It would be understandable for the uninformed to punt on the FIBA World Cup. It would be unacceptable for the super-informed, as you, the reader, are about to me, to miss out on the FIBA World Cup. It’s good. We swear.
It started on August 31. A bunch of interesting stuff has already happened; much more is about to happen. Here we go.
First, how to watch
We’ll save you some time right off the bat: None of these games are on Reddit. Or on cable TV.
Welcome to our dystopian streaming future.
We tried our best to pirate it, but the best way to watch is through ESPN+, which is on the ESPN app.
Don’t have ESPN +? Ask your parents -- they probably bought it by accident.
Have cord-cutting parents? It’s only five dollars a month, and totally worth it. They have every World Cup game, plus every 30 for 30 and other live events.
Don’t have five dollars? Just hit us up and we’ll give you them login details. We’re trying to establish some brand loyalty here. We care about you guys.
An epic matchup looms
Team USA (3-0) is going to play Greece (2-1) tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. EST (tragic start time, we know) to open the second group stage, which means Giannis will try to go full Superman against our lovable but iffy national team. If USA wins, it clinches a spot in the quarterfinals. Argentina, Spain, Serbia and Poland have already done so.
(If USA loses, they can still reach the final eight; if Greece loses, its run is likely over.)
[Click here for a refresher on the tournament format]
🇬🇷 It hasn’t been easy for Giannis
Greece had an up-and-down first group stage; it beat New Zealand on Thursday to advance past the first round, but lost to Brazil in a crazy ending in its second game, in which Giannis had only 13 points in 28 minutes against old-timers like Leandro Barbosa and Anderson Varejão.
Here’s what Brazil’s Croatian head coach, Aleksandar Petrovic, had to say about his gameplan in guarding Giannis:
You have a guy who won MVP, he's 23 years old, and who stops him tonight? The guy who is 40 years old and kicks his ass. … When I was preparing this game, a lot of people talked and joked about how to stop Antetokounmpo. I had for six months in my head, since the semifinals between Toronto and Milwaukee, how to stop Antetokounmpo.
Humble! Conversely, here’s what Gregg Popovich had to say about him.
Giannis rebounded against New Zealand, whose team nickname is actually the ‘Tall Blacks,’ scoring 24 points with 10 rebounds and six assists.
🇺🇸 USA’s close call
Team USA, which pounded Japan yesterday by 53 points, should have lost to Turkey on Tuesday. Jayson Tatum’s two free-throws sent the game to overtime, where Turkey could have iced a late lead with a few made free-throws. Instead, it bricked four straight -- including two from Cavalier Cedi Osman -- and Khris Middleton’s late made free-throws gave USA a 93-92 win. The US, at least, doesn’t have to worry about playing the Turks again. They lost to Czech Republic in the following game, and are out of the tournament.
[WATCH: Team USA vs. Turkey highlights]
🇷🇸 The best team in the world right now...
Serbia, as we thought might happen, looks scary good. Nikola Jokic’s crew played at 4:30 a.m. EST this morning in the first game of the second group stage, handling Puerto Rico, 90-47. The Serbians are 4-0 and won their first group games by 46, 59 and 15, with that last one coming against Italy.
The games have been so lax that Jokic, who didn’t even start on Friday, is averaging only 20 minutes per contest, while shooting a casual 83.3 percent from the field. He, and the rest of the team, were simply too big and skilled for Puerto Rico.
Example A: Boban.
They’ll play 4-0 Spain, which features Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol and the Hernangomez brothers, on Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. EST, though both teams have already clinched a spot in the top-eight.
[READ: Serbia is playing the best basketball in the world right now]
🇮🇹 Ciao ciao, Italia
Italy, with one of the more stacked rosters in the tournament, lost to Spain this morning, 67-60, failing to score for four minutes straight in the second half of the fourth quarter. Marco Belinelli shot 3-of-16 from the floor, ending Italy's World Cup run.
Who’s been stepping up for the US?
Kemba Walker has so far been The Guy for USA. He leads the team with 14 points per game, and has had the ball in his hands for most of the team’s crunch time minutes. Harrison Barnes (12.7), Donovan Mitchell (11.7) and Khris Middleton (10.7) are next in scoring.
[Here are the tournament's top scorers overall]
In general, it’s been fun to watch this team try and win games. It’s been much more rewarding than watching a team of MVPs beat up on inferior competition, like most versions of Team USA.
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