well. Finally, Nelson is a sturdy fireplug who can use his strength to bother opposing point guards, though he does yield his share of blow-bys.


Miami HeatMiami Heat
PG Mario Chalmers  SG Dwyane Wade  SF LeBron James  PF Chris Bosh  C Joel Anthony
Minutes Played: 389
Offensive Rating: 109.9 points per 100 possessions
Defensive Rating: 94.7 points per 100 possessions

How it works offensively
This past summer, Erik Spoelstra immersed himself in a single exercise: Examine how he could make life easier for the Heat's offense by diversifying their attack. In 2010-11, Spoelstra grappled with several strategies -- elements of the Rick Adelman's corner offense, "elbow sets" run through Bosh with multiple triggers and even some old Hubie Brown sets to free up shooters. The Heat finished the season as the NBA's third-ranked offense.

Spoelstra came to a realization, one that didn't necessarily conform to his natural instincts: The Heat could do better, and to achieve that improvement, it would require less conventional structure. He has freed up James and Wade, made transition opportunities and early offense priorities (Miami has gone from 21st in pace last season to 12th this season) and found new ways to space the floor.

So far as Wade and James, they have one imperative -- catch the ball and attack and don't allow the defense to set. No more dawdling at the top of the floor, waiting for stuff that never materializes. Off that, the Heat have found gold with Chalmers' vastly improved outside shot. The Heat were assembled with the idea that James and Wade would have quality shooters primed for kickouts, and with Chalmers, they have a teammate shooting 44.3 percent from 3-point-land.

Fewer sets are being run through Bosh at the high post with this unit, though he's still able to facilitate when the pace settles into a more deliberate, half-court game. Many of those sets that started with Bosh at the high post are now being initiated with James at the "Karl Malone" spot off the mid-post. Meanwhile, Bosh and Anthony screen with the best of them -- especially to lend space for Wade to attack -- and Bosh is still superb at lifting to a spot 18 feet away from the hoop for a no-dribble J.

How it works defensively
Spoelstra is still experimenting and tinkering with the Heat's schemes. Many a night, Miami is flirting with a Thibodeau-style strongside strategy, but one with a bit less structure and more freedom for James and Wade to rove. This isn't coming without costs: This unit is giving up 19.2 3-point attempts per 48 minutes, and opponents are shooting 40.4 percent from beyond the arc in the process.

The Heat are aware of the shortcoming and seem willing to tolerate a few gimmes on the perimeter in service of their larger defensive goal -- create chaos. That means more ball pressure than ever from Chalmers, and Bosh and Anthony jumping out with impunity on every ball screen. When it comes to defending the pick-and-roll, Bosh and Anthony might be the best big man tandem in the business at showing hard and recovering to the right spot on the back line.

Most of all, Spoelstra is encouraging James and Wade to operate as free safeties in what can be described as a quasi-two-man zone. Spoelstra's nature favors order over chaos and he traditionally has discouraged gambling, but he's come to appreciate that doubling-down on his team's athleticism makes good sense.

The results are there. Opponents are turning the ball 16.8 times per 48 minutes against this group. More impressive, the unit generates 23.3 points per 48 minutes off these turnovers and 22.5 fast-break points per 48 minutes. There simply isn't a defense in the world that can stop James and Wade in the open floor and the Heat's newfound guerrilla defense has maximized these opportunities.

Monday Bullets

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
11:24
AM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive
  • J.A. Adande joined Baron Davis on the campus of UCLA, where the Cavs point guard will try to maintain a GPA, not a PER. At Hardwood Paroxysm, Holly MacKenzie shares a story about how, several seasons back, Davis blew her off in a locker room in Seattle, only to track her down later on in the tunnel to make amends: "[Davis] taught me a lesson: players can be cranky, and sometimes you’ll approach them after a bad loss or performance when they’re angry or bitter or caught up in something. But often times, how someone treats you on that single occasion isn’t a fair representation of who that person is."
  • Davis coached LeBron James in a Drew League game on Saturday afternoon in Los Angeles. Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports: "[Drew League director Dino] Smiley said many fans tweeted and sent text messages about James’ arrival. 'Every edge' of the court in the tiny gym, Smiley said, was packed. Smiley said the gym doors were eventually closed shut during James’ game by law enforcement officers, who told fans if they left they couldn’t return"
  • Thunderground Radio evaluates how Sam Presti fared in 2010-11. Was the Perkins-Green trade necessary? Can Reggie Jackson make an impact in the backcourt?
  • Blake Griffin is a monster and, barring injury, projects to be a indomitable franchise player. For the Clippers, that's the easy part. The more elastic variable for the team is Eric Gordon. If the Clippers aren't able to land a marquee superstar, could they still be a force in the West with Gordon as their featured perimeter threat with Griffin down low, provided DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe continue to grow? Nick Flynt of ClipperBlog takes a look.
  • What happened to the Trail Blazers after they broke up their Finals core in 1993? A retrospective from Blazers Edge.
  • I'm a sucker for any basketball post that prominently features Bob Walk, who pitched for the Atlanta Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates. A pitcher named Walk would the equivalent of a hoopster named Travel. But the thrust of the Negative Dunkalectics' post by Chris George is not the dubiously-named Walk, but the playing career of Warriors head coach Mark Jackson: "Mark Jackson was a comparatively small and non-athletic man, largely informed by a street game, who managed to use a few moves over and over again to put up much better numbers than he 'should' have. The combination of the back down, the baby hook, the no-look passes, the teardrop, and the push shot made him one of the most frustrating point guards of his era, even if he never had the ability to be a true star."
  • Jason Terry delivered the first pitch at Sunday's Texas Rangers game to Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler. Dirk Nowitzki via Twitter: "Was jet's first pitch at rangers game better than mine? Didn't anyone see it? Let me know."
  • Who is Manuel Velez Pangilinan? He's the very wealthy, very influential guy behind the pair of exhibition games at Araneta Coliseum in Manila between a slew of NBA stars and standouts from the Philippine Basketball Association. The two games were standing room only and tickets on the secondary market ran as much as four times face value.
  • The WNBA named its 15 best players ever. Ball in Europe follows with its 15 best Euroleague women players in history.
  • Hakeem Olajuwon, Marco Belinelli and Hedo Turkoglu: Each initially excited Raps fans when he signed on the dotted line, only to fall way short of expectations. For good measure, five Raptors draft picks that raised eyebrows.
  • Six years prior to putting on a Raptors jersey, Olajuwon logged 39 points and 17 rebounds in the Game 6 clincher of the 1995 Western Conference finals against the Spurs. NBA Off-Season presents another in their Lockout Classics series.
  • If Kobe Bryant is Derek Jeter, then Derek Fisher is Jorge Posada. Does that make Robert Horry Scott Brosius?
  • Look out, Monday. Wes Matthews is in mission mode.
  • Kings big man Jason Thompson: "Congrats to the NFL on ending their Lockout....NOW its OUR TURN!!!!"

