FIBA roundup – Jazzmen stay perfect, Team USA beats Greece

Jared Woodcox , 2019-09-07 20:23:10

All three Utah Jazz players participating in FIBA remained unbeaten yet again on Saturday with only one game now remaining before the elimination round.

It was an exciting day of FIBA Basketball action across the board for Utah Jazz fans on Saturday as each of the three Jazzmen representing their respective countries remained undefeated. Donovan Mitchell and Team USA had a great second quarter, outscoring Greece 19-8, and held steady in the second half to take down Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece by a score of 69-53.

It was a relatively low-scoring affair, but with the Americans so heavily focused on defense, that’s likely the way they want the games to be. In all, it was a great victory because Greece was supposed to be the biggest challenge they’d faced yet but they stayed tough and took care of business.

Meanwhile, Rudy Gobert‘s France and Joe Ingles‘ Australia faced much tighter contests. The French escaped with a narrow victory over Lithuania 78-75 that came down to the final seconds. The Stifle Tower had a good game with nine points, eight rebounds, an assist and a block while shooting 3-of-4 from the field. The only downside was that he did go just 3-of-6 from the foul line.

The Australians did battle with the Dominican Republic, who has proven throughout FIBA play to be much more competitive than many presumed. The Aussies held just a two-point halftime lead and the Dominicans kept it close throughout the second half. However, the Boomers ultimately managed to pull away for a six-point victory of 82-76 when all was said and done.

For the second straight game, Ingles didn’t carry much of a scoring load as he finished with just two points on 1-of-4 shooting from the field which included a disappointing 0-of-2 mark from deep. He was still impactful, though, as he added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

Next up, the Aussies will take on France in a game that will result in the first Jazz player loss of the tournament. If how close both teams played against Lithuania is any indication, that contest is shaping up to be a great one as both Ingles’ and Gobert’s squads look sharp and evenly matched. Assuming Team USA remains undefeated after they face Brazil in their next contest, the loser of Australia and France will go on to face Donovan Mitchell and Co. in the quarterfinal round where things really get serious.

Speaking of Mitchell, for the most part he had a solid outing against Greece. His typical energy and hustle on both ends of the floor were present. He was the team’s second-leading scorer with 10 points, trailing only Kemba Walker‘s 15. Mitchell also pulled down five rebounds and what stood out most about this contest were his three assists.

Donovan has looked far more prolific as a passer and at setting up his teammates in FIBA play than we’ve seen him in his first two seasons in the NBA. If that carries over, considering that he will have far more capable offensive teammates surrounding him than he’s used to, it should work wonders for his game when returns to action for the Utah Jazz.

The downside of Mitchell’s performance against Greece was yet again his most common shortcoming – shot selection and efficiency. Mitchell was perfect from two-point range – he made both shots within the arc – but an appalling 2-of-8 from deep. Poor efficiency aside, eight three-point attempts is far too many, especially when considering that his perimeter shooting isn’t his strength, he’s surrounded by better shooters, and he’s playing the shortened minutes of a FIBA game.

Mitchell’s strength is his athleticism and ability to attack the rim, but he remains hesitant to do so up to this point. Sure, some of that could be reluctance to deal with heightened contact in FIBA play, but it still feels like Donovan is settling far too much. I’d rather see him look to make a better play for one of his teammates at the sacrifice of some points than continue to let ill-advised shots fly.

His lack of attacking the rim has resulted in him not logging a single free throw attempt during any of the four FIBA games thus far despite hoisting 41 field goal attempts. If this were NBA play, that would be a major reason for concern that ideally we’ll see get cleaned up once the more meaningful action of the regular season picks up in October.

For the most part, though, Mitchell continues to be a solid contributor, and the win over Greece was a reassuring sign. Antetokounmpo and his Greece teammates were supposed to present a challenge for a vulnerable Team USA, but the Americans rose to the occasion and prevailed just fine.

Next they’ll take on a dangerous Brazil team that also toppled Greece in the first round of group play. Oddly enough, though, Brazil was also defeated on Saturday by the Czech Republic, who Team USA won against quite handily in their first game of FIBA action. That may very well bode well for the Americans’ chances as they look to get through all of group play undefeated.

Regardless of which version of Brazil shows up, this contest will be a great final audition before the competition level rises even higher to when Team USA will take on one of either Australia or France, and will very likely at some point have to go up against Serbia who’s been dominant thus far.

Next: Utah Jazz: Are Donovan Mitchell, Team USA still FIBA favorites?

Up to this point, the Utah Jazz players participating in FIBA action have stayed undefeated, but that is soon to change. One of France or Australia will lose on Monday, then in the subsequent round, one of them is most likely set to face Team USA, meaning one of Donovan Mitchell, Rudy Gobert or Joe Ingles could be eliminated come Wednesday.

In other words, a solid run from all three players’ teams is about to come to an end. Jazz fan loyalties will be tested to the brink as we await the results of the thrilling upcoming contests.

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