TrueHoop: Vasilis Spanoulis
The preliminary round of Eurobasket 2009 is in the books. The Painted Area has watched every second of every game, and tells us who's moving on to the qualifying round.
GROUP D: Turkey 87, Poland 69
Had a NBA vibe with a ton of post-ups for both sides and straight pick/rolls, while the players off-the-ball didn't move much. Nowhere near the off-ball movement we seen in other Euro games. And this game was heavily influenced by NBAers from the past (Maciej Lampe), present (Hedo Turkoglu, Marcin Gortat, Ersan Ilyasova), & future (Omer Asik).
It was finally nice to watch a game where the flow was not destroyed by constant whistles. Only 29 fouls and 16 turnovers between the teams. The third quarter had great back-and-forth action that was augmented by a boisterous Polish crowd.
Turkey was able to build a comfortable cushion in the fourth thanks to Hedo banging long jumpers. Hedo hit two back-2-back 3pts midway thru the fourth that put the game out of reach, then knocked a long 2-pointer a few minutes later. Hedo hit 3-of-8 on 3-pointers to finish with 13 points and 8 rebounds. Hedo paired with Kerem Tunceri and Ender Arslan to run the Turkish offense with a steady hand...
Once again, Ersan Ilyasova showed off his versatility and mismatch ability that should translate well to the NBA. Ilyasova hit a 3-pointer off of pick/pop action with Hedo (something he would do with Navarro or Lakovic with Barcelona). He hit another 3-pointer off an iso situation with ball fake, something he's shown a knack for in the past as well. Ilyasova scored put-backs on all of his three offensive rebounds. Ersan ended with 18 points on 7-for-12 shooting and 8 rebounds.
Poland did not get much from their perimeter, and their main scoring option, David Logan, was bottled up by the strong defensive backcourt of Turkey. Poland made a concerted effort to pound the ball into the post, and it paid off well. Poland got a tremendous effort from their starting backline, Marcin Gortat and Maciej Lampe.
Maybe Marcin Gortat is more than just a defensive & rebounding presence. Looks like Marcin can show D-Howard a few things about post footwork. Marcin put on a clinic. That's right, Gortat put on an offensive clinic...
GROUP B: Latvia 68, Germany 62
I don't know if I've ever seen a team celebrate with more on-court jubilation after a six point loss. Latvia won the game, but didn't win the game well enough. Latvia not only needed to win this game to avoid elimination, but needed to win by eight points to secure the tiebreaker. Germany unexpectedly gets to play on, Latvia goes home.
It wasn't pretty ... but Jan Jagla and Germany advances.
(Photo by Adam Nurkiewicz/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Latvia was up 11 points with 20 seconds left, but could not close the deal. They let Germany execute a very quick pick/pop 3-pointer to cut the lead to eight points with 15 seconds left. (Why they didn't overplay and force everything inside the arc, not sure). Then, Latvia's Ernests Kalve missed two free throws that could have pushed the lead back up to 10 points. Then, Latvia inexplicably fouled Jagla on the rebound of Kalve's second miss. Jagla hits both free throws to get the game to 68-62, and Latvia could not convert on their desperation shot.
Even though we had a suspenseful finish, this was another ugly Group B contest. The teams combined for 55 fouls and combined to shoot 38 for 102 (37 percent) from the field.
For the second game in a row, Germany accumulated a boatload of fouls (30). But for the second game in a row, they were fortuitous that the opposing team pooped the bed from the FT line -- Latvia shot 19-for-38. Atrocious opponent's free throw percentage is the overwhelming reason Germany is still alive.
Jan Jagla had another strong showing for Germany with 13 points & seven rebounds, converting a few times off curls coming on downscreens. Jan's biggest five points came in the last 20 seconds with the Germans down by 11 points. First, Jagla hit a quick pick/pop 3-pointer that cut the lead to 8 points with 0:15. Then, Jagla got fouled rebounding the Kalve's missed free throw. Jagla went to the line to bury two that cut the lead to six points...
