Worlds roundup: Ginobili fuels Argentina
The United States will play Australia in the round of 16 on Sunday (1 a.m. ET, ESPN2) at the FIBA World Championship. Argentina, Lithuania, Spain and Turkey won in second-round action Saturday.
Argentina 79, New Zealand 62
SAITAMA, Japan -- Manu Ginobili scored 28 points to help make up for his team's 1-for-18 3-point shooting Saturday as Argentina beat New Zealand 79-62 in the second round.
The San Antonio Spurs guard made Argentina's only 3-pointer, which made it 70-58 with 3:47 remaining.
"In the last five games we were making the 3-point shots," Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. "Today, New Zealand had a lot do with us making only one."
New Zealand pulled to within nine points in the fourth quarter before Ginobili's 3-pointer started a 12-point run for Argentina.
Argentina improved to 6-0 in the worlds and will face Turkey (5-1) in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Turkey beat Slovenia 90-84 on Saturday.
"I guess we have to be happy that we had a bad day today," Ginobili said. "We didn't need the 3-point shooting. We expect to get better for our next game."
Ginobili had six points early in the third quarter. His two-handed dunk gave the Olympic champions a 49-35 lead and Argentina went into the fourth quarter leading 59-44.
"For our team, he's the man," Hernandez said. "He knew how well New Zealand was defending the pass so he knew he had to score a lot."
Argentina, runner-up at the 2002 worlds in Indianapolis, got 23 points from Fabricio Oberto and 10 from Luis Scola.
"That was the game we expected, very aggressive and physical contact on their part," said Ginobili, who took a charge in the third quarter. "But we held on and now we're in the final eight."
Argentina was up 37-29 at the half.
"The basket just closed on us and it became complicated, but we were able to get over it in other ways," said Nocioni. "New Zealand is a tough team, they give a lot of problems to their opponents and we had trouble for a while, but we were able to win with experience and being calm."
After the game, New Zealand's American coach Tab Baldwin stepped down.
"I just think it's time," said Baldwin, who was New Zealand coach for six years. "If anyone thinks I did a good job it's because of these guys and their willingness to do what I asked them."
New Zealand was 2-3 in the preliminary round.
New Zealand got 14 points from Mark Dickel, who was suspended by FIBA for 10 days following a positive drug test. Dickel, who tested positive for cannabis last month, missed New Zealand's first three games of the preliminary round.
Lithuania 71, Italy 68
SAITAMA, Japan -- Who says a parade to the free throw line late in a basketball game can't be exciting?
The pressure in the final 2 minutes of the Italy-Lithuania game was too much to handle for everyone -- even the guy running the clock.
I'll sum up the bizarre ending with one sentence: Of the final 15 free throws attempted in the final 2 minutes, 13 of them were missed. Lithuania won it, and Italy will be reeling from its choke job for a long, long time.
• To read more of Chris Sheridan's analysis from the FIBA World Championship, click here.
Lithuania and Italy combined to miss all nine of their foul shots in the final seven seconds.
Lithuania, the team that missed the first four free throws, beat Italy 71-68 in the second round. The Italians had only themselves to blame after going 0-for-5 from the line in the final 2.1 seconds.
Arvydas Macijauskas scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead Lithuania (3-3), which will play the winner of the Spain-Serbia and Montenegro game in the quarterfinals on Tuesday.
"It was a tough game and everybody expected it," Lithuania guard Mindaugas Zukauskas said. "We were lucky they missed those free throws. We could have won the game easily, but we created a lot of problems for ourselves."
Italy's Gianluca Basile missed three free throws with 0.6 seconds left and his team down three points.
"He is very, very sorry for the last free throws but I have already talked to Basile and he knows during his life he played some very important games for his club and national team," Italy coach Carlo Recalcati said of Basile, a national team member since 1998. "He has made some shots and scored for Italy. That's life.
