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EURO-BALL HEATS UP
Posted by John Schuhmann on September 21, 2005 12:00 p.m. ET

DOWN TO EIGHT

Eurobasket 2005 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.
-- [AP]

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.
-- [AP]

France will need another big game from Parker to advance.
(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images/NBAE)
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Spain's Juan Carlos Navarro on facing Croatia in the Eurobasket quarterfinals:

"We will have to be extra cautious regarding their NBA duo Giricek and Planinic, who have been outstanding on the perimeter."
-- [PA Sport via eurobasket.com]

2004-05 ARCHIVE
Sept. 16 -- Friday Melange
Aug. 29 -- Got Fin?
Aug. 3 -- Making History
July 22 -- Market Value
July 15 -- Coaching Carousel
July 5 -- On The Move
June 28 -- Making the Grade
June 27 -- Confidence, Mate
June 7-23 -- The Finals Blog
June 3 -- Conf. Finals
May 27 -- Conf. Finals
May 20 -- Conf. Semifinals
May 13 -- Conf. Semifinals
May 5 -- Round 1
Apr. 29 -- Playoffs 2005 Begin
April 19 -- Giving It Away
April 12 -- Playoff Bound
April 5 -- Draw the Curtain
March 29 -- Battling for Position
March 22 -- Gone a Long Time?
March 15 -- Deja View
March 8 -- Top to Bottom
March 1 -- Dynamic Duos
Feb. 25 -- Much Adieu About
Feb. 16-20 -- All-Star Blog 2005
Feb. 15 -- Random House
Feb. 9 -- Reserves, Deserves
Feb. 1 -- All-Starters
Jan. 25 -- South by Southwest
Jan. 19 -- My Kind of Town
Jan. 11 -- 'S Wonderful
Jan. 4 -- Points Well Taken
Dec. 29 -- New Year's Wishes
Dec. 21 -- A Wonderful Life
Dec. 14 -- How Good is Good?
Dec. 7 -- Getting Medieval
Nov. 30 -- LeBron vs. Dwyane
Nov. 23 -- Playing Good Ball
Nov. 16 -- SuperbSonics
Nov. 9 -- Hitting the Blue Note
Nov. 3 -- Bling, Bang, Boom
2003-04 -- Archive