Quick wrap-up of other Wednesday action:
Greece 106, Israel 80 -- Greece rolls into the second Round undefeated, while Israel leaves Poland without a victory. Even in a meaningless game, Greece's offense continued to impress. Primary playmaker Vasilis Spanoulis led the way with 18 points and five assists, and kept his turnovers down. Spanoulis' Panathinaikos teammate, Antonio Fotsis, had his outside stroke working, scoring all of 16 points on four 3-pointers. Colossal PF Sofo Schortsanitis bulled his way to 16 points, and most encouraging, he made his free throws -- 8-for-9 on the line. The Greeks took the opportunity to sit their starting center, Giannis Bourousis. Israel got another strong game by uber-athletic forward Lior Eliyahu (Houston Rockets hold rights). Eliyahu was superb with 21 (9-for-14), eight rebounds and eight assists. Lior was the top scorer in the first round with 21 ppg.
Croatia 81, (FYR) Macedonia 71 -- After a poor first half, Croatia came out of the locker room to outscore Macedonia 47-23 in the second half. Croatia shot 56 percent from the floor, and 21 of their 24 field goals were assisted. Croatia's combo of tall PGs, Roko Ukic & Zoran Planinic, combined for 13 assists. Croatia got solid effort from their deep frontcourt rotation. Nikola Vujcic pitched in with 12 points and Marko Banic 11 points. Ex-Kansas St. forward Jeremiah Massey paced Macedonia with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Grizzled vet PG Vrbica Stefanov played his usual steady floor game with 12 points and five assists. Both teams advance to the next round.
France 69, Russia 64 -- France sweeps through the weakest group with another less-than-impressive win. Hey what do you know, Boris Diaw decided to show up today. Boris had himself a great all-around game with 19 points (9-for-12 fga), seven rebounds and seven assists. Now expect a no-show in the next game from Diaw. Tender Ronny Turiaf dominated the interior with 18 points and 14 rebounds. Tony Parker had an uneven game with 17 points, four assists, four steals, but had five turnovers. France still had issues shooting either from the perimeter or on the foul line. They were 4-for-15 from deep and 15-for-28 on free throws. France glossed over these negatives by grabbing 15 offensive rebounds to Russia's 15 defensive rebounds. Wing Kelly McCarthy led Russia with 13 points. Big PG Anton Ponkrahov had another solid floor game with eight assists and seven points. Russia will take an 0-2 record into the second Round because their win over Latvia is wiped off the books.
Spain 90, Slovenia 84 (OT) -- In one of the most anticipated games of the first Round, Spain held off Slovenia in OT. Should have a more detailed analysis of this game Thursday later in the day.
Serbia 77, Great B
ritain 59 -- Serbia ended Britain's Eurobasket campaign. Serbia got nice contributions up & down their deep roster. Nenad Krstic and combo guard Milenko Tepic led the Serbs with 17 points each. Lefty PG Nate Reinking tried to keep the Brits close with his perimeter touch -- 4-for-5 on 3-pointers, 21 points overall. High-flying Pops Mensah-Bonsu helped with 16 points. Britain will have to wait to see if a wild card berth is awarded. A long-shot, but FIBA might want the next Olympic host country to get some major competition experience under their belt.
Lithuania 84, Bulgaria 69 -- Lithuania picked up their first victory after looking out of sync in their first two games. This game was a little closer than the score would indicate. Lithuania pulled away in the fourth to end Bulgaria's Euro '09 run. Ksystof Lavrinovic was big for the Green Team with 16 points, six rebounds and four assists. Ksystof's eight points in the last 5 mins was key to Lithuania's 18-5 run to end the game. Bruising big Marijonas Petravicius continued to be a physical interior presence with drawn fouls (8-for-9 fts) & 8 rebounds. Former Nug Linas Kleiza brought 10 points and 7 rebounds to the mix. Bulgaria shot just 34 percent from the floor, but were able to stay close because they crushed the offensive glass -- 22 offensive rebounds. The Ivanov twins combined for 9 offensive rebounds and former UNC Tarheel Vassil Evtimov hauled in five offensive rebounds, 13 total. Bulgaria's offense was led by their dynamic scoring perimeter. Explosive PG Earl Rowland dropped 18 pts on 7-for-14 shooting, while wily wing Todor Stoykov scored 16 points. Lith takes a 0-2 record into the second round.
