In the latest installment of Mason Plumlee Travels The Universe, the USA Men’s National Basketball Team slayed the Dragic brothers, defeating Slovenia 119-76 in the Quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup in Barcelona, Spain Tuesday. The Americans improved to a perfect 7-0, and will now play Lithuania in the semifinals of the tournament on Thursday.
Plumlee got his customary six minutes of play with the game out of hand, checking in with 5:44 left in the fourth and the score at 102-69 in favor of the good guys. The Nets young big man put on a show in the final two minutes: following up his own post-up miss with a jam, then exhibiting a deft passing touch by lobbing an alley-oop pass from the top of the circle to Pistons big man Andre Drummond for the slam. Then, the Duke product caught a touchdown pass from Klay Thompson and jammed it home with his left hand as a Slovenian defender held on to his right for the foul. He couldn’t put the cherry on the garbage time sundae, however, missing his free throw attempt. Plumlee finished up with a stat line of four points, two rebounds, one assist and one turnover.
Slovenia did in the first half what 16 seeds hope to do in the NCAA tournament: they “hung around.” The Slovenians matched the red, white and blue’s 20 points in the 2nd quarter to keep the score a respectable 49-42 at the half.
But as so often happens in NCAA tournament games and Dream Team era USA basketball, the dominant team was just too much. The Americans opened up a nine-point lead halfway through the third quarter to enter the final frame up by 22.
One of Fran Fraschilla’s keys to the game for Slovenia — who had a “puncher’s chance” according to the ESPN analyst — was to limit the Americans to no offensive boards. Team USA had 14 offensive rebounds in the first quarter and finished with 24 for the game, well above their average of 12 per game in this tournament.
Fraschilla also felt the Slovenians needed to make 16 threes to stay with the Americans. They only managed 8-27 from behind the arc, including a 1-5 mark from the team’s star, Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns. USA, on the other hand was an efficient 9-19 from three. Four of those treys came from Golden State Warriors guard Thompson, who led all scorers with 20.
Plumlee’s already scarce minutes will likely get even more rare as Team USA heads into the semifinals against Lithuania, currently ranked fourth in the FIBA world rankings. The Lithuanians, led by young Raptors big man Jonas Valančiūnas, defeated Turkey 73-61 on Tuesday to advanced to the showdown with Team USA.
The Lithuanians and the USA have history. USA only won 99-94 against them at the 2012 Olympics. The five-point win was the smallest margin of victory for the King James-led patriots. Anthony Davis and James Harden are the only holdovers on the 2014 World Cup roster from that stacked 2012 Gold Medal team.