Saturday, September 02, 2006

2006 FIBA Worlds-Gold Medal Game Preview

- Spain (B-1) vs. Greece (C-1): There is somewhat a damper put on this game since we will not see Spain at full strength. At this present time it looks like Pau Gasol will not suit up for tomorrow's FIBA Worlds Final, but from some of the reports i've seen that is not 100% official yet, so this game could be a little hard to truly gauge.

The loss of Gasol is obviously crucial but not the end of the world for Spain. Don't forget the Pau-less Spainiards made their way to the Euro '05 semis where they were only denied a finals appearance thanks to a last second jumper by Dirk, which gave Germany a 1-point victory. So, this Spain team is very capable of knocking off the Greeks.

Spain plays the best zone of any team in the world and I expect them to toss some zone looks at Greece to see if the Greeks can carryover their hot shooting from the US game. I think it's a good move considering Greece, in general, is not a great outside shooting team and they should be forced to prove themselves.

Although, Greece might return the favor with some zone or sagging man looks of their own because Spain's 3pt. shooting has really tailed off in the playoffs rounds--25.7% from 3pt.--after shooting at a blistering 44% in group play. Also, I think a zone could discourage the floaters & runners that Calderon & Navarro love to shoot off of penetration and will probably be a bigger part of the Spain offense with Gasol injured.

Two great int'l backcourts will face-off: Spain's speed vs. Greece's size. It's hard to say who has the upper hand in the backcourt: Spain with Jose Calderon, Juan Navarro, Sergio Rodriguez, & Rudy Fernandez or Greece with Dimis Diamantidis, Theo Papaloukas, & Vasilies Spanoulis. I think it's a wash. Right now, I have to give the Greeks the advantage on the frontline with their solid rotation of bigs going vs. the depleted Spain bigs, with only Jorge Garbajosa being the only significant factor.

How fitting the championship comes down to the two teams with the two best defenses in my estimation. I expect this game to resemble the Spain-Arg. semis tilt, where defense seems to overwhelm the opposing offense; hopefully it will not be as physical & foul-prone, but I would not be surprised if went that way. Greece's gameplan is definitely easier with the probable absence of Pau, but they might be better moving Antonios Fotsis to the 4 so as to handle Jorge Garbajosa, who likes to float out alot & will mix in his sneaky slashing game where he has a knack for drawing fouls. On the other side, I am not really sure how Spain will match-up with S. Schortsianitis--although no team really has a good match-up for Baby Shaq.

Spain has been commiting a few too many TOs lately, while the Greeks have kept their TOs way down in the playoffs--7 per game. And Greece loves to cause TOs and I expect them to be more aggressive defensively vs. Spain than they were vs. the US. Although, Calderon & Navarro will not be easily rattled.

Hate to say it again, but with alot of FIBA games, this game could come down who shoots the ball better. Greece has been shooting the ball better than usual lately, while Spain has really struggled in the playoffs. Even before Gasol was scratched from the lineup, I was going with Greece. I feel they are on a roll and playing even better now than they were in the group phase.

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