Crawford sinks Magic with late three

April, 23, 2011
4/23/11
1:42
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive
Jamal Crawford
Crawford
The bank was open for Jamal Crawford down the stretch of Friday's Game 3 as his three-point field goal with 5.7 seconds remaining helped seal the Atlanta Hawks win over the Orlando Magic.

In a series that has been defined by bench play -- or lack thereof for the Magic -- Crawford led all scorers with 23 points off the bench, with 12 coming in the final frame.

For the third straight game Crawford single-handedly outscored the Magic reserves. For the series, Crawford has scored 71 points, while Orlando's subs have combined for just 43 points.

Crawford is one of only seven players in the past 20 seasons to have three consecutive 20-point games off the bench in a single postseason. Only two players have done it in four straight games -- Nick Van Exel in 2003 for the Mavericks and Kevin McHale for the Celtics in 1991.

Crawford did most of his damage when guarded by Jameer Nelson, who had actually held Crawford to 38.9 percent shooting over the past two seasons.

However Friday night Crawford scored 17 of his 23 points when checked by Nelson, making five of his nine field goal attempts. He was just 2-for-10 when guarded by other players.

Although the Hawks managed to win Game 3, Atlanta has gotten progressively worse at shooting jump shots during their series with the Magic. After shooting 51.4 percent (19-37) on jumpers in Game 1, the Hawks made only 42.0 percent (21-50) in Game 2, and 32.6 percent (16-49) Friday.

However the Magic have not been able to capitalize as they have shot poorly throughout the series as well, particularly from behind the three-point line.

Orlando made just eight of its 28 three-point attempts (28.6 percent) and have now shot under 30 percent from three-point range in each game of this series.

During the 82-game regular season they had only two streaks of three straight games in which they failed to shoot at least 30-percent from long distance.

One of the main cogs in the Magic's struggle has been the inability to get Hedo Turkoglu on track. Turkoglu is shooting just 25 percent on field goal attempts from beyond 10 feet and only 17.6 percent from behind the three-point line.

During the Magic's run to the NBA Finals two season ago, Turkoglu shot 42.3 percent from 10-feet and beyond, including 38.6 percent from three-point range.

One thing is for sure though; Magic fans cannot blame Dwight Howard for how this series has gone. Howard notched 21 points and 15 rebounds and is now averaging 33.3 points and 17.7 rebounds per game for the series.

According to Elias, Howard is the fifth player since the NBA merger (1976-77) to record 20 points and 15 rebounds in each of his first three games of a postseason. The last player to do so was Dirk Nowitzki back in 2001.

Magic act getting better by the game

December, 28, 2010
12/28/10
12:02
AM ET
By ESPN Stats & Info
ESPN.com
Archive
It took a little while to get going, but the additions of Gilbert Arenas, Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson are now having the impact the Orlando Magic desired. The New Jersey Nets aren’t the best litmus test, but the Magic beat them handily on the road last night, 104-88, as the trio combined for 43 points.

Hedo Turkoglu has been impressive in this three-game run. He netted 20 more points on Monday, the third straight game in which he shot 50 percent or better from the field. Turkoglu was 3-for-15 in his first two games back with the Magic.

It also seems like guard J.J. Redick is comfortable with the team’s new additions. He scored 15 points Monday, his fourth straight game scoring in double figures.

This was the second straight game in which Redick did something significant. On Christmas Day, he hit a key shot on a rare isolation play in the final minute of the Magic’s rally against the Boston Celtics. In this game he was a team-best plus-23. Redick was aggressive early, going 3-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half. His 10 shots in the first two quarters were a team high. Redick had only attempted 10 or more shots in a game, seven times prior to Monday.

Elsewhere, with Dirk Nowitzki suffering a second-quarter knee injury, Shawn Marion stepped up scoring-wise for the Dallas Mavericks in their 103-93 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. Marion was 10-for-29 in his previous three games, but 10-for-15 in this one.

That should help Marion, who entered shooting 43.9 percent from the field in December, avoid his worst shooting in a calendar month since he shot 43.4 percent in April, 2005 (minimum five games played). The Mavericks have won all seven games this season in which Marion scored at least 15 points.

Dallas became just the fifth team since the ABA-NBA merger to win 11 of its first 12 road games. Seven of their 11 road wins have been against teams with a winning record. The 2009-10 Celtics were the last team to start a season by winning 11 of its first 12 on the road. Prior to that, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, the last team to do so was the 1993-94 Houston Rockets.

