Thursday, September 13, 2007

France's Late-Game Miscues Cost Them

• Also: Watch the last-minute of Greece's miracle comeback

Euro '07 Quarterfinals: Russia 75, France 71

- At the start of the summer, Tony Parker took his game to new heights with clutch play throughout the NBA playoffs, but he ended his whirlwind summer on a sour note: Parker had a free throw to tie the game at 71 with 7 seconds left, but missed, ending France's shot at a medal & an automatic Olympic berth. Don't forget, this was the 2nd time in the tourney that Parker missed a free throw to tie a game in the last seconds--he missed the 2nd of two free throws vs. Slovenia, which allowed Slovenia to escape with a 1-point win. But Parker wasn't the only Frenchman to falter down the stretch: the other French NBA standout, Boris Diaw, missed 2 free throws to tie the game with 15 seconds left.

- Both teams actually shot the ball surprisingly well. Thought this would be a defensive struggle, but what this game came down to was which team could make fewer mistakes--Russia barely prevailed on this front. After a very disjointed 3rd quarter where both teams committed plenty of mindless turnovers (13 combined) and only scored 14 points each, things started to heat up a little more in the 4th with better back-n-forth action.

- Here's a quick recap of the helter-skelter last half-minute:

Russia's JR Holden (who was huge in the 4th) hit 2 free throws with :24 secs left to put Russia up 71-69.

• Then Russia decided to foul Diaw with :15 secs left. Diaw went to the line and promptly missed both free throws.

• Russia rebounded the miss with :10 secs left & Russia's Pashutin was fouled. Pashutin is a good shooter, but clanked both free throws.
• France got the rebound, Parker pushed the ball up court & he was fouled on purpose with :07 secs left. Parker made the first, then missed the second.

• Russia rebounded, was fouled, & then hit both free throws to go up 73-70.

• Then they fouled Parker again with :02 to avoid the 3pt. Parker made the first to make the score 73-71, then purposely tried to miss the second, but missed the rim, so game over. Russia wins.

- I guess the interesting development, besides the 3 missed free throws by France's NBA stars, is the European tactic of fouling with a 2-point lead paid off, at least today. It took two tries, but still worked. Have seen this tactic done multiple times this tourney with varying degrees of success. It worked wonders for Greece against Croatia, but Greece did need a 30-foot buzzer-beater to justify the foul. But it backfired for Turkey against Italy.

- France has to believe they let a golden opportunity slip away. Here was a game in which they had one of their finer offensive days, shooting the perimeter shot fairly well for most of the game (at least by their low standards). They also commanded the boards, but they really wiped away all that goodwill by doing a terrible job taking care of the ball in the 2nd half and killing themselves on the free throw line. France turned the ball over 11 times in the 2nd half (20 overall) & shot 9/20 from the ft stripe overall. Also as usual, France could not sustain any consistency on their outside shooting--after shooting 6/12 from 3pt in the 1st half, they shot just 2/10 in the 2nd half.

-Former Bucknell star JR Holden was huge carrying the Russian offense down the stretch, scoring 10 pts in the 4th. JR, who's more of a mid-range shooter, drilled 2 big 3pts in the 4th, including one to put Russia up 67-64 with 3 mins remaining. But he also did damage with his dribble-drives in the 4th--he took it upon himself to drive to the bucket & draw a foul with the game tied at 69 at :24 secs left. He then proceeded to bury two crucial free throws to put Russia up 71-69. Holden finished 3/6 from 3pt for 15 pts.

- Though Kirilenko had a rough time finding his scoring touch (2/11), he was a monster everywhere else. He was an absolute beast on the defensive side of the ball--the dude had 7 steals & 4 blks. Coach Blatt had him in the free safety role where he was sagged way off his man (usually F. Pietrus) and allowed to wreak havoc a la Pippen in a roving capacity.

- Viktor Khyrapa had another terrific outing all-around, was particularly lethal shooting the long-ball--4/4 from 3pt, 14 pts, 7 rebs, 6 assts. Khyrapa was shooting just 32% from 3pt coming into the quarters. Back-up center Nikita Morgunov had another solid effort, did a tremendous job slipping to open spaces in the interior & added a few little runners in the lane for 14 in 7/9.

