Team USA, Canada go down at FIBA World Cup. What’s next


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We’re being reminded how insanely good Diana Taurasi was in 2006.

USA, Canada get upset

World Cup favorites torched in semis

Earlier today, Team USA fell to Germany in the FIBA World Cup semifinals 113-111. Dennis Schröder got Austin Reaves in isolation, as was clearly the Germans’ plan late, and drilled a stepback jumper for the dagger. And perhaps the biggest win in Germany’s history was secured by the newest Toronto Raptor.

For the second time in three games, America’s defense was absolutely exposed. Lithuania torched the Americans for 110 points five days ago. Then Germany put up 113 points on 58 percent shooting with three players topping the 20-point mark.

Andreas Obst lit up the American guards for a game-high 24 points. He made six 3s and scored another eight points from the free-throw line. Daniel Theis looked better than he ever does in the NBA, posting 21 points on 10-of-15 shooting. Orlando Magic stud Franz Wagner had 22, but at least he was held to 7-of-18 shooting.

Down 106-96 with under five minutes remaining, Team USA tried to buckle down for a late rally. Anthony Edwards and Reaves almost pulled it off, combining for 11 points over a three-minute stretch to cut Germany’s lead to 108-107 with 1:35 remaining.

But Obst got free on an inbound pass and hit a corner 3. Then, Isaac Bonga blocked Mikal Bridges’ layup attempt to set the stage for Schröder’s dagger.

In the matchup many wanted to see, Team USA will face Canada … in the third-place game. Canada gave up 95 points on 62.1 percent against Serbia and had zero answers for Bogdan Bogdanović (28 points on 12 shots).

With all the NBA firepower on the North American squads, both were undone by an inability to get stops or cool off hot players. Reaves, Jalen Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton all needed to be on the court for offense, but they were each effectively targeted on defense. With only Jaren Jackson Jr. behind them as rim protection, the defensively vulnerable guards didn’t have necessary backup.

Assembling a dominant defense should be more of a priority as the U.S. roster is determined for Paris in 2024.

Luka’s Ref Beef

Too much or no big deal?

Luka Dončić’s on-court behavior makes so much more sense when you watch Slovenia play. Its national team is nearly as good at expressing incredulity as it is at draining 3-pointers. 

Wednesday’s loss to Canada was a symphony of complaining. From coach Aleksander Sekulić to national team veteran Klemen Prepelič, it was a team full of exasperated shoulder shrugs. Canada’s star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander got a lot of calls. But, after a few of them, it felt like the Slovenians would drop to their knees and rip their jerseys in agony. How could Dončić resist partaking?

Despite the hilarity, it only matters because this is one of Dončić’s few flaws he’s supposed to be working on. It doesn’t look as if he’s made any progress, though.

He’s not much different from many NBA players. Flabbergast akin to Slovenia’s is on display every night in the NBA – after almost every foul. But a player as talented as Dončić, who has the ball so much, and with so much riding on his shoulders, must remain composed.

Clearly, righteous indignation gets the better of him. It cost Slovenia, because Dončić was cooking when he got tossed. But his dismissal was predictable. The officials were clearly fed up and gave Dončić his second technical after a tantrum, which basically killed Slovenia’s chances.

For the record, the ejection of Canadian guard Dillon Brooks was weak in its own right, but Dončić admits he must better his composure on the court.

“It’s a lot of emotions,” he told reporters afterward. “A lot of times, I don’t control myself, which I’ve been having problems with.”

While leaving after his ejection, Dončić threw up the money sign (running his fingers together) — his go-to gesture when he’s incensed at the officials.

Dallas might be waiting a bit longer for that composure.

Woodwork in LA?

Christian lands with Lakers

So, the Lakers took the bait.

Christian Wood is a talented 6-foot-10 center who’s made a name for himself despite going undrafted in 2015. He shoots 37.9 percent from 3 and has career averages of 19.6 points and 9.9 rebounds as a starter. Yet, he was somehow on the market in September and just signed with the Lakers for the vet minimum.

This will be Wood’s eighth team in eight pro seasons. It’ll mark his fourth squad in five years after he established himself in Detroit. Dallas added him last season to get over the hump but didn’t have much luck making it work.

If he pops for the Lakers, it’s a huge get, which is why LA took a risk and offered a player option for Year 2. That said, Wood is a defensive liability – especially in pick-and-roll – and may pose concerns as a presence in locker rooms. But Wood can score, something the Lakers will need off the bench and when Anthony Davis sits.

J. Butler & J Balvin

The Butler is inescapable this summer

After dragging the Heat to the NBA Finals, Jimmy Butler has enjoyed an offseason in the spotlight. He partied with Neymar Jr. in Rio in July, had coffee with Dermot Kennedy, toured Asia at length and held his first-ever youth basketball and cheer camp.

As of September? He’s been running the streets with popular Latin singer J Balvin. Those two have played indoor soccer together, got in some pickup runmet tennis star Carlos Alcaraz and even slammed some dominoes.

Butler’s even been a regular at the U.S. Open, fanboying over Coco Gauff, who’ll try to win her first grand slam this weekend.

With such a busy summer, nothing beats Butler literally throwing on the navy blue polo fit and training to be a ball boy to hit the grounds with the U.S. Open ball crew.

It’s hard not to love Jimmy Buckets.


Passing The G.O.A.T.

Two Taurasi records fall

New York Liberty MVP candidate Breanna Stewart put up 40 points and 10 rebounds in Tuesday’s win over Dallas. Her monster performance broke Diana Taurasi’s WNBA single-season record for points.

In 2006, back when the WNBA regular season was 34 games, Taurasi finished the season with 860 points. Two years later, she posted 820 and had only Maya Moore (814 in 2014) come close to her marks prior to Stewie this season.

With a 40-game season now, two players have surpassed Taurasi’s once-dominant record with a third coming close:

2023 WNBA Scoring Leaders

1. Breanna Stewart: 910 points (39 games)

2. Jewel Loyd: 878 points (36 games)

3. A’ja Wilson: 846 points (38 games)

Loyd would need 84 points over Seattle’s last two games to best Taurasi’s 25.3 points per game, the highest single-season average in league history.

On Thursday night, Taurasi’s single-year record of 121 3s went down thanks to New York’s Sabrina Ionescu, who’s jumped from a 33 percent shooter from deep last season to 44 percent this season. She sits at 124 made 3s in 35 appearances with a game to play. Taurasi set this mark in 36 games in 2006.

In a testament to Ionescu’s hot hand this season, she made the record-breaking 3 from the left corner — off the glass.

One could argue surpassing a unique legend’s record requires a unique approach.

Bounce Passes

Poised for a breakout season, Trey Murphy is out 10 to 12 weeks after surgery to repair his torn left meniscus.

Our own Jon Krawczynski responds to talk about Anthony Edwards needing to leave Minneapolis for a bigger mark.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander’s World Cup dominance has Sam Amick thinking about a stacked Western Conference this season.

(Top photo:  Yong Teck Lim / Getty Images)

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