Greece - Slovenia Analysis
• Also: Watch the last minute of Greece's miracle comeback
Quarterfinal: Greece 63, Slovenia 62
- Pretty uneventful 1st half that was tightly played, but Slovenia gained a little momentum by going on a 9-0 run in the last 3 mins to go into halftime up 34-28. They fed off this momentum by starting the 2nd half on a 7-0 run to take a 13-point lead. Greece could get absolutely nothing working on the offensive end, looking badly out of sync. Slovenia was up 11 points at the end of the 3rd, then they extended the lead to 15 with about 6 mins left in the game. For the next 3 mins or so, Greece got it down to 8-9 points and had chances to cut into the lead further, but blew good opportunities.
- I knew about Greece's penchant for comebacks & knew you should never count out this squad, but really thought the game was officially over when Jaka Lakovic drilled a 3pt to put Slovenia up 61-49 with 2:40 left. I thought this was definitely the nail in the coffin, because Greece had a few instances earlier in the 4th where they could have cut the lead to 5-6 pts but they could never take advantage. They had some great opportunities but either made some untimely turnovers or had easy shots rim out.
- Slovenia was in total control for the most of the 2nd half, but after they took that 61-49 lead, Greece really turned up the defensive pressure, which helped lead to 4 Slovenian TOs in the last 2:20; Slovenia had 7 TOs in the last 6 mins of the 4th.
- I distinctly remember glancing at the clock on the screen -- "1:07 Greece 62-55" -- and immediately thought back to the France game in '05 when Greece came back from 7 with about a minute left. But I quickly shook off the idea of another Greece comeback because they had already had multiple chances earlier in the quarter & they couldn't take advantage.
- Theo Papaloukas had been having a subpar Euro '07, but managed to come through when his country needed him, scoring 7 of Greece's last 10 points in the final 1:32. Theo hit a wild scissor-kick 3pt. with :49 secs left to cut the lead to 4 points. Then picked off a pass in the interior on the next defensive sequence, and Nikos Zisis drilled a long 3pt at the :33 sec mark to cut the Slovenian lead to 62-61. After a rushed shot in Slovenia's ensuing possession, Greece got the ball back with :14 secs left, down 1 point. And Papaloukas was not gonna settle, so he just drove strong into the lane & threw up a lay-in off the glass over the outstretched arms of Rasho that bounced around the rim and went down.
- Zisis had hesitated to take a wide-open look with 3:30 left which eventually led to a Greece turnover, and Lakovic soon hit the 3pter that extended the lead to 12. But Zisis did not hesitate with 30 secs, when he stepped up and drilled his huge 3pter. Zisis is their best pure shooter, and he has been nearly non-existent the whole tourney, but he came up big late, with all his 7 pts in the last 5 mins of the 4th.
- A big reason Greece was struggling all game was that their outside shooting was way off the mark--5/17 from 3pt for the game. What really made the comeback so improbable was how desultory the Greek offense was most of the game. Greece outscored Slovenia 23-11 in the 4th--and scored 14 in the last 2:30--after not managing to score more than 14 points in any of the first 3 quarters.
- Slovenia did not help themselves with another poor outside shooting night--6/22 from long distance. The normally solid-shooting Jaka Lakovic has been erratic thru-out the tourney, and today had 14 pts but shot 3/10 on 3pts, with some ill-advised attempts thrown up.
- Rasho was a major interior presence on both ends of the floor once again. Turned away countless Greece forays in the lane, forcing Greece to kick out or reset the offense on the perimeter. Rasho also was a factor on offense, finishing in the painted area all game & throwing up a few of his trusty hook shots for 16 pts on 8/13, not to mention 11 rebs (5 off) & 5 blks. Rasho has been having an underrated Euro '07, and has been one of the better players in this tourney, especially on the defensive end.
- When Greece wants flip the switch on their defensive pressure, they can overwhelm nearly every opponent. They did this a lot last year, particularly vs. Australia in the '06 Worlds group play. That team was a machine causing turnovers last year--even better than Team USA--with such active hands causing deflections all game. But this year, Greece has not been able to force TOs to the degree they have in the past, and I think it is an underrated reason for their somewhat ragged play, besides the obvious anemic offense.
- Don't usually like the sentiment of feeling bad for a losing team in sports, but in this instance I have to admit I was feeling some of Slovenia's pain. They had been playing solid basketball, strong effort defensively every, and somewhat overachieving their way to a 5-1 record. And in this quarterfinal match, Slovenia's play was no different for 37 mins out of 40, then the bottom fell out. All the hard work and positive vibes established in the previous games evaporated in the span of 3 mins; this disastrous loss will be the only thing people will remember when they think about the '07 Slovenia team. I guess it's not totally negative for Slovenia, they still have a shot at a pre-Olympic berth in the loser bracket.