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EURO-BALL HEATS UP
Posted by John Schuhmann on September 21, 2005 12:00 p.m. ET
DOWN TO EIGHT
quarterfinals tip off Thursday without Serbia & Montenegro, the hosts and favorites. The Serbs were probably the most talented team in the tournament, but personal problems between the players
got in the way and they were eliminated by Tony Parker
, Boris Diaw
and the French on Tuesday. Parker struggled in round-robin competition, but came alive to help France come back from an 11 point deficit to surprise the Serbs 74-71.
Dirk Nowitzki led his German team into the quarterfinals with 33 points in a 66-57 win over Turkey. Croatia earned the second seed in their group behind their NBA guards Gordan Giricek and Zoran Planinic, but it was Orlando's Mario Kasun who propelled them past Italy and into the quarters with a 20 point, 7 rebound performance on Tuesday. Greece also qualified with a 67-61 win over Israel. The top six teams will qualify for next year's World Championships in Japan.
Two of the quarterfinals will take place Thursday:
Russia (2-1) vs. Greece (3-1)
Andrei Kirilenko is averaging a double-double for Russia, while leading the tournament in blocks with eight. Viktor Khryapa has been terrific as well, averaging 13.3 points and 9.0 rebounds, while shooting 59 percent from the field for the Russians, who advanced to the quarters with their 2-1 record in Group A. Greece is a well-balanced, tough defensive team who held two of their opponents to just 50 points.
Lithuania (3-0) vs. France (2-2)
Despite the lack of NBA players on their roster, Lithuania has looked very impressive in their three wins. They are the defending champions and are looking like the favorites heading into the quarterfinals. France has been inconsistent, but if they can get Parker, Diaw and Mickael Pietrus playing well on the same day, they can beat anybody in the tournament.
The other two quarters are on Friday:
Slovenia (3-0) vs. Germany (3-1)
Bostjan Nachbar led his Slovenian team to an undefeated record in Group C, scoring 13 points per game on 55 percent shooting. Not unexpectedly, Nowitzki is the leading scorer and rebounder in the tournament so far, averaging 27.8 and 12.3 for the Germans, whose only loss was a two-point overtime defeat at the hands of Italy.
Spain (2-1) vs. Croatia (3-1)
Spain won Group D with a 2-1 record. After cruising past Serbia & Montenegro in the opener, they got by Latvia in overtime and then fell to Israel on Sunday. The Spanish backcourt of Wizards draftee Juan Carlos Navarro and Jose Calderon of the Raptors has been the key to their success without Pau Gasol.
The remaining (non-consolation) games will air on NBATV (all times are EDT):
Thursday September 22nd
11:30 AM - Quarter-Final #1 - Russia vs. Greece
2:30 PM - Quarter-Final #2 - Lithuania vs. France
Friday September 23rd
12:00 PM - Quarter-Final #3 - Slovenia vs. Germany
3:00 PM - Quarter-Final #4 - Spain vs. Croatia
Saturday September 24th
12:00 PM - Semi-Final #1
3:00 PM - Semi-Final #2
Sunday September 25th
3:00 PM - European Championship Game
HORNETS WILL BE OK
The Hornets have found a home
for this season. They will play a handful of games in Baton Rouge, but they will reside in Oklahoma City in '05-06.
-- [New Orleans Times-Picayune
FREE AGENCY SLOWING DOWN
Not much free agent news this week, other than Gerald Wallace agreeing to terms with the Bobcats
and Steve Blake
signing an offer sheet with Portland. Blake believes he has a chance to start
for the Blazers.
-- [Charlotte Observer
, Reg. req'd & The Oregonian
LEBRON ON OPRAH
LeBron James will be on "Oprah" Thursday (9/22). Check your local listings for stations and times. He has promised to keep his feet off Oprah's coach.
THURSDAY UPDATE - HEAT NEWS
Gary Payton will sign a one-year deal with the Heat today
. On paper, that team is pretty loaded. The question will be how all of the personalities come together.
-- [Miami Herald
Dwyane Wade has signed a seven-year deal with Converse. His new kicks will be in stores for the start of the season.