- Russia had one of its best offensive days of the tourney--55.7% overall, 8/16 from 3pt--but what was hurting them (just like France) was their turnovers (17 total) & free throw shooting (9/17). Russia was also held back by getting blasted on the boards--outrebounded 37-25 overall--and allowed 14 French off. rebs (Russia had a 60% def. rebound pct., not good)

- For the most part, Tony Parker was bottled up by the Russian defense. He rarely got any of his patented deep forays into the lane (I counted only 2-3), and he only attempted 9 shots total. You really can't fault Parker for his decreased scoring production over the last few games because he just does not have the surrounding talent around him to relieve pressure.

- Boris Diaw's sudden offensive emergence over the last few games came a little too late. Boris did a great job driving the ball all game, but his outside shot was still off, and his shooting from the free throw line was mighty costly--0/3 on fts. Diaw led France with 17 on 8/14, 6 rebs (4 off) & 5 TOs. Tender Rony Turiaf added a nice lift, particularly on the defensive end, & pitched in 8, 7 rebs & 3 blks.

- Russia goes on to face the winner of Lithuania-Croatia on Satuday, while France's tourney is not quite complete. France still has to head to the loser bracket for classification games to figure out 5th-8th place & a possible pre-Olympic qualifying tournament spot.


At 1:45 AM, Anonymous Hylas said...

Saw just the last three minutes of the game. France looked ready to take over after closing a five point gap, but then their poor FT performance really killed them. It's amazing how many times people miss the rim on a FT in a must-get-rebound situation. You'd think a standard shooting style would be better suited; both teams shot below 50% FTs, IIRC.

If you get a chance to foul Boris Diaw with two up, I say go for it. He really needs to get in touch with Parker's shooting coach. In any case, I prefer to see him as an undersized virtuoso center. With Kurt gone, maybe he can repeat his 05/06 season performance, when he was a truly electric player to watch.

At 4:20 AM, Blogger Ty Keenan said...

From what you've seen, Jay, are teams only fouling bad shooters up 2, or do they just go after everyone? The former would seem to be a good idea; I'm not so sure about the latter.

At 4:23 AM, Anonymous Alexis said...

This is the curse of the France national teams, whatever the sport it is.

Just like in football, handball, rugby... too much mental mistakes down the strech.

They don't need a new shooting coach as bad as they need a guru to make them beleive they're good enough to win.

At 3:54 PM, Blogger dinohealth said...

The Greek squad has been cardiac this tournament. They just did it again! They just concluded the worst game that I have ever seen them play, with the most memorable and historic fourth quarter of the European Championship! After a miserable shooting performance, and playing totally out of sinc for three quarters, they were down 15 or 16 points with a bit over four minutes to play. That is when that textbook defense took over! They won by one point!!!!!! They have now reached the final four...Semifinals! They are about to take on Pau Gasol and Spain with five NBA players, in a rematch of last year's World Championship. I am afraid if they shoot the way they did tonight against Slovenia, and run out of heroics, they will be a walk over! Of course, germany was blown out by spain, the defending World Champion!

At 5:46 PM, Blogger jay aych said...

Dino, just watched the Greece comeback. Amazing. They did it again. Eerily similar to the Semi in '05 where they came back vs. France. They were down 7 points with a minute left today, just like vs. France. Papaloukas was huge with that wild 3pt., steal, & tough drives.

Ty, actually it seems like there is little discretion on who the teams foul. It just seems like they want to foul a guard out on the perimeter before a shot attempt.

In the Greece-Croatia game, Greece was up 78-76 & they fouled Marko Popovic, a very good shooter, and he hit both fts, then Greece needed Spanoulis' 30-foot bomb. And in the Turkey-Italy game, Turkey was up 2 & fouled Bulleri, a pretty solid foul shooter, though he was 2/4 on fts in the game prior to foul. Bulleri hit them both, then Kutluay missed a wide-open shot, game goes OT, Italy wins.

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