BASKETBALL: Czechs stun Turkey; U.S. to play Greece (and Giannis) on Saturday

Greece's Giannis Antetokounmpo at the line vs. New Zealand on Thursday (Photo: FIBA)

To paraphrase Richard Castellano as Clemenza in “The Godfather” (1972):

“Oh, Turkey … won’t see them no more.”

After having lost a game to the U.S. – that it should have won – in overtime on Tuesday, the Turks came out flat on Thursday in their final game in Group E and lost to the Czech Republic, 91-76.

That sends the Czechs to the second round and Turkey into the consolation bracket for places 17-32. What a turnaround. “We are really sorry right now. We wanted to win this game and go to the second round but it didn’t happen,” said forward James Birsen. “We had to win this game but it didn’t happen.”

The Czechs were led by forward Vojtech Hruban with 18 and they dominated Turkey with a 41-26 edge in rebounding. Turkey got within three points early in the fourth quarter, but an 8-0 Czech run ended the momentum and iced the game.

In the final game in Group F, Greece won its play-in game after Giannis Antetokounmpo was finally unleashed. Playing 30 minutes, he had 24 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. New Zealand got within 82-77 in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t get much closer and Greece celebrated after a 103-97 victory.

The U.S. crushed Japan, 98-45, as expected, to finish undefeated in Group E. Leading 23-9 after a quarter, the American squad cruised to the win, with a 58-33 edge in rebounding and 48% shooting to 27% for Japan. Jaylen Brown led the U.S. with 20 points off the bench and Kemba Walker had 15 and Harrison Barnes, 14.

So now comes the second round, beginning on Friday. The top two teams from each of the eight first-round groups are now re-distributed in for new groups in which (1) the records from the first group carry forward and (2) each team plays only two games:

Group I: in Foshan
1. Argentina (3-0), 2. Poland (3-0), 3. Venezuela (2-1), 4. Russia (2-1)

Group J: in Wuhan
1. Serbia (3-0), 2. Spain (3-0), 3. Italy (2-1), 4. Puerto Rico (2-1)

Group K: in Chenzhen
1. United States (3-0); 2. Brazil (3-0); 3. Greece (2-1); 4. Czech Rep. (2-1)

Group L: in Nanjing
1. France (3-0); 2. Australia (3-0); 3. Lithuania (2-1); 4. Dominican Republic (2-1)

The top two teams in each group will move on to the quarterfinals. The U.S. will play Greece in a much-anticipated match on Saturday (7th) and Brazil on Monday (9th). Look for scores here.