Lastly, we have the statistical oddity of the night: Jason Maxiell played five minutes and 53 seconds in the Detroit Pistons 105-100 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. In that time, the Pistons were outscored by 19 points.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Maxiell’s minus-19 is the worst plus-minus for any NBA player who played six minutes or fewer in a game this season, surpassing the minus-18 posted by Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes in a 123-116 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on November 5.

Wednesday Bullets

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
1:12
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Thursday Bullets

August, 19, 2010
8/19/10
1:18
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Thursday Bullets

July, 22, 2010
7/22/10
12:08
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Hedo Turkoglu and Raptors making amends

July, 1, 2010
7/01/10
4:56
PM ET
Abbott By Henry Abbott
ESPN.com
Archive
Not too long ago, Hedo Turkoglu went on NTV SPOR in Turkey to say that he did not want to return to the Raptors.

As free agency shakes out, the Raptors' need for a small forward to replace the disgruntled Turkoglu -- who would presumably be heading somewhere -- was part of the reason some felt Toronto might consider taking on Luol Deng's big contract in a sign-and-trade for Chris Bosh. Such a move would make the Bulls exceptionally attractive for players like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

However, Turkoglu's back on the same TV channel on Thursday, only this time after spending some time listening to the soothing tones of newish Raptors' assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo, who is now in Turkey telling Turkoglu how much better things could be.

Here, translated into English, is some of what Turkoglu had to say:
  • "As a basketball player, my only goal is to perform at the highest level again. I want to play in a system that fits me. I’m happy that Carlesimo is here, he’s a good friend of mine since my Spurs days."
  • "Everybody makes mistakes, that’s a fact. Both parties [Hedo and Raptors management] think that it’s time to correct them. Toronto wants me back and to take the leading role. I’m happy that Carlesimo is here, and we will all see what summer brings. I don’t have any problems with the city of Toronto or the Raptors. I want to be able to perform at the highest level."
  • "I don’t know about the free agency frenzy. I haven’t talked to Bosh. He’s one of the greatest power forwards in NBA right now. And he’s very clever, too. Bosh will decide what’s best for him."
  • "For LeBron James and others, I don’t have any information about guys’ choices. But if I have to make a guess, I think LeBron will choose the Clippers."

Wednesday Mini-Bullets

April, 28, 2010
4/28/10
1:58
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Matching up with the 2010 All-Stars

February, 11, 2010
2/11/10
1:58
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Lisa Blumenfeld/NBAE via Getty Images
Could a team with this tandem give the All-Star squads a game?

The All-Star Game is a collection of the best basketball talent in the world, but it rarely produces anything resembling the best basketball. Counter-intuitive as that might seem, the reasons for this annual letdown are fairly obvious. Chauncey Billups recited some of them following the lackluster 2007 All-Star Game, everything from fear of injury to exhaustion from the weekend's festivities.

Could there be other factors that keep this collection of talent from playing beautiful, or even watchable, basketball? In a highly functional basketball unit, do certain players need to defer to other players, something that's difficult to demand of the world's premier scorers? Are teams loaded with this kind of firepower vulnerable to the pitfalls that might have doomed USA Basketball in 2002, 2004 and 2006?

These questions got us thinking: Is it possible to assemble a roster of non-All-Stars that could challenge the teams taking the floor in Dallas on Sunday?

We asked the bloggers in the TrueHoop Network to participate in our high-grade parlor game.

In sculpting our roster, we came up with a few basic questions. What kind of players would you look for? Do you tap the best of the remainders who were left off the rosters (snubs like Josh Smith and Nene)? Knowing you're outgunned, is it better to adopt the principles of guerrilla warfare and engage in a less traditional brand of combat? To that end, are there specific skill sets you should look for?

A few criteria and common themes emerged:

Defense and Rebounding

  • Bret LaGree of Hoopinion: "Defense and rebounding would ... be vital, both to limit the efficiency of the All-Stars and to rebound as many missed shots as possible. If the non-All-Stars give the best offensive players in the world many second shots, it's hopeless."
  • D.J. Foster of ClipperBlog: "I want them to grab every defensive rebound, I want them to get tons of turnovers..."
  • Matt Moore of Hardwood Paroxysm envisions a team whose tactical goal is "DEATH FROM HYPER-LONG-ATHLETIC DEFENDERS FROM ABOVE."

Is it realistic to believe that there are defensive stoppers who can contain the most prolific scorers in the game? Probably not, which means we should look for a very specific brand of defender.

  • Rahat Huq of Red94: "In a game like this, you don't necessarily want guys who are great individual defenders. No one is going to shut down those all-stars in combination ... You need the best help defenders in the game. These guys can't be left alone on an island."'
We asked David Thorpe to chime in. He told us that, in thinking about defense, it's ill-advised to worry about "'who's going to guard THAT guy,' because defense in the modern NBA is a five-player gig, so that's the wrong question." With the right coach and coverages, anyone with enough athleticism and commitment can play good team defense.

On Offense
Our team won't have the capacity to create shots the way the All-Stars can, so they better be efficient, says Matt Moore. "You're creating a team that takes shots at the rim and at the arc. Most at the rim. Very much so at the rim." When the Houston Rockets are clicking on the offensive end, they do this proficiently without a single player who approaches All-Star status.

Meta-Factors
"Intangibles" are abstract, unsatisfying and impossible to measure, but there's no denying that our players need to embody certain qualities to knock off the big boys.


  • Henry Abbott: "If you look at the best lineups in the NBA, they almost all include role players (like Anderson Varejao). But when picking the best teams, it's very hard for coaches, GMs or anybody else to pick a role player over a multi-talented star. So they take the star. Anyone read Malcolm Gladwell's book "Outliers"? After 10,000 hours people are candidates to become masters at something. I'm thinking you want people who have their 10,000 hours in doing boring things that lead to wins, like playing D. Stars don't have more hours in their days. They have to spend a lot of time on other stuff."
  • Rahat Huq: "You want players who 'impact winning,' which entails deflections, making quick rotations, pushing pace effectively, never making mistakes -- all the things that impact the outcome in the aggregate. The only way to beat an all-star team is through some sort of synergism. You'll have to play a virtually flawless game."

