Credit: FIBA | BasketNews iliustracija
Credit FIBA | BasketNews iliustracija

The FIBA World Cup 2023 Qualifiers window, which took place on November 25-29, began to shape one of the major basketball event's outlines.

Since 2017 the FIBA practice has meant that countries can no longer invite their best basketball athletes. We cannot see such names as Nikola Jokic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, or the Lithuanian duo of Jonas Valanciunas and Domantas Sabonis in the windows that take place in the middle of the season.

Another situation with players in the EuroLeague. The strongest continental competition does not follow the FIBA orders and holds its own campaign during the windows. As a result, the national squads lose another good stack of capable players.

However, some sportsmen sacrifice for the sake of their country and are determined to travel long distances and have difficult schedules.

After the first FIBA window, BasketNews invites you to take a look at the EuroLeague athletes' performances and the biggest surprises in the results section.

Patriot Kuzminskas

Mindaugas Kuzminskas, who missed the first FIBA window match against Bulgarian because of the EuroLeague duel (PAO vs Zenit), expressed great desire to help his team in the Czech Republic. After receiving the green light from the Zenit Saint Petersburg, the 32-year-old arrived in Opava and showed his class.

Coming out of the bench, he immediately gave the result: Kuzminskas collected points, grabbed boards under the baskets, and drew two Czech defenders to create an advantage, and fed his teammates with passes.

In total, Kuzminskas posted 13 points (3/6 2PT, 2/2 3PT, 1/2 FT), 3 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block, 1 turnover, and 17 EFF in 21 minutes, while Lithuanians survived the drama over Czechs and closed the FIBA window without defeats (74-66).

The 2.06-meter forward did not hide his joy after the victorious match and tough journey from Russia.

"I don't think I took the initiative so much as the coach gave me the set plays. Glad my trip here went through for nothing. We won thanks to the whole team," said Kuzminskas.

After defeating Bulgaria and the Czech Republic, Lithuania is at the top of Group F with 2 victories out of 2.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is close to the Baltic country, also winning both times (2-0). BAH has not brought any EuroLeague players to the window.

Pos
Team
GM
W
L
HW
HL
PPG
PPG A
Diff
STR
L5
1 2 2 0 1 0 81.5 67.5 14 +2 + +
2 2 2 0 1 0 91.0 82.5 8.5 +2 + +
3 2 0 2 0 1 78.0 85.5 -7.5 -2 - -
4 2 0 2 0 1 72.0 87.0 -15 -2 - -

Georgian terminator

Tornike Shengelia showed everyone what it means for him to represent his national team. The match over FC Bayern on Thursday  32 minutes. Then the flight from Moscow to Tbilisi and another match on Friday, where he played 33 minutes against Ukraine.

The big man scored 16 points (7/13 2PT, 2/2 FT), grabbed 13 rebounds, dished 3 assists, and collected 23 EFF.

He did not play versus the Spaniards, and the Georgians lost 61-89, but the 88-83 victory over Ukraine will be very important, thinking about the future.

It is a very realistic scenario that Georgia will fight for second place in Group G, which both Ukraine and North Macedonia want to achieve.

Group G will join Group H in the next phase, involving Russia, Italy, the Netherlands, and Iceland. Having achieved many victories in their group, the Georgians can chase favorites Russia and Italy for the tickets.

Pos
Team
GM
W
L
HW
HL
PPG
PPG A
Diff
STR
L5
1 2 2 0 1 0 91.5 63.0 28.5 +2 + +
2 2 1 1 1 0 74.5 86.0 -11.5 -1 - +
3 2 1 1 1 0 80.5 74.5 6 +1 + -
4 2 0 2 0 1 63.0 86.0 -23 -2 - -

The influx of EuroLeague Russians

Russia played with 7 EuroLeague players in the first FIBA window. This is the largest number of all national teams, which they share with Turkey.

CSKA Moscow released Vladimir Ivlev, Semen Antonov and Alexander Khomenko, UNICS Kazan Artem Komolov and Viacheslav Zaytsev, while Zenit let go for Dmitry Kulagin and Andrey Zubkov. The latter two helped Russia only in the second window match against Iceland.

Russia, which received such reinforcement, has coped with the challenges comfortably. Sergei Bazarevich's squad defeated Italy (92-78) and crushed Iceland (89-65) in St. Petersburg. These results guaranteed the Slavs first place in Group H.

Zubkov was the brightest EuroLeague player, accumulating 14 points (4/6 2PT, 2/4 3PT), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 21 EFF in one duel over Iceland (23 playing minutes).

Zaytsev stood out from the EuroLeague athletes who played in both contests. The 1.90-meter guard recorded averages of 7 points, 3.5 rebounds, 6 assists, 1.5 turnovers, and 12.5 EFF.

Pos
Team
GM
W
L
HW
HL
PPG
PPG A
Diff
STR
L5
1 2 2 0 2 0 90.5 71.5 19 +2 + +
2 2 1 1 1 0 76.5 82.5 -6 +1 + -
3 2 1 1 0 0 72.0 83.0 -11 -1 - +
4 2 0 2 0 1 75.0 77.0 -2 -2 - -

Unpredictable group

After two rounds, Group B seems the most confusing. Great Britain and Belarus served surprise in the first duels, beating Greece and Turkey, respectively.

The latter national teams have high ambitions in each competition, and the Turks alone can draw 4-5 players from the NBA. In the window format, this is not possible, but Turkey receives support from important EuroLeague players.