"Basile knows he is the leader of this team and he will be the captain again and he will help the team win again."
Macijauskas scored eight straight points, the first six on 3-pointers, in a 12-4 run that gave Lithuania a 66-56 lead with 4:01 to play.
Marco Mordente's four-point play then started Italy (4-2) on an 11-3 run that had the silver medalists from Athens within 69-67 with 1:05 left.
"We spent a lot of energy in a tough game. At the end, the energy spent during the game didn't help us," Mordente said. "We let them have too many opportunities to win the game. We are so sad now because we had three, four, five opportunities to win and didn't take them."
Marco Belinelli made one of two from the line with 7.8 seconds left to get Italy within 69-68.
Italy fouled immediately on the inbounds, and Linas Kleiza -- who plays for the Denver Nuggets -- missed two free throws. But Darius Songaila, who signed with the Washington Wizards this summer, grabbed the rebound of the second and was fouled with 4.9 seconds to go.
He missed both, but 6-foot-11 Darius Lavrinovic tipped in the miss of the second to give Lithuania a 71-68 lead with 2.8 seconds remaining.
Belinelli was fouled near midcourt with 2.1 seconds left. He missed the first free throw, then missed the second intentionally. The rebound bounced around until it was grabbed by Basile, who unbelievably was fouled by Macijauskas as he threw up a desperation 3-point attempt with less than a second to play.
He missed all three attempts, and the buzzer finally sounded to give Lithuania the victory.
"I have witnessed and experienced things like that as a player," Lithuania coach Antanas Sireika said of the missed free throws. "When we needed rebounds at the end of the game we had the players on the floor who could get those rebounds."
Lavrinovic and Songaila each had 12 points for Lithuania, which finished 19-for-30 from the line (63 percent).
Mason Rocca, who played at Princeton from 1996-2000, and Fabio di Bella each had 15 points for Italy, which was 6-for-19 (32 percent) from the line overall.
"We were out of rhythm in the second half. Lithuania played good defense and we weren't able to get open looks," Rocca said. "We weren't able to get the key rebounds."
Italy finished 4-1 in pool play, its only loss to the United States in a game it led by 12 points in the second half before falling 94-85.
"We said before the world championships we were coming to Japan to get experience with a young team," Recalcati said. "That is still true. It is most important to get experience when mistakes are made, and we made many today and have a lot to learn. We are happy with the way we played."
The free throw debacle took away from a strong defensive effort by both teams in a game far different from Italy's 100-91 victory over Lithuania in the opening round at Athens two years ago.
Turkey 90, Slovenia 84
SAITAMA, Japan -- Turkey coach Bogdan Tanjevic had an easy explanation for his team's sudden success from 3-point range.
"It comes from desire. The players can see it with their eyes," he said, moving his wrist and hand as if he were shooting a basketball and focusing his eyes on a distant target. "The player believes, he sees it with eyes. It is just desire."
Turkey went 5-for-5 from 3-point range over the final 4:22 and beat Slovenia 90-84.
Serkan Erdogan had 24 points, including two of those 3-pointers, for Turkey (5-1), which will play Argentina (6-0) in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Argentina, which finished second in the 2002 worlds and won the Olympic gold medal in Athens, beat New Zealand 79-62 on Saturday.
Engin Atsur, who played at North Carolina State last season, also had two of the 3s in the closing run -- his only points of the game.
Turkey was 2-for-11 from beyond the arc before getting hot from long range. Erdogan's second 3 gave Turkey an 83-81 lead with 2:17 to play. It was the 24th and last lead change in the game.
"We have great team chemistry. We don't have big egos on this team, everybody shares the ball, our guys did a great job of handling their big guys, they have NBA talent and we got pushed around inside but we won the game by making the big shots," Atsur said.
Beno Udrih, the backup point guard for the San Antonio Spurs, led Slovenia (2-4) with 18 points, 12 in the last quarter. Rasho Nesterovic, who plays for the Toronto Raptors, and Bostjan Nachbar, who plays for the New Jersey Nets, each added 14 points for Slovenia, which was making its first appearance in the world championships.