Toppling the All-Star teams is an uphill battle, but not impossible. Here's the group we've recruited to get it done:

Starters

Jason Kidd (PG)
If mastery comes from 10,000 hours of practice, then Kidd is the wily veteran to run point for our squad. Darius Soriano of Forum Blue & Gold: "I'd want a point guard who could push the ball and make the right decisions on both the break and in the half court."

Andre Iguodala (SG)
Defense? Rebounding? The ability to finish at the rim? It's all right here. Iggy's outside shot presents a bit of a concern, and makes him an imperfect selection. The sum of the parts, though, gives our team too many important ingredients to pass over.

Andrei Kirilenko (SF)
There was a groundswell of support for Kirilenko, whose ability to make plays from anywhere, cover multiple positions, protect the rim and provide help defense, make him a classic insurgent against a team of All-Stars.

Josh Smith (PF)
Ryan Schwan of Hornets247 likes Smith and Kirilenko as a forward tandem. "Kirilenko and Smith will cover each other and everyone else on the floor with quick-footed athletic defense."


Lamar Odom (C)
Not a traditional center by any stretch, but a trio of Odom, Kirilenko and Smith just might be skilled, long, springy and athletic enough to defend an elite front line. Spencer Ryan Hall of Salt City Hoops is as enamored with the playmaking potential of the Odom-Kirilenko combo as I am. "Give me Odom at the 5 just to watch him and Kirilenko together." Thorpe adds that the defensive strategy of Kirilenko-Smith-Odom would be "to press and trap baseline and corner catches and generally make it a scramble game. Blitzing ball screens will be effective too."


Reserves

Kyle Lowry (G)
Henry Abbott makes the strong case for the efficient Lowry off the bench, where he's excelled for Houston. "[He] fights like a dog and gets to the line like crazy, while also making his team's defense better."


Jamal Crawford (G)
Thus far, we don't have any pure shooters. As Zach Harper of Cowbell Kingdom points out, Crawford has his flaws, but is worth signing up. "I'm not sold on him completely here but if he's hot, it doesn't matter who is guarding him." Just ask the Boston Celtics. Anthony Morrow finishes a close second for the role of sharpshooter off the bench.

Manu Ginobili (G)
"Manu Ginobili HAS beaten All-Star teams, in international competition," writes Henry. He gives the squad one guard who can truly probe the defense in the half court.

Tyreke Evans (G)
We don't care how you classify him positionally. We just know he can score on any perimeter player in the league when he's disciplined and keeps the ball moving in the half court.

Hedo Turkoglu (F)
Critics will knock his defense, but he did just fine on Orlando's shutdown squad last season. In a talent pool that's bereft of big wings, Turkoglu is a good choice for his flexibility as a pick-and-roll practitioner. Imagine what he and the guy just below could do as a tandem in the second unit to that effect.

Nene (F/C)
Jeremy Wagner of Roundball Mining Company describes his assets this way: "A big man who can score on the block, face up and hit the 15 footer or drive and is a very good passer. Plus he has as good of a chance to defend both Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard as anyone." If Nene is unavailable, we like the indefatigable Carl Landry.


Anderson Varejao (F/C)
We don't need him to score, we just want him to annoy the hell out of max-contract superstars. When that pest makes his team's defense inordinately better, crashes the glass and collects the garbage, we'll find the minutes. Joakim Noah was a strong contender for this 12th man slot.


Gregg Popovich (Coach)
"You don't deserve anything. You just go play. You start thinking about what you deserve and what you don't deserve and it just makes you soft. You just go play the game." -- Gregg Popovich, May 2006.


The counter argument
Leave it to M. Haubs of The Painted Are to be the hard-bitten realist. For him, this is a fun, but ultimately futile, exercise. The talent on the All-Star rosters is just too much to contend with, no matter how much synergy our team can muster and no matter how much precision it can deploy. He also challenges the premise that the USA Basketball teams that struggled in the early part of last decade failed because they were overstaffed with scorers:


I have to say that as much as people wanted to blame Team USA's underachievement from 2002-06 on lack of shooting or role players or some mystical qualities, the dirty little secret about the ultimate redemption in 2008 was talent - they brought a roster filled with All-NBA players, which they had not really done since 1996. The teams that Manu beat in '02 and '04 were not really All-Star teams -- those teams had too many role players, not too few.

I'm really not trying to be the poop in the punch bowl here, but I will take CP3, Kobe, Melo, Dirk and Timmy, with Nash, D-Will, Durant, and Pau off the bench, and you can try to beat me with your collection of role players. And please, by all means, try to press and speed up the tempo; I have Chris Paul and Steve Nash.

In reality, I would suggest that you lobby hard to play the game under FIBA rules, with unlimited zone defense to clog the lane and a shorter three-point line for a better puncher's chance, and I'd recommend that a college coach like Coach K be forced to be the game coach for the All-Stars.



We've given you our roster, please tell us yours.

What's Working for the Raptors

November, 14, 2009
11/14/09
7:20
PM ET
Arnovitz By Kevin Arnovitz
ESPN.com
Archive

Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images
Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu have the Raptors scoring buckets in bunches.

The hazards of small sample size theater run rampant during the opening weeks of any sports season. Look no further than the efficiency numbers of Paul Davis and Acie Law if you want an idea of how a tiny data set can skew results.

That being the case, it's hard to look at Toronto's top-ranked offense through nine games (113.7 points per 100 possessions) and not conclude that this season's Raptors squad is doing something right.

