Joe Johnson’s match and more FIBA World Cup Qualifier notes
Did you know that Joe Johnson will be 41 in June?
Do you think he know?
Do you think he is concerned?!?
Well, as reported last week, Joe Jesus is back in Team USA this week. You may or may not remember that Johnson was part of the US 2006 World Championship team that won a bronze medal. (The redemption team was still two years away.) Additionally, Johnson adapted for Team USA a year ago, appearing in two 2022 FIBA AmeriCup Qualifiers last February. Seven months later, he won his second BIG3 MVP Award in as many seasons, as the 2020 campaign was canceled due to COVID. Johnson even signed a 10-day NBA contract in December with the Boston Celtics and scored a foul bucket of time in his lone appearance.
We saw Johnson play again last night for the first time since, and he led Team USA to a 93-76 win over Puerto Rico in Washington DC last night, starting the second window of the Cup playoffs first round. FIBA World Cup 2023 with one win. Team USA had trailed Puerto Rico 44-42 at halftime, but turned the game around with a 32-14 outburst in the third quarter. Johnson, who played about 23 minutes, led the way with a team-best 18 points on 7-of-11 shooting, also making 4-of-6 free throws and four assists.
And he looked… like Joe Johnson!
0:38 – Maybe a trip, maybe not, but off screen catches, triple threats, spins Luis Hernández and creates
fair enough room to stand up for the mid-range rider. Vintage Joe Johnson, as Michael Cole would say with annoyance.
0:58 – Kent State and Christ The King alum Christopher Ortiz knew what was coming. He played good defense but still couldn’t stop Johnson from posting, dribbling four times, fading and breaking through in the well-contested turnover. Elite all-terrain race in August bucket type.
1:22 – Johnson gets a pass from Langston Galloway, quickly drives the baseline over Ortiz and floats one over Ismael Romero over 6ft 9in after a single dribble.
1:42 – Receives a pass down the right wing, pump fakes get Jonathan Rodriguez biting, takes two dribbles, sees Romero and Tyquan Rolon won’t engage, so Johnson gets up for the open lean.
This bag is still there. His game is still magnificent, and he didn’t need a three-point mark all night to get away from another top-20 team in the country, and one of the best in the Americas. (As a Puerto Rican, it was also 20% offensive.)
Also kudos to former Golden State Warrior center Jordan Bell, currently of the Fort Wayne Mad Ants in the G League, who played a game good enough to get his own highlight reel (!!) afterwards. Bell finished with eight points, eight rebounds, three blocks, three steals and two assists in 23 minutes off the bench, and was a game-high +21 for the night. Puerto Rico was led by Javier Mojica (Northeastern Conference shout!), who led with 18 points on 6-of-9 shooting, while former West Virginia point guard Gary Browne Ramírez added 16 points and four assists.
The W improve Team USA to 2-1 and drop Puerto Rico to 1-2, who will both return to action to close out the second Group D window on Sunday. In Washington DC, Team USA will face Mexico 3-0, who beat them in Chihuahua City in November, and in Havana, Cuba, Puerto Rico will face Cuba, who they also beat in November. Mexico beat Cuba 82-72 on Thursday, and the rest of the Americas will start play on Friday the 25thand or Saturday 26and.
In the African region, South Sudan beat Rwanda 68-56 and Democratic Republic of Congo outlasted Kenya 66-56, both on Friday morning in the first matches played in Groups B and D in the African region . As you read this, other games may have been played, which you can follow here. Again, as reported last week, keep an eye out for Cameroon v Tunisia, which will start at 4:00 PM EST / 1:00 PM PST.
In Asia, South Korea reportedly withdrew from qualifying this window due to COVID protocols, losing Thursday’s match against the Philippines, which will officially end in the final 20-0. That’s important because the point differential could help break a tie if needed, and South Korea are currently bottom of Group A, where they are the only team without a win in the group. The Philippines, who will host the 2023 World Cup along with Japan and Indonesia, are 2-0 after also beating India 88-64.
Thus, Indonesia are 0-3, and their automatic World Cup bid – which is usually the case for the hosts – is tentative due to their lack of international success. So far they have lost to Lebanon 96-38, then 110-64, before having a slightly better loss to Saudi Arabia, 95-66. In Group C, not only are Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon each 2-1, but Indonesia are dead last with a differential of -133 points, the worst on anybody in the World Cup qualifiers right now. Do with all of this what you will. For more Asian qualifier updates, head here.
And, in Europe, Lithuania, now 3-0, remained unbeaten after a narrow 78-77 win over Bosnia; just like Spain after their 88-74 victory against Ukraine; and Russia, which won 80-69 against the Netherlands. The Czech Republic, who surprised many and finished sixth at the 2019 World Cup, are now 0-3 after losing to Bulgaria 79-70 on Thursday. Currently, they are last in Group F and on the verge of not even returning to the World Cup without a substantial turnaround. Europe is the busiest of the regions and will spawn the most qualifiers, so the bulk of their matches are Friday through Sunday. To find out more about Europe, it’s here.
There are plenty of other things worth discussing, but we’ll leave a few on the table for our next meeting on Wednesday. By then, that window will be over and we might see where things stand before the first round ends over the summer.
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