LaMarcus Aldridge's Big Leap Forward
Kevin Arnovitz speaks to Blazers big man LaMarcus Aldridge about the new mood in Portlandia, Roy Hibbert's comments about Aldridge's post moves and teammate Damian Lillard's musical stylings.
After sleepwalking through the preliminary and qualifying rounds, Spain showed up to the knockout stage of Eurobasket '09 with a fury. The Painted Area has the full story of the Spaniards' win over France and Serbia's mild upset of Russia:
Pau Gasol: 28 and 9 for Spain
(Janek Skarzynski/AFP/Getty Image
Spain 86, France 66For more analysis of the Spain-France quarterfinal, please visit 48 Minutes of Hell.
I guess Spain can flip the switch when they want. After appearing aimless in the first four games, Spain sent a message to the rest of the field with this thrashing of previously unbeaten France. Third game in a row where Spain has dominated their opponent.
Spain's scrambling defense gave France major issues, forcing bad passes all over the court. Had little concern for France's perimeter shooting ability which led to unfettered help by Spain defenders. The Gasol Bros. paid very little attention to the French bigs.
Spain never went with much straight zone, but Pau Gasol (also Marc Gasol) was basically playing a one-man zone by sloughing off in the paint the whole game. Anytime a Frenchie tried to get to the rim, there was always a big waiting to help. Parker rarely had easy access to the rim.
Anywhere Tony Parker went with the ball, extra Spanish defenders followed. Actually, anytime the ball went below the free throw line, you had extra Spanish bodies flocking to the ball. This forced the French ball-handlers to pass the ball out under duress, often leading to turnovers (19 French turnovers). Spain had 13 steals, six of which belonged to Rudy Fernandez.
Pau Gasol simply ate up the French bigs. We wondered if Gasol's length would be an issue for the undersized French front line. It was a major issue. Gasol was a major factor in fouling out Ronny Turiaf in 21 minutes. Ali Traore fouled out in eight minutes. Yikes. This was a game where Joakim Noah could have come in handy.
Pau scored in anyway he wanted: multiple rolls to the rim, a few alley-oops, lefty hook, righty hook, turnaround banker, baseline spins and a 18-foot jumper for good measure. A clinic the late, great Pete Newell would have loved.
Most of Rudy Fernandez's 16 points came behind the arc (4-for-6), including three bombs in the first quarter. Juan Navarro wasn't quite as efficient as he was the night before, but he was still a factor. Navarro dropped a patented floater and a runner going across the lane on his way to 11 points and 4 assists.
Ricky Rubio had a solid outing with 8 points and 4 assists -- he even knocked down two 3pts. Ricky did have four turnovers. Was active defensively, not afraid to pressure Parker. Just don't make the mistake that Rubio shut him down, it was a team effort.
Tony Parker had been averaging 18 points per game before this game, but Spain held him to six points. When Parker did get some open looks on the perimeter, he continued to struggle with his jumper -- 1-for-8 from the field. Rarely had much room to operate, too many Spanish defenders shadowing him.
Ronny Turiaf took advantage of the Gasols not paying much attention to him. Ronny cut to the open spaces well to lead Les Bleus in scoring with 12 points on 6-of-9. Boris Diaw was due for a good game after a no-show the previous game, and he did alright with 9 points (all 3-pointers) and 6 rebounds.
France had been playing some of the best defense in the tourney before this matchup. But they had not seen an offense with this type of firepower in the prelim rounds. France had been holding opponents to 40 percent overall shooting, but Spain was able to hit 52 percent from the floor. France is normally a strong rebounding club, but the Spaniards helped their cause with 10 offensive boards to France's 20 defensive rebounds.
Spain gets a day off before they take on the winner of Turkey-Greece. France still has work to do for a 2010 Worlds qualifying spot. France moves into the Loser's Bracket where they will face the loser of the Turk-Greece game. If France wins that game, they earn a trip to the Worlds. If they lose, they might have one more game where they can qualify, but that depends on Turkey's status.