The most important of them is the naturalized Anadolu Efes star, Shane Larkin. In the second match over Great Britain, the 1.82-meter guard registered 22 points, 4 rebounds, 8 assists, and 30 EFF.

Anadolu Efes athletes Tolga Gecim, Erten Gazi, and Bugrahan Tuncer also joined national team, while Fenerbahce Beko Istanbul released Melih Mahmutoglu, Metecan Birsen, and Sehmus Hazer. They don't play an important role in their clubs but have shone in the national squad.

Birsen averaged 16 points in two matches, as Tuncer added 15.5 points.

The Turks defeated the British basketball players 84-67.

The Greeks invited Vassilis Kavvadas and Leonidas Kaselakis from Panathinaikos and Michalis Lountzis from Olympiacos. Nevertheless, only Kaselakis played the bigger role, competing in the second match (14 PTS, 11 EFF).

Belarusians and Britains have proven they can fight against shorthanded favorites. Maybe another unexpected victory and not the ones we expected will stay overboard?

Pos
Team
GM
W
L
HW
HL
PPG
PPG A
Diff
STR
L5
1 2 1 1 1 0 75.5 73.5 2 -1 - +
2 2 1 1 1 0 77.0 75.5 1.5 +1 + -
3 2 1 1 1 0 73.0 72.5 0.5 +1 + -
4 2 1 1 1 0 72.5 76.5 -4 -1 - +

Half-dead Croats

The image is already crystallizing that Croatia will need to put a lot of extra effort to succeed in this campaign and go through to the main basketball event.

If the 74-76 defeat against Slovenia can be justified, then the 71-77 failure in Finland is already a danger alarm. However, objective reasons can certainly be found.

Croatia did not attract any of its EuroLeague players and relied on the Cibona Zagreb-based team.

Mario Hezonja, Ante Zizic, Kresimir Nikic, Krunoslav Simon, or Leon Radosevic would have become serious support for the Croats. We do not even talk about NBA athletes Bojan Bogdanovic, Luka Samanic, Ivica Zubac, and Dario Saric.

The Croats have already missed FIBA World Cup 2019 and Tokyo Olympics. Another lost summer would not allow the country to show off its entire arsenal.

Two losses in the group are not a tragedy as three of the four teams advance to the next stage. However, the team's record will be valid in the new group, so difficulties are already here.

Pos
Team
GM
W
L
HW
HL
PPG
PPG A
Diff
STR
L5
1 2 2 0 1 0 85.0 81.5 3.5 +2 + +
2 2 1 1 1 0 80.5 78.0 2.5 -1 - +
3 2 1 1 1 0 69.5 71.5 -2 +1 + -
4 2 0 2 0 1 72.5 76.5 -4 -2 - -

Belgian surprise

After two rounds in group A  an unpredictable leader. The Belgian national team crushed Slovakia 83-57 and stunned Serbia at home 73-69.

The Belgians have no EuroLeague players, so they rely on a well-played core. Sam Van Rossom is the main floor general who has been leading Valencia attacks for many years in both EuroCup and Euroleague.

Van Rossom averaged 17 points, 4 assists, and 17 EFF in two games.

A perfect fit alongside him is the athletic big man Ismael Bako, who posted 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 19 EFF.

The Serbs lost, despite having Filip Petrusev (16 PTS, 15 EFF in a match versus Belgium) and Milos Teodosic on their side. The ball magician recorded averages of 17.5 points and 8.5 assists per two games.

For Serbs, this defeat must be the exception to the rules. They barely managed to get out of the duel with Latvia at home (101-100). They cannot let the contests slip because serious problems may arise at a later stage.

In the next round, Serbia would meet three of the following teams: Great Britain, Belarus, Turkey, and Greece. The latter two teams are likely to offer the most competitive gameplay, so Serbs can't play half-foot from the next window.

Pos
Team
GM
W
L
HW
HL
PPG
PPG A
Diff
STR
L5
1 2 2 0 1 0 78.0 63.0 15 +2 + +
2 2 1 1 1 0 85.0 86.5 -1.5 -1 - +
3 2 1 1 1 0 91.0 87.5 3.5 +1 + -
4 2 0 2 0 1 65.5 82.5 -17 -2 - -

Team USA's defeat and Davies solo performance

In this FIBA window, Team USA was guided by 1.75-meter guard Isaiah Thomas. The former Boston Celtics star averaged 21 points, 6.5 assists, and 14.5 EFF over two matches.

But the rest of the line-up is just as much heard as we would call an ordinary NBA G-League team. It is hardly surprising that the US has problems with the American Qualifiers.

A tough-fought 95-90 victory against Cuba and 88-97 blow from the Mexicans, who are marching undefeated.

However, this is by no means a tragedy in this qualification, as 16 teams are competing, and 7 squads will go through to the World Cup 2023. Three out of four teams will move from each group to the second round.

Even if Team USA somehow would find themselves outside the top three, it could expect a ticket for better results in fourth place.

Still, it would be interesting to see how much FIBA's position on windows would change if the U.S. would not make it to the main stage.

NBA stars are bringing much entertainment in the competition like the World Cup, so their absence would severely cut the campaign's prestige.

Credit FIBA

In the African sector, FC Barcelona center Brandon Davies pulled Uganda to a single victory.

Uganda lost against Mali and Nigeria but overcame Cape Verde.

Davies led his team in three statistical categories per three matches  24.3 points, 10.7 rebounds, and 21.3 EFF.

The Ugandan national team has little hope of breaking into the FIBA World Cup 2023, as only 5 of the 16 teams will travel to Indonesia, Japan, and the Philippines.

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2022-01-10
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