Raptors head coach Jay Triano cites the number of versatile playmakers as the pivotal factor for that gaudy offensive rating.

"So many of our guys are unselfish," Triano said. "They don't necessarily have to make plays for themselves. They make plays for their teammates."

Though Chris Bosh is unquestionably the Raptors' go-to guy, the team's reliance on mutual playmaking starts with Hedo Turkoglu. While many coaches would prefer to have the prototypically athletic small forward, Triano sees a wing like Turkoglu as the fulcrum of an offense predicated more on faciliation than on one-on-one slashing.

...Not that we should discount the prominence of one-on-one play in the Raptors' offense. Bosh has been destroying opposing big men, both in the post and off the dribble. But that dramatic improvement isn't merely the byproduct of adding off-season muscle or, dare we suggest, being in a contract year.

"When you have a guy who's 6-10, can dribble and create, it helps a lot," Bosh said. "[Turkoglu] is very unselfish. He has a knack for passing and finding me in good spots."

The Raptors' bigs have been running a dizzying array of pick-and-rolls that has been nearly impossible to defend. Turkoglu's exploits as the ball-handler in these situations are well-known to anyone who tuned into the 2009 postseason. Pairing him with forward-center Andrea Bargnani on a pick-and-pop is treacherous for the defense, because Bargnani has unlimited range along the perimeter. If you trap Turkoglu, a defender has to rotate onto Bargnani from the weak side. You can forget about sliding a defender up from the post, because Turkoglu is more than happy to find Bosh down on the block, where he's been lethal. Then there's the Turkoglu/Bosh pick-and-roll -- the kind of set that keeps defensive assistants up at night.

If this overall scheme sounds a bit familiar, that's because we've seen it before.

"It's really kind of similar to Orlando," Turkoglu said. "It's a little different because Bosh and Dwight [Howard] play different, and Andrea is bigger than Rashard, but we're getting the same kind of good offense."

It's not just the big men that enable Triano to execute his offensive plan.

"Jose [Calderon] shares the ball extremely well," Triano said. "Then when [Marco] Belinelli comes in, he does the same thing. So does Jarrett Jack."

Triano's second-favorite five-man unit includes both Calderon and Jack (both point guards), along with Turkoglu (who can be fairly characterized as a point forward). The offensive rating of that unit?

128.2 points per 100 possessions.

But herein lies the problem for the 5-4 Raptors. That same unit, offensive juggernaut that is, allows 136.8 points per 100 possessions. That's 2005-06 Seattle Supersonics bad.

After answering a question about his team's offensive prowess during his pre-game media availability Friday night in Los Angeles, Triano was then asked about his team's defensive struggles.

His tongue-in-cheek response? A repetition of his previous answer:

"We have a lot of guys who can make plays for one another," Triano joked.

Everyone had a good chuckle, but the Raps' defensive woes are no laughing matter.

"They're reading and reacting [on defense] rather than it becoming instinctive," Triano explained. "We're just a step slow right now. We've got guys holding inside a little bit and not spreading out of coverages. But it's a work in progress."

The Raptors currently rank 29th in defensive efficiency. Average those offensive and defensive ratings out and you've got a .500 ball club. But if Toronto can take a page from the old Phoenix Suns playbook and scoot that ranking up to the middle of the pack, they're likely to be a very interesting team after the All-Star break.

And then there were 12. Eurobasket 2009 begins its second phase and The Painted Area has it all sorted out for you:

Pau Gasol
Can Pau Gasol lift Spain out of its first-round funk? 
(Photo by Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)

Thursday was an off day so teams could transition from the opening round to the qualifying round (second round). Starting Friday in the Polish cities of Bydogoszcz & Lodz, teams play three games in their group with a day off between games. The top four teams from each group qualify for the quarters starting on Sept. 17th.


Israel, Latvia, Britain, & Bulgaria have been eliminated leaving 12 teams divided into two groups (Group E & F). Group E appears to be a little weaker, while Group F is packed with quality teams. You will have two pretty good teams not make the quarters out of Group F, while you will see a quarterfinal slot awarded to one of the three weaker qualifying round entries (Germ, Russ, Macedonia) in Group E. No off days in Group F.

Group E: (Playing in Bydogoszcz)
1) Greece (2-0)
2) France (2-0)
3) Croatia (1-1)
4) Germany (1-1)
5) Macedonia (0-2)
6) Russia (0-2)

GREECE:
Should have no trouble moving onto the quarterfinals. Greece's change from a methodical defensive-minded brand of basketball to a more free-wheeling offensive team looks successful, so far. Greece's offense has looked exacting with constant movement and spacing. Greece has outscored their opponents by a combined 66 points and lead the tourney with 58 percent from the floor. The Croatia game where they won by 8 points, wasn't not quite as close as the score should indicate.
schedule: Fri., vs. Germ./Sun., vs. Russ./Tues., vs. France

FRANCE:
Though, they went 3-0 in Group B, they weren't all that impressive. Group B was easily the weakest, and Les Bleus only beat Russia & Germany by five pts each. As usual, the half-court offense has gone thru major lulls. And obviously, this team can't hit from outside. Still having trouble shooting -- 14-for-53 (26 percent) behind the arc and 45-for-81 (56 percent) at the free throw line. France is the worst deep-shooting team left in the field. We've beaten this into the ground, but still holds true -- pack the painted area all game vs. France. France counteracted their ragged offense like they always do -- with great defense and rebounding.
schedule: Fri., vs. Mace./Sun., vs. Croat./Tues., vs. Greece

CROATIA:
Nice contributions from their big PG combo, Roko Ukic and Zoran Planinic. Both have done a good job getting into the lane to create scoring opportunities. Nikola Vujcic had been the leader of the deep, veteran frontline scoring in double figures in each game. Expect them to secure a spot in the quarters with wins over Russia & Germany. France game is a toss-up.
schedule: Fri., vs. Russ./Sun., vs. France./Tues., vs. Germ

