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.
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.