The Painted Area is following every second of action of Eurobasket 2009 in Poland, and has this report on Day 2's action:
GROUP A: Greece 76, Croatia 68
In a battle of Group A heavyweights (and medal contenders), Greece's near flawless first half offensive execution was too much for Croatia to handle. Greece scored 52 points in the first 20 minutes on 76 percent shooting.
The Greek offensive spacing was superb with the wings staying wide and lots of weaving action up high in the first half. Lots of motion which made it hard for Croatia to get to shooters.
But the Greeks slowed considerably in the 2nd half, particularly in the 4th quarter where they only managed 11 points. Sloppy fourth quarter with too many fouls & TOs. Croatia chipped back into the game in the 2nd half by getting out in transition and getting to the free throw line.
Even with the sharp offensive execution by the Greeks, this game was tough to enjoy. Like the Lith-Turkey game from the night before, we had another Eurobasket game marred by too many whistles -- a combined 49 fouls.
Olympiakos' Giannis Bourousis showed why he's one of the top centers outside the NBA with 19 points & 8 rebounds. The 7-foot Bourousis was pure in the first half burying two 3-pointers. & a long jumper off the dribble. The big Greek scored 17 of 19 in the half on a perfect 7-for-7 shooting. Bourousis even added an emphatic dunk over Kasun off a roll that drew a foul.
Vasilis Spanoulis, always a better long shooter when he can get a little dribble into his shot, buried a key 3-pointer off an iso up high to seal the victory. Spanoulis sliced into the lane for some points (11 points), but never got consistent deep penetration, and still struggled trying to force passes (5 turnovers).
Greek SF Strat Perperoglou knocked down some 3-pointers for 10 pts, and Utah's Kostas Koufos added 10 points on short shots mostly in the first half.
Roko Ukic was the lone bright spot for Croatia's offense in the first half hitting a variety of runners. Ukic couldn't connect with his jumper (no surprise), but he did lead all Croatia scorers with 15 points...
GROUP B: Germany 76, Russia 73
Wasn't expecting an aesthetically pleasing game, and pretty much got what I expected. A battle of teams without dynamic scoring options ended with both teams combining to hit 35 percent of the shots attempted for the game.
Combine this putrid shooting with 60 fouls combined, and you have a recipe for another Eurobasket contest that was tough to follow. If there is one overriding theme in the first few days: way too many whistles. Doesn't make for a memorable viewing experience.
Russia sunk their chances by failing to capitalize on these aforementioned whistles. Russia went to the line 49 times, but only made 28.
Germany controlled the first half but let Russia stay within reasonable striking distance by putting the Russians on the free throw line 28 times. Russia made a run in the third where they pieced together a few positive offensive possessions and Germany helped with poor shot selection.
As usual, Russian head coach David Blatt mixed up his defensive looks, which was successful in the second half. We saw some extended pressure on occasion and some off-kilter zone alignment with man principles.
The always active Jan Jagla led the German squad with 19 points, 11 points, & 2 blocks. Jagla known for his off. boarding, grabbed 7 offensive rebounds, including a big off. board that drew a foul with 3:00 left. Jan Jagla has always been valuable as a live body who crashes the glass. He's just always been in the unfortunate situation of playing the same position as Dirk...
Reserve PG Heiko Schaffartzik scored 10 of his 13 points in the 1st quarter thanks to two pull-up 3-pointers (his specialty). Heiko only made one basket after the first quarter, but it was a clutch 3-pointer to give Germany a 71-67 lead with 1:45 left ... Schaffartzik cleverness with the dribble & lateral quickness helped him set up four assists
Russia's PG play wasn't too bad either. PG Sergey Bykov was key to Russia chipping into Germany's 14-point halftime lead. Bykov scored Russia's first eight points of the third. Sergey mixed some stellar drives with a few jumpers to score all his 11 points in the third. But Bykov was the primary culprit of Russia's foul shooting nightmare -- Bykov shot 3-for-11.
The good news for Russia, they have qualified for the 2nd round with Latvia's loss to France. The last second Round spot out of Group B will be determined by the outcome of the Germany-Latvia game. If Germany wins, they're on to the next round. They can actually afford a loss, as long as it's by less than nine points. But that scenario is contingent on Russia losing to France. If Russia beats France, then whoever wins the Germ-Latvia game outright goes to the second round.