GERMANY:
Not surprisingly the Germans have found it difficult to score with no Dirk. No one who is a reliable No. 1 option, and the Germans shot 38 percent from the floor in the opening round. Jan Jagla has brought his usual activity, but when he's your leading scorer you're in trouble. Only reason they're still playing has been the horrible free throw shooting of their Group B opponents. France, Russia and Latvia combined to shoot 65-for-120 (54 percent) from the free throw line vs. Germany. Germany is in better shape for a quarterfinal berth than Russia or Macedonia because they get to carry over a win into the second round. Don't see them beating Greece or Croatia, have a chance vs. Macedonia. A win vs. Macedonia would be huge for their playoff chances.
schedule: Fri., vs. Greece/Sun., vs. Mace./Tues., vs. Croat.

(FYR) MACEDONIA:
Macedonia has a legit shot at the quarters because they should be favored to beat Germany, and are closely matched with Russia. Wouldn't be shocked if they pushed France. Gotten strong play from their frontline of Jeremiah Massey, Todor Gecevski and Pero Antic. Vrbica Stefanov has also been his usual steady floor genera selfl.
schedule: Fri., vs. France./Sun., vs. Germ./Tues., vs. Russ.

RUSSIA:
Offense has not been quite as putrid as I thought it would. Kelly McCarty's athleticism has been a nice addition on both ends of the floor after the loss of Andrei Kirilenko and Viktor Khryapa. Gotten solid play from their PG combo of Sergey Bykov and Anton Ponkrashov. Will be tough to get victories against Greece and Croatia. Really can't afford a loss to Macedonia.
schedule: Fri., vs. Croat./Sun., vs. Greece/Tues., vs. Mace.

GROUP F: (Playing in Lodz)
1) Turkey (2-0)
2) Slovenia (1-1)
3) Serbia (1-1)
4) Spain (1-1)
5) Poland (1-1)
6) Lithuania (0-2)

TURKEY:
Turkey has looked like a totally different team than the one that stunk up the '07 Euro. The Turkish offense that couldn't get out of its own way two years ago, has been smoking this year. Most importantly, they are converting shots around Hedo Turkoglu. Turkey has a point differential of +54 and is shooting 54 percent overall, 42 percent from 3. Their NBA pair of forwards have not disappointed. Hedo and Ersan Ilyasova have shown their mismatch ability creating offensive opportunities all over the floor. Ilyasova has led the Turks with 17 points per game on 58 percent & seven rebounds per game, while Hedo has added 13 points per game. Hedo has teamed with Kerem Tunceri and Ender Arslan to bring some type of order to their PG position. The PG play has left a lot to be desired the last few years, but nothing to complain about this year. Arslan has been hitting runners off ball screens & burying his open shots (8-for-11 on 3-pointers.).
schedule: Sat., vs. Spain./Mon., vs. Serb./Wed., vs. Slov.

SLOVENIA:
Were some questions how all their talent would mesh, and so far, so good. Looked sharp vs. Serbia, and pushed Spain to OT with Matjaz Smodis only playing five minutes. The strong defense from their '07 run seems to have transferred over. No surprise the offense has looked crisp with the collection of shooters this team can put on the floor at once. Slovenia is shooting 51 percent overall, 36 percent from deep. PG Jaka Lavovic (14 points per game) has led the way buried jumpers off of screens -- Jaka is 9-for-19 from 3-pointers. Boci Nachbar has been ballin' as well with 12 points per game on 54 percent and 5.7 rebounds per game. Erazem Lorbek has been a nice option on the blocks with his sharp footwork -- 13 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. Phoenix Sun Goran Dragic has been a defensive pest once again--gave Rubio & Spain issues -- and even adding a little scoring to the mix with 11 points per game. They can take it up a notch if Smodis can go heavier minutes in the next round. Supposedly, his back is feeling better.
schedule: Sat., vs. Lith./Mon., vs. Pol./Wed., vs. Tu
rk.

SERBIA:
Have gotten nice contributions up and down their deep, young roster. 10 players average at least 14 mins/game. Stunned Spain with an impressive defensive effort. Nenad Krstic (12 points per game & four rebounds per game) has been a solid option on the blocks and protecting the rim. Guards Milenko Tepic and Milos Teodosic have run the offense efficiently and stayed away from forcing the action. Need to get their shooting back on track after a poor display in the first round -- 24 percent from 3.
schedule: Sat., vs. Pol./Mon., vs. Turk./Wed., vs. Lith.

SPAIN:
Not sure what's going on with this team. Serbia totally whupped them, Britain gave them a huge scare, and Slovenia roared back to push them to OT. Maybe they're too many players to keep happy with playing time. Maybe it's the coaching change (Spain's third change in as many years). Maybe they're disinterested. Whatever the reason, it's hard to figure because this team rarely, if ever, goes-through-the-motions. Should get props for controlling Slovenia for most of the game, but questions resurfaced when they let Slovenia comeback in the fourth to force OT. Expect them to get in a groove in the next round. But I thought they would destroy Britain, but that didn't happen.
schedule: Sat., vs. Turk./Mon., vs. Lith./Wed., vs. Pol.

