The third day of the 2019 FIBA World Cup is in the books, and several top NBA performers stood out. With this being Game 2 of Group play, things started to shake out a little. While there was only one game that ended up being decided by single digits, there was an upset, and Puerto Rico stayed with Spain for the entire first half.
Best Game of the Day
Poland 79 China 76 OT
Poland (2-0) took control of Group A with a come-from-behind 79-76 overtime victory over China (1-1). Mateusz Ponitka led the way for the Pole’s with 29 points, nine rebounds, four blocks, three steals, and three assists. He was 7-for-10 from the field as well as 11-for-17 from the charity stripe. Meanwhile, AJ Slaughter contributed 22 points and four assists.
The game began as a back-and-forth affair, but Qi Zhou’s three-pointer less than three minutes into the contest ignited an 18-7 China run. Trailing 25-15 after the opening quarter, Poland got back into the game late in the second quarter by holding China scoreless over the last 3:26. The Poles used the 12-0 run to take a 39-35 halftime lead.
The game remained close throughout the second half. China had a chance to pull the upset as they were up 72-71 with 4.2 seconds. But Zhou got careless with the inbounds pass and Ponitka stole the ball and raced to the basket where he got fouled. Ponitka was only able to convert one of the two free throws. Jianlian Yi missed a game-winning three-pointer at the end of regulation.
Both teams had ample opportunities in overtime. However, Poland’s Damian Kulig scored on a layup for a 78-76 lead with 10.8 ticks left. China then turned over the ball after failing to inbound the ball before the five-second count expired. Ponitka sealed the game by making one of two free throws, and Yi’s last-ditch three-pointer went awry.
Yi led the way for China with 24 points and eight rebounds. Zhou and Zhelin Wang chipped in with 10 points apiece.
The biggest surprise of the day was Tunisia upending Iran 79-67 as Dallas Mavericks‘ center Salah Mejri led five players in double-figures with 22 points. It was Tunisia’s first-ever World Cup victory. Former NBA center Hamed Haddadi came within two assists of a triple-double as he finished with 22 points along with 16 rebounds and eight assists to lead Iran.
Top Performers 1-4
- Nemanja Bjelica, Serbia: In his first action of the tournament, Bjelica was fantastic off the bench against the Philippines. The 6-foot-10 forward made all seven of his field-goal attempts, including three triples, and was 4-for-4 from the free-throw line. He finished with a game-high 16 points to go along with three caroms and one steal in 17 minutes. Bjelica registered a 25 efficiency rating and a plus-24 on-court rating.
- Nikola Jokic, Serbia: The 7-foot center was just as fabulous as Bjelica against the Philippines. Jokic tallied 11 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists in 19 minutes off the pine. He was 5-for-5 from the field and 1-for-1 from the three-point line to finish with an incredible plus-40 rating. The 24-year-old also earned an efficiency score of 23.
- Salah Mejri, Tunisia: Mejri came up big in the game against Iran, which included knocking two of his three first-quarter treys during a critical 14-4 run. The 7’2″ center finished 5-for-9 from the three-point line to go along with 15 caroms (five offensive) and five blocks. He finished with a plus-15 rating and a 38 efficiency.
- Marc Gasol, Spain: Gasol came up big when Spain really needed him, scoring 11 of his game-high 19 points in the decisive third quarter where Spain outscored Puerto Rico 21-11. The 34-year-old finished 5-for-11 from the floor, 2-for-3 from beyond the arc, and 7-for-10 from the free-throw line. He also hauled down seven rebounds, doled out two assists, came up with two steals, and blocked two shots. Gasol tied Rudy Fernandez with a plus-13 rating and produced a game-high 21 rating.
Top Performers 4-8
5. Bogdan Bogdanovic, Serbia: Bogdanovic has shot the ball exceptionally well, particularly from deep through the first two contests of the event. The 27-year-old tallied 17 points as he knocked down six of eight shots from the field and four of five from beyond the arc in the victory over the Philippines. He also doled out five assists to go along with two steals and only one turnover in 18 minutes. The Sacramento King also was an on-court rating of plus-24 and an efficiency of 24.
6. Josh Okogie, Nigeria: Okogie did everything he could to help Nigeria to stay competitive in their loss to Argentina. The 21-year-old scored 18 points, dished out five assists, grabbed two rebounds, came up with three assists, and blocked two shots. He made six of 11 shots from the field, three of six from long-distance, and all three of his free-throw tries. While Okogie had finished with a rating of 0, his efficiency score of 23 was impressive.
7. Marco Bellinelli, Italy: The veteran San Antonio Spurs guard scored a game-high 17 points, on 5-for-12 shooting including 3-for-6 from beyond the arc, in the Italians 92-61 drubbing of Angola. Bellinelli added five rebounds (two offensive), one assist, and two steals in 20 minutes of action. He also registered a plus-31 rating, which was also a game-high, and an efficiency score of 17.
8. Ricky Rubio, Spain: Rubio wasn’t as good as he was against Tunisia in Game 1, but the 6-foot-4 point guard still produced 17 points, eight rebounds, four assists, and a steal versus Puerto Rico. He recorded a plus-7 rating and an efficiency of 18.
A Look at Group Standings
Six teams from Group A through Group D have already secured spots in the second round, which starts on Sept. 5. The six squads that have advanced are Poland, Argentina, Russia, Spain, along with Serbia and Italy. Cote d’Ivoire, Iran, Angola, Philippines, Nigeria, and Korea have already been regulated to the classification stage.
That leaves the other two spots for the winners the following two games on Wednesday: China and Venezuela (Group A) and Puerto Rico or Tunisia (Group C).
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