Serbia 79, Russia 68
Serbia scored a decisive victory over the Russians, securing a spot in next summer's 2010 Worlds. Russia came out strong in the first quarter, scoring 24 points to Serbia's 21. But then Russia's offense slammed to a halt.
Serbia took the game over in the second quarter and never relinquished control the rest of the way. The key was a 17-0 run to start the second quarter. Russia didn't score their first points of the second quarter until the 2:30 mark and were outscored 20 to 4 in the quarter.
Serbia's lead ballooned to 20 points midway through the third. Serbia committed a bunch of turnovers in the late third to early fourth that let Russia makes things semi-interesting, but Serbia was never seriously threatened down the stretch.
The usually meticulous Russian defense had trouble dealing with Serbia's pick/roll action. Russia allowed Serbia to score on 61 percent of their 2-point attempts, that's 20 percent points higher than their average defending 2-pointers for the tourney. Just not your typical defensive outing by the Russians. Seemed slow with their help, seemed to lack their normal concentration.
Serbia looked like the fresher team, which is a little strange since Russia was the team with the off-day on Wednesday. Might have something to do with the way Serbia spreads their minutes around -- 10 guys average 14 minutes/game. And this was another game where Serbia got nice contributions up and down the roster.
Point guard Milos Teodosic ran the pick/roll masterfully today creating opportunities for himself and his teammates. Milos hit a few quick dribble pull-up jumpers and found teammates with some precise passes (12 points, 4 assists, two 3-pointers). Teodosic has been one of the top PGs in this year's Eurobasket.
Nenad Krstic came out of the gates sharp scoring nine of his 10 points in the 1st quarter. While his starting frontcourt partner Novica Velickovic chipped in with 13 points and five rebounds, scored a few put-backs off his 3 offensive rebounds.
Serbian sniper Uros Tripkovic's duty is to drill jumpers, and that what he did today -- 4-for-6 from deep, few pull-ups for 18 points. Former G-State Warrior Kosta Perovic was vital to Serbia's 2nd quarter run scoring 11 of 13 points in the quarter. Kosta scored off a few rolls, a pick/pop, a lefty hook, and a dunk in transition.
Russian bigman Timo Mozgov wasn't dominant like last game, but did contribute with 10 points and six rebounds (three offensive). Mozgov finished a couple of rolls with hard dunks, even connected on a lefty hook.
Sergey Monya probably had the best all-around game for the Russians with 12 points (two 3-pointers), three steals and two blocks. Monya has been one of the top defenders in the tourney. Vitalii Fridzon led all Russian scorers with 15 pts on a perfect shooting day of 6-for-6 (three 3-pointers)
Russia didn't help themselves with a 9-for-19 free throw shooting display. Letting the Serbs grab 10 offensive boards while only securing 14 defensive boards wasn't helpful either.
Russia's tourney is not done yet, they still have a
chance at a qualifying spot. Like France, Russia moves on to the Loser's Bracket where they face the loser of Slovenia-Croatia. Serbia will face the winner of Slovenia-Croatia on Saturday.
France has run the table in the qualifying round. The Painted Area has been following all the action and has this report on Group E:
France 71, Greece 69
In game that would determine the winner of Group E, France prevailed over the Greeks thanks to a last second jumper by recent Spurs draftee Nando De Colo.
Tony Parker and France nab the No. 1 seed in the knockout stage.
(Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)
De Colo only scored six points in the game but they all came at key spots in the last 2:00. His game winner came off of an isolation on the left wing where he spun into a contested 15-footer. De Colo also added a driving lay-in and two free throws with 20 seconds left.
Though maybe the most memorable thing about this game was the peculiar decision of France's Coach Vincent Collet to leave Tony Parker on the bench for the entire 4th quarter in a tight game. Did Collet want to give his young reserve guards a taste of a pressurized situation? Or was it that he wouldn't have minded if the French finished in second place in Group E to possibly avoid Spain. Spain is likely the No. 4 seed out of Group F, so winning Group E does have its disadvantages.
You started to wonder even more after the final buzzer when De Colo had a "Should I've not done that?" sheepish look on his face after his shot. Also odd that De Colo and the Frenchies didn't seem all that excited about their last second victory. I'm not a conspiracy theorist, but there was some curious things happenings.