Slovenia struggled at the free throw line, missing 14 of 25 attempts (60 percent).
"We missed so many free throws, that was the difference," said Slovenia guard Sani Becirovic, who went 5-for-5 from the line. "If we make only half of what we missed we win. That is so disappointing."
Turkey's only loss in the opening round was to Greece on Thursday in a matchup of unbeaten teams.
Kaya Peker had the last of the five 3s for Turkey and it made it 86-81 with 1:36 to go.
Primoz Brezec, who plays for the Charlotte Hornets, scored on a rebound 10 seconds later to get Slovenia within five points, but it had only one team foul and had to commit three to get Turkey to the free throw line and that took 1:13.
Erdogan made two free throws with 13 seconds left and then two more with 4.8 seconds left.
"We played good defense but only for parts of the game," Slovenia's Jaka Lakovic said. "If you let up for just one minute or two minutes you can lose the game. They got some key 3-pointers when we let up and that the difference."
Both teams played without a starter. Turkey's Ersan Ilaysova missed his second game with a calf injury, while Slovenia's Uros Slokar, who plays for the Raptors, didn't play because of back problems.
"We need a little rest," Tanjevic said.
Turkey will host the 2010 world championships.
Spain 87, Serbia & Montenegro 75
SAITAMA, Japan -- Apparently it's tough to impress Spain coach Pepu Hernandez.
Pau Gasol had 19 points and 15 rebounds to lead Spain to an 87-75 victory over defending champion Serbia and Montenegro.
"I don't like to read statistics after a game and I know what kind of statistics he had this game," Hernandez said of his center. "It is very, very important the numbers, but not as important as the way he plays defense and draws fouls. I think he can improve every day and team knows the kind of Pau Gasol we need for the next game. He could be great."
Spain (6-0) will play Lithuania (4-2) in the quarterfinals on Tuesday. Lithuania beat Italy 71-68 to advance to the round of eight.
Milicic had 18 points and 15 rebounds for Serbia and Montenegro (2-4), which won the gold medal in 2002 as Yugoslavia, but only one player from that team was back to defend the title.
"They just play the best basketball I ever saw. Every mistake they make you pay," Milicic said. "Spain is a good team. They're playing the best basketball right now. Every mistake we made they make a 3-point shot. We didn't get lucky at all."
Spain opened the game with a 9-2 run and was never really tested, using its quickness advantage to get inside for easy shots or to get to the line. Spain was 21-for-38 inside the 3-point line and was 27-for-36 from the free throw line while Serbia and Montenegro was 11-for-12.
"We played defense for 40 minutes and Serbia played great for some moments," said Spain guard Jose Calderon, who plays for the Toronto Raptors. "We played with the lead and played like we want to play."
Gasol was 6-for-13 from the field, well off the 69 percent (44-for-64) he shot over the first five games as Spain went undefeated in pool play. He took his first 3-point attempt of the tournament -- an air ball in the first half. Spain led 43-31 at halftime.
"Spain played a great game, they were first in their group and are the favorite along with the U.S.," Serbia and Montenegro coach Dragan Sakota said. "We had problems in the first half and the game was decided in the first half. We had 11 players playing in their first world championships and this was a good experience for them. We knew coming in it would be difficult because we had so many new players."
Milicic missed seven of his first eight shots from the field but finished 9-for-23.
"Darko had a very good player in front of him tonight," Sakota said. "We consider Darko a great player and we know he will get better with experience. He needs more time to get the respect of the referees."
Reserve guard Rudy Fernandez had 18 points for Spain, which led by as many as 22 points, the last time at 83-61 with 4:22 left.
Marko Marinovic had 15 points and Igor Rakocevic, the lone returnee from the 2002 gold medal team, added 11.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
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