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HORNETS VS. WIZARDS

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TONIGHT AT 7:00 PM

Hernangómez, Batum Advance to Second Round of 2019 FIBA World Cup

by Sam Perley

A pair of Charlotte Hornet players in Spanish center Willy Hernangómez and French wing Nicolas Batum are moving on at the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China as both of their respective national teams advanced out of the opening round with perfect 3-0 records.

Thus far, Hernangómez is averaging 5.3 PPG on 66.7% shooting, 3.0 RPG and 2.3 APG over 11.7 MPG in three wins over Tunisia, Puerto Rico and Iran. Toronto center Marc Gasol is leading Spain with a team-high 15.0 PPG and Phoenix guard Ricky Rubio is chipping in 13.0 PPG, 6.0 APG and 1.3 SPG for La Roja.

Batum has played just two games after sitting out the team’s 103-64 win over Jordan on Tuesday for unspecified reasons. He averaged 4.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 2.5 APG and 1.0 BPG against Germany and the Dominican Republic as France rode the hot play of Orlando guard Evan Fournier (16.3 PPG) and Utah’s defensive maestro Rudy Gobert (12.7 PPG, 10.0 RPG and 2.7 BPG).

Hernangómez and company will play their opening game in the newly-formed Group J against Italy (2-1) at 8:30 AM EST on Friday, Sept. 6 in Wuhan, making this the first World Cup meeting between the two countries since 1990. And for the fifth consecutive World Cup, Spain will face Serbia (3-0) at the same time on Sunday, Sept. 8, (includes games as Serbia & Montenegro and Yugoslavia).

As expected, Italy’s two leading scorers have been Oklahoma City’s Danilo Gallinari (16.3 PPG) and San Antonio’s Marco Belinelli (13.7). Serbia/Sacramento guard Bogdan Bogdanović is leading the tournament in scoring (24.0 PPG) and Denver’s First-Team All-NBA center Nikola Jokić has been masterful with clips of 13.3 PPG on 87.5% shooting, 6.0 RPG and 5.7 APG.

Meanwhile, France has advanced into Group L and will face Lithuania (2-1) on Saturday, Sept. 7 and Australia (3-0) on Monday Sept. 9, both of which are in Nanjing starting at 8 AM EST. The French dropped Lithuania in the bronze medal game at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, although this will be the first time they have ever faced the Boomers at this particular competition.

Lithuania has five players averaging double-digit points in Žalgiris Kaunas (Lithuania) guards Marius Grigonis (13.0) and Lukas Lekavičius (12.0), Indiana forward Domantas Sabonis (11.7), Memphis center Jonas Valančiūnas (11.0 PPG) and Lokomotiv Kuban (Russia) guard Mantas Kalnietis (11.0). Australia is led by San Antonio guard Patty Mills (20.0 PPG) and Utah sharpshooter Joe Ingles (10.7 PPG), who is tied for second in the tournament in assists (8.7).

Two Caribbean nations in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are also in Group J and Group L, respectively. Factoring in the pool play records, the top two teams in each new quadrant will move to the single-elimination quarterfinal round beginning on Sept. 10 in either Dongguan or Shanghai. The semifinals and finals will take place in Beijing on Sept. 13 and Sept 15.

Spain and France are also both gunning for a spot at next year’s Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which means finishing in the top two amongst all the competing European teams. Besides the ones previously mentioned, Poland, Russia, Greece and the Czech Republic are all still alive for qualification.

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