BARCELONA (dpa) – The biggest question about the quarter-finals of the basketball World Cup is if reigning champions United States and hosts Spain will avoid slip-ups en-route to a dream final between them.
The United States face off against Slovenia in Barcelona, heading into the game number one in points, rebounds and assists as well as an average winning margin of 31.5 points. No team has come within 20 points of US thus far.
“You want to be tested and see how you do under pressure, but I think the fact that we’ve played well and gotten better every single game, we can be happy with that and know that we are prepared to execute in any situation, because of the focus we’ve had,” guard Stephen Curry said.
Slovenia, who lost to the Americans in the preparation, will try to win by spreading the floor and shooting a lot of three-pointers, shooting more long balls than any team in the tournament. They are led by Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic who’s averaging 16.5 points per game.
The first quarter-final in Barcelona has Lithuania playing against Turkey.
Lithuania are one of the most balanced teams at the World Cup with five different players leading the team in scoring in the team’s six games. They are led by Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas, who had a monster 22 points and 13 rebounds performance in the last 16 versus New Zealand.
Turkey meanwhile are the clutch team of the tournament with two of the signature moments of the World Cup. Cenk Akyol nailed a three-pointer late against Finland to force overtime of an eventual victory, and Emir Preldzic drained a three-pointer with five seconds left in their last 16 victory over Australia.
“Our character in this World Cup is that we never give up. Every time we believe we will make something happen until the last second,” coach Ergin Ataman said.
On the Madrid side of the bracket, all four teams played in Group A in Granada during the group stage with Serbia v Brazil and Spain v France.
Serbia lost to Brazil 81-73 but came back from a 16-point halftime deficit to take a seven-point lead in the fourth quarter before losing.
“It’s gonna be a different game, a lower score. I don’t think any team is going to take a big lead,” said Brazilian Marcelinho Huertas. Serbia are led by a scoring attack of four different players who are averaging over 10 points a game in Milos Teodosic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Nemanja Bjelica, and Miroslav Raduljica.
Brazil had an emotional win over their South American rival Argentina in the last 16, the first time they have beaten them at the Worlds since 1967. They are third overall in scoring, trailing only US and Spain, and have nine different players averaging at least six points a game.
France are excited about getting another shot at Spain after losing 88-64 to them in the group. The French played close for a while before Spain pulled away in the second half.
Spain have been led by the Gasol brothers Pau and Marc, who have combined for 31.8 points per game.
There will be a lot of pressure on Spain as they are not only playing at home but France was the team that knocked them out of last summer’s EuroBasket.