With Ronny Turiaf in foul trouble, France got a big lift from the reserve bigs Alain Koffi and Ali Traore. Koffi and Traore were factors on offense hitting some short jumpers and scoring around the rim. Koffi also scored some of his 14 points on putbacks off of his three offensive rebounds (six total rebounds). Traore put up an efficient 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting. Both were great assets on the defensive end using their length and athleticism.
The French defense was stellar once again and turned the screws on one of the better offenses in the tourney. The guards moved their feet well to stay in front of their man. Help & recovery was excellent especially from the bigs. The bigs (particularly Traore and Koffi) did a terrific job showing or switching, and their great athleticism lets them move their feet against smaller guards. Shut off Vasileios Spanoulis from penetrating the lane, which is huge vs. Greece. Spanoulis rarely if ever got to the rim, only remember one to two lay-in attempts, and only got to the line four times.
Tony Parker only played 21 minutes but still managed to 12 points. Portland's Nic Batum helped with eight points mostly coming on baseline drives. Boris Diaw did his usual disappearing act after having a good game prior -- zero points & five turnovers for Diaw. Diaw seemed to be floating around in his own little world, looked clueless on the floor ...
... France is headed to the quarterfinals with a No. 1 seed but there is a good chance Spain will get the #4 seed in Group F. Not a very nice prize for winning Group E. This loss dropped Greece to the No. 3 seed in Group E and it could face Slovenia, Turkey, or Spain in the quarterfinals. Not fun times for them either.
Croatia 70, Germany 68
In a win-or-go-home game, Croatia capitalized on a late flurry of German miscues to squeeze through to the Quarterfinal Round. Germany's quarterfinal hopes unraveled in the last six minutes of the fourth due to some untimely mistakes.
Germany committed six TOs over a four minute stretch midway thru the fourth that allowed Croatia to go on a crucial 7-0 run. If the Germans want to point to one thing that sunk their chances in this game, it was turnovers -- they coughed the ball up 20 times to only nine by Croatia.
Croatia were driven to victory by their big PG combo of Roko Ukic and Zoran Planinic. Roko was a blur on offense constantly busting into the teeth of the defense. Ukic hit an array of runners throughout the game, including an difficult hanging 10-foot jumper in the lane off a spin move that gave Croatia a 59-57 lead. Roko also got all the way to rim for a few scores, including a big driving dunk to tie the game at 57. Planinic mixed in some outside makes (two 3-pointers) with some work inside the arc, often setting teammates up out of the low post. Zoran finished with 11 points and four assts.
Croatian big man Sandro Nicevic came off the bench to chipped in 10 points from inside and out. Nicevic and Marko Banic each corralled four offensive rebounds, while Banic came up with a huge off. board with 0:40 left that allowed for Planinic's driving lay-in for a 67-62 lead ...
... Croatia was not overly impressive today (like they have been all tourney), but it did secure the final quarterfinal spot out of Group E. Croatia's quarterfinal opponent will be the winner of the Turkey-Slovenia game on Wednesday. Croatia has underachieved up to this point, and find it hard to believe it can advance to the semis.
Russia 71, Macedonia 69
The Russians turned back Macedonia's last gasp effort for a playoff spot thanks mostly to a dominating performance by 23-year-old center Timo Mozgov. Mozgov destroyed the Macedonians for 25 points (11-for-17) and 11 rebounds. He particularly ate them up on the offensive glass where he ripped down 10 offensive rebounds (That must be some type of Eurobasket record). The offensive rebounds were a huge bonus considering that Russia shot just 40% overall, and 1-for-15 on 3-pointers. Point guard Anton Ponkrashov complemented Mozgov on the perimeter with 10 points, seven assists and six rebounds. It what could be his last national team appearance, veteran PG Vrbica Stefanov finished a strong tournament with 16 points and 4 assists. Center Todor Gecevski chipped in with 16 points. Russia (3-2) winds up with the No. 2 seed in Group E which means it will face either Slovenia or Serbia in the quarters.
For the unabridged recaps, visit The Painted Area.