Working for the Weekend
With Team USA’s convincing 98-71 win over New Zealand on Tuesday afternoon in Bilbao, the first weekend of the FIBA World Cup – at least as far as the Cavaliers’ contingent is concerned – is in the books.
This weekend’s action did nothing to dispel the assumption that the U.S. and Spain – alpha dogs of their respective brackets – are on a collision course as bracket play wraps up on Thursday.
So how did the Wine and Gold’s trifecta fare over the first three games of the tourney? Here’s a quick breakdown …
Kyrie Irving, U.S.A. - (3-0)
The U.S. is so deep and has been so dominant that no one individual has put up huge numbers. In Saturday’s opener against Finland, it didn’t take the young Americans long to assert their will – leading the affair by 15 after one quarter and holding the Finns to exactly two points in the second period en route to the 114-55 shellacking. Kyrie finished with nine points on 4-for-7 shooting, adding four assists, two steals and a pair of rebounds.
Sunday’s battle with Turkey wasn’t as easy for Mike Krzyzewski’s squad, which trailed by five at intermission. But after scoring 35 combined points in the first two quarters, the U.S. notched 31 and 32 points in the third and fourth period, respectively. Kenneth Faried and Anthony Davis combined to score 19 of the club’s 31 points in the third quarter and Team USA pulled away for the 98-77 win on Sunday night at Bizkaia Arena. Kyrie was one of five players in double-figures, finishing with 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting (including 3-of-6 from long distance) to go with five assists, three boards and a steal in 24 minutes.
On Tuesday afternoon in Bilbao, the U.S. remained unbeaten – holding off a pesky New Zealand squad for the 98-71 victory. The U.S. took a 22-point edge into the halftime locker room, but only outscored the Kiwis by a point in the third quarter. But Team USA hit the accelerator in the final period – punctuated by Kyrie’s trey to put his team up by 30 late in the affair. Against New Zealand, the Cavs guard was one of six players in double-digits – netting 10 points, four boards, two assists and a game-high four steals.
Anderson Varejao, Brazil - (2-1)
Varejao’s Brazilian squad got off to a good start this weekend, but they’ve still got work to do before escaping the tournament’s “group of death.” They began by topping a very tough French squad, 65-63, in a nail-biter in Granada. Boris Diaw and Nicolas Batum combined for 28 of France’s 63 points, but Brazil’s balanced attack, led by point guard Marcelinho Huertas, powered the Brazilians to the win. Andy didn’t shoot the ball well in the opener – going just 2-of-8 from the floor – but he did lead both squads with nine boards to go with a steal and a block of Diaw’s three-point attempt at the buzzer.
Brazil coasted in its second matchup, thumping Iran, 79-50, to stay undefeated. The Wild Thing logged just 17 minutes in the lopsided win – finishing with four points on 2-of-3 shooting, adding six rebounds and one block. He only had two field goals on Sunday, but one of them came on this alley-oop, a reward for the big man running the break.
Brazil ran into one of the tourney’s top two dogs on Monday afternoon, however, falling to Spain – 82-63. The Spaniards dominant front line kept a talented Brazilian squad from scoring 20 points in any quarter, with Leandro Barbosa leading the squad with just 11 points. Andy was the only other player to notch double-figures, finishing with 10 points on 5-for-8 shooting to go with four boards, a steal and an assist.
Matthew Dellavedova, Australia - (2-1)
Unlike the Brazilians, the Boomers dropped their first contest before winning their next two. In their tournament opener on Saturday, they fell to the NBA’s Most Improved Player, Goran Dragic, and his Slovenian squad – 90-80. Dragic led his squad with 21 points and seven assists. Delly finished with 3 points, going just 1-of-7 from the floor with a team-high five assists and three boards.
On Sunday, the Australians – playing without an injured Patty Mills – crushed Korea, 89-55, holding them to 38 points over the final three quarters. In 23 minutes of action, the Cavs backup point guard finished with seven points and a game-high eight assists.
On Tuesday afternoon in Gran Canaria, the Boomers earned a big win over a tough Lithuanian squad – scoring 30 points in the opening quarter and fending off a late rally to improve to 2-1 with a tough 82-75 win. In the victory, Delly had his best offensive game of the tourney – going 4-for-9 from the floor (including 2-of-3 from long-distance) for 13 points, adding two boards, two assists and a steal in 27 minutes.
Erik Murphy, Finland - (1-2)
Forward Erik Murphy was acquired by the Wine and Gold from the Utah Jazz in a mid-summer trade and had the unfortunate task of facing Team USA in his first World Cup game as a part of the Finland Men's National Team. Murphy, the starting power forward for Finland, showcased his abilities against the mighty USA squad recording 10 points and a team-high seven rebounds in 27 minutes despite the blowout loss.
Finland bounced back in their second game on Sunday, defeating Ukraine 81-76. Murphy played a key role in the game once again leading his team in rebounds with eight while chipping in 12 points.
Murphy was plagued by foul trouble in Tuesday's matchup against the Dominican Republic and tallied just three points and one rebound in just under 20 minutes of play. As a result, Finland fell to the Dominican, 74-68.