TrueHoop: Vrbica Stefanov
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.
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.