POLAND:
Our sleeper pick has performed admirably in front of the home crowd. The frontline has been killing it. Marcin Gortat has been an interior force and also turned himself into an offensive juggernaut the last week. Gortat is averaging 17 points per game (fifth-best) on 67 percent (fourth-best) and 11 rebounds per game (second-best). We highlighted some of Gortat's newfound offensive skills. PF Maciej Lampe has been an inside-out terror scoring 18 points (third-best) & grabbing seven rebounds per game. Gortat and Lampe are leading the tourney in blocks as well. The offense has functioned very well shooting 50 percent from the floor and 38 percent from 3-point. land. Don't have an easy road to the quarters with Serbia, Slovenia and Spain on the upcoming schedule.
schedule: Sat., vs. Serb./Mon., vs. Slov./Wed., vs. Spain

LITHUANIA:
We knew there would be struggles without their two legendary playmakers, Saras Jasikevicius and Ramunas Siskauskas. The shot selection has been spotty, which is a rarity with the normal precision offense we expect from this national team. Their patchwork backcourt has been predictably lackluster. Deep frontline has been solid, but they could play better as well. Burly big Marijonas Petravicius (16 points per game on 71 percent shooting) has been a nice interior presence drawing fouls, finishing around the basket, and pushing people around. Linas Kleiza has been a little uneven and can't find his deep touch (0-for-7 on 3s) The normally sweet-shooting Lithuanians have been off from deep -- 32 percent from 3. Lithuania's quarterfinal chances are dicey with a 0-2 record and having to face brutal gauntlet of the top three of Group C.
schedule: Sat., vs. Slov./Mon., vs. Spain./Wed., vs. Serb.

Eurobasket 2009 Day 3 Recap

September, 10, 2009
9/10/09
10:42
AM ET

The preliminary round of Eurobasket 2009 is in the books. The Painted Area has watched every second of every game, and tells us who's moving on to the qualifying round.

GROUP D: Turkey 87, Poland 69
Had a NBA vibe with a ton of post-ups for both sides and straight pick/rolls, while the players off-the-ball didn't move much. Nowhere near the off-ball movement we seen in other Euro games. And this game was heavily influenced by NBAers from the past (Maciej Lampe), present (Hedo Turkoglu, Marcin Gortat, Ersan Ilyasova), & future (Omer Asik).

It was finally nice to watch a game where the flow was not destroyed by constant whistles. Only 29 fouls and 16 turnovers between the teams. The third quarter had great back-and-forth action that was augmented by a boisterous Polish crowd.

Turkey was able to build a comfortable cushion in the fourth thanks to Hedo banging long jumpers. Hedo hit two back-2-back 3pts midway thru the fourth that put the game out of reach, then knocked a long 2-pointer a few minutes later. Hedo hit 3-of-8 on 3-pointers to finish with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Hedo paired with Kerem Tunceri and Ender Arslan to run the Turkish offense with a steady hand...

Once again, Ersan Ilyasova showed off his versatility and mismatch ability that should translate well to the NBA. Ilyasova hit a 3-pointer off of pick/pop action with Hedo (something he would do with Navarro or Lakovic with Barcelona). He hit another 3-pointer off an iso situation with ball fake, something he's shown a knack for in the past as well. Ilyasova scored put-backs on all of his three offensive rebounds. Ersan ended with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 8 rebounds.

Poland did not get much from their perimeter, and their main scoring option, David Logan, was bottled up by the strong defensive backcourt of Turkey. Poland made a concerted effort to pound the ball into the post, and it paid off well. Poland got a tremendous effort from their starting backline, Marcin Gortat and Maciej Lampe.

Maybe Marcin Gortat is more than just a defensive & rebounding presence. Looks like Marcin can show D-Howard a few things about post footwork. Marcin put on a clinic. That's right, Gortat put on an offensive clinic...

GROUP B: Latvia 68, Germany 62

Jan Jagla
It wasn't pretty ... but Jan Jagla and Germany advances.
(Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Bongarts/Getty Images)
I don't know if I've ever seen a team celebrate with more on-court jubilation after a six point loss. Latvia won the game, but didn't win the game well enough. Latvia not only needed to win this game to avoid elimination, but needed to win by eight points to secure the tiebreaker. Germany unexpectedly gets to play on, Latvia goes home.

Latvia was up 11 points with 20 seconds left, but could not close the deal. They let Germany execute a very quick pick/pop 3-pointer to cut the lead to eight points with 15 seconds left. (Why they didn't overplay and force everything inside the arc, not sure). Then, Latvia's Ernests Kalve missed two free throws that could have pushed the lead back up to 10 points. Then, Latvia inexplicably fouled Jagla on the rebound of Kalve's second miss. Jagla hits both free throws to get the game to 68-62, and Latvia could not convert on their desperation shot.

Even though we had a suspenseful finish, this was another ugly Group B contest. The teams combined for 55 fouls and combined to shoot 38 for 102 (37 percent) from the field.

For the second game in a row, Germany accumulated a boatload of fouls (30). But for the second game in a row, they were fortuitous that the opposing team pooped the bed from the FT line -- Latvia shot 19-for-38. Atrocious opponent's free throw percentage is the overwhelming reason Germany is still alive.

Jan Jagla had another strong showing for Germany with 13 points & seven rebounds, converting a few times off curls coming on downscreens. Jan's biggest five points came in the last 20 seconds with the Germans down by 11 points. First, Jagla hit a quick pick/pop 3-pointer that cut the lead to 8 points with 0:15. Then, Jagla got fouled rebounding the Kalve's missed free throw. Jagla went to the line to bury two that cut the lead to six points...

Quick wrap-up of other Wednesday action:

GROUP A:
Greece 106, Israel 80
-- Greece rolls into the second Round undefeated, while Israel leaves Poland without a victory. Even in a meaningless game, Greece's offense continued to impress. Primary playmaker Vasilis Spanoulis led the way with 18 points and five assists, and kept his turnovers down. Spanoulis' Panathinaikos teammate, Antonio Fotsis, had his outside stroke working, scoring all of 16 points on four 3-pointers. Colossal PF Sofo Schortsanitis bulled his way to 16 points, and most encouraging, he made his free throws -- 8-for-9 on the line. The Greeks took the opportunity to sit their starting center, Giannis Bourousis. Israel got another strong game by uber-athletic forward Lior Eliyahu (Houston Rockets hold rights). Eliyahu was superb with 21 (9-for-14), eight rebounds and eight assists. Lior was the top scorer in the first round with 21 ppg.

