By Chris Sheridan
VILNIUS, Lithuania — With Serbia defeating Turkey this afternoon 68-67, Dirk Nowitzki still has a chance to get his national team into the quarterfinals when Germany plays Lithuania tonight. (The games can be watched live on FIBA.com).
It’ll be Nowitzki’s most important game since the NBA Finals, but his team doesn’t just need to win … they need to win by 11 points or more.
That is because of the complicated FIBA tie-breaking rules, which use point differential among games between the tied teams to determine who advances.
If Germany defeats Lithuania, the records of Serbia, Germany and Lithuania will be 2-3 (Turkey, which dropped to 1-4 with the loss, has been eliminated). And since Lithuania defeated Serbia by 10 (100-90), and Serbia defeated Germany by 11 (75-64), the Germans need to win by 11 or more to win the tie-breaker, which would also eliminate Lithuania from the tournament.
In the Serbia-Turkey game, a rematch of last year’s semifinal at the World Championship in Istanbul, the Turks trailed for nearly the entire game but had a chance to win it at the end after Milos Teodosic (20 points but six turnovers) missed a long 3-pointer with 18 seconds left. Turkey rebounded the miss (and could not call timeout under FIBA rules) and got the ball inside to Omer Onan, whose shot was blocked out of bounds by Dusko Savanovic. with 4.0 seconds left.
That allowed Turkey to take a timeout, and coach Orhun Ene drew up a play on which the first two options were to inbound the ball to shooters in the corners, and the third option was to get the ball to Ilyasova as close to the basket as possible.
Option No. 3 was the one the Turks had to go to, and Ilyasova’s off-balance jumper from a tough angle bounced off the rim, ending the Olympic aspirations of the team that finished second to the United States at last year’s World Championship.
“We had big expectations for this tournament, but we didn’t show our potential,” Ene said. “I am disappointed because we had promised the Turkish people we would try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time in a long time.”
As I write this entry, Spain is playing France for first place in Group E. But in a measure of how meaningless to the overall big picture this game is, France is resting Tony Parker and Joakim Noah.