Croatia 81, (FYR) Macedonia 71 -- After a poor first half, Croatia came out of the locker room to outscore Macedonia 47-23 in the second half. Croatia shot 56 percent from the floor, and 21 of their 24 field goals were assisted. Croatia's combo of tall PGs, Roko Ukic & Zoran Planinic, combined for 13 assists. Croatia got solid effort from their deep frontcourt rotation. Nikola Vujcic pitched in with 12 points and Marko Banic 11 points. Ex-Kansas St. forward Jeremiah Massey paced Macedonia with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Grizzled vet PG Vrbica Stefanov played his usual steady floor game with 12 points and five assists. Both teams advance to the next round.

GROUP B:
France 69, Russia 64
-- France sweeps through the weakest group with another less-than-impressive win. Hey what do you know, Boris Diaw decided to show up today. Boris had himself a great all-around game with 19 points (9-for-12 fga), seven rebounds and seven assists. Now expect a no-show in the next game from Diaw. Tender Ronny Turiaf dominated the interior with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Tony Parker had an uneven game with 17 points, four assists, four steals, but had five turnovers. France still had issues shooting either from the perimeter or on the foul line. They were 4-for-15 from deep and 15-for-28 on free throws. France glossed over these negatives by grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to Russia's 15 defensive rebounds. Wing Kelly McCarthy led Russia with 13 points. Big PG Anton Ponkrahov had another solid floor game with eight assists and seven points. Russia will take an 0-2 record into the second Round because their win over Latvia is wiped off the books.

GROUP C:
Spain 90, Slovenia 84 (OT)
-- In one of the most anticipated games of the first Round, Spain held off Slovenia in OT. Should have a more detailed analysis of this game Thursday later in the day.

Serbia 77, Great B
ritain 59
-- Serbia ended Britain's Eurobasket campaign. Serbia got nice contributions up & down their deep roster. Nenad Krstic and combo guard Milenko Tepic led the Serbs with 17 points each. Lefty PG Nate Reinking tried to keep the Brits close with his perimeter touch -- 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, 21 points overall. High-flying Pops Mensah-Bonsu helped with 16 points. Britain will have to wait to see if a wild card berth is awarded. A long-shot, but FIBA might want the next Olympic host country to get some major competition experience under their belt.

GROUP D:
Lithuania 84, Bulgaria 69
-- Lithuania picked up their first victory after looking out of sync in their first two games. This game was a little closer than the score would indicate. Lithuania pulled away in the fourth to end Bulgaria's Euro '09 run. Ksystof Lavrinovic was big for the Green Team with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. Ksystof's eight points in the last 5 mins was key to Lithuania's 18-5 run to end the game. Bruising big Marijonas Petravicius continued to be a physical interior presence with drawn fouls (8-for-9 fts) & 8 rebounds. Former Nug Linas Kleiza brought 10 points and 7 rebounds to the mix. Bulgaria shot just 34 percent from the floor, but were able to stay close because they crushed the offensive glass -- 22 offensive rebounds. The Ivanov twins combined for 9 offensive rebounds and former UNC Tarheel Vassil Evtimov hauled in five offensive rebounds, 13 total. Bulgaria's offense was led by their dynamic scoring perimeter. Explosive PG Earl Rowland dropped 18 pts on 7-for-14 shooting, while wily wing Todor Stoykov scored 16 points. Lith takes a 0-2 record into the second round.

For the full recap and analysis of Day 3 action, visit The Painted Area

Eurobasket Day 1 Recap

September, 8, 2009
9/08/09
10:11
AM ET

The Painted Area is keeping a close eye on all the action in Poland, where Spain took a spill and Turkey came up big in the tournament's first day:

GROUP C: Serbia 66, Spain 57
Ricky Rubio
Nenad Krstic: Thundering to the rack for Serbia against European powerhouse Spain.
(Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Images)
Has to be the worst game I've seen Spain play in recent time. Can't remember a non-USA game in the last five years where Spain got thoroughly outplayed.

It's not so much they lost, it was how they got beat. Spain is just not a national team that goes thru the motions. Spain was without Rudy Fernandez because of a quad injury, but have more than enough firepower to play better than this.

Spain was a step slow and couldn't hold onto the ball. Was slow transitioning from offense to defense. Constantly beaten to spots on both ends. Spain made some mini-runs in the 2nd half but never seriously threatened the Serbs.

Give Serbia some credit, they have promising talent on their roster, but most of their players are inexperienced on the senior level. Serbia were in control of this game from early on and never relinquished command. Serbia appeared more purposeful in their moves. Took advantage of their transition opportunities. Were quicker to loose balls. Played with great defensive intensity throughout ...

GROUP D: Turkey 84, Lithuania 76
With this win over a solid opponent, Turkey answered the question if they would take this tourney serious with an automatic qualifying spot in their back pocket. Turkey was led to victory by their potent NBA forward combo, Hedo Turkoglu & Ersan Ilyasova.

You would think a game where both teams shot 52% from the floor would be somewhat entertaining. But it wasn't. Hard game to embrace with all the stoppages of action because of constant fouling--a total of 50 fouls whistled.

The Turkish offense looked similar to the Magic offense with Hedo handling the ball in the high pick/roll most of the time (Though, Oguz Savas is nothing similar to D-Howard). Hedo connected on a few on his patented pull-up jumpers going to his left, hit off of iso action as well. Hedo led the Turks with 19 pts & 3 assists...

For the full recap and analysis of yesterday's action, visit The Painted Area

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