Saturday, September 15, 2007

Spain Outlasts Greece in Epic Battle

Euro '07 Semis: Spain 82, Greece 77

- Maybe as intense and entertaining a game as I've ever seen, certainly in FIBA. Both teams expended every bit of energy they could muster and left everything on the floor. I know I'm getting cliche-y, but don't know a better way to describe this game. Spain's natural talent advantage basically pulled them thru & helped them hold off the gritty Greeks. With both teams exerting max effort, and can't imagine either team could have played any harder. Have to say I was spent after watching the game.

Watch the highlights of this classic:

- Greece really had no answer for Gasol. Thought they did as good a job as expected, particularly Tsartsaris, who had limited success impeding Pau. Pau rose to the occasion today & showed why he is the most dominant player in Euro '07. Such a deterrent on the backline of the Spanish defense. Pau continued to make a case for Euro '07 MVP today: 23 pts on 7/10 (9/10 fts), 6 rebs, & 3 blks.

- Have to understand Greece is not blessed with natural offensive talent, and Coach Yannakis has to find creative ways to wring every last drop of talent out of his roster. Impressive job having Greece push Spain to the limit in Madrid, especially without the services of arguably their best offensive talent, Antonis Fotsis & another offensive factor, Big Sofoklis.

- Jose Calderon continues to showcase his improved jumper--helped Spain rocket out of the gates with 3/3 3pts in the 1st quarter (4/8 on 3s overall). Jose's biggest 3pt of day came at the 4:00 mark of the 4th that helped Spain regain the lead at 68-67. Then he made a huge steal up high, and took it the distance for lay-in to push the Spain lead to 74-68 with 1:50. Jose ended with 18 pts, 3 assts, & 2 stls.

- Juan Navarro provided a huge spark in the 3rd quarter scoring 10 points, combining with Gasol's 8 3rd quarter points for all Spain's 3rd quarter points. Had a big 3pt. to start the 4th that allowed Spain to regain lead at 62-60, then at 3:30 drove the lane for another bucket to give Spain a 70-67 lead. Juan had 23 pts & 5/6 from 3pt. land, a few tough ones with hands in his face. Garbajosa could not find the range, 0/5 shooting, but Jorge brought his usual little things to the fiesta--5 rebs, 4 assts, 2 stls--including a big steal with a minute remaining.

- Vassilis Spanoulis was a one-man wrecking machine on offense. He basically single-handedly kept Greece in the game on the offensive end. Spanoulis drilled pull-up jumpers all game from everywhere--I believe he had 3 tough running bankers alone. When he couldn't get his shot up, he created for his teammates off his dribble penetration, which even Spain's zone could not bottle up. Spain could not contain him--Spanoulis had 24 pts on 10/14 & 5 assts. Role-playing SF Panagiotis Vasilopoulus provided a nice lift for the Greece offense with 3 3pts. for 10 pts & soild defense.

- Even though some of the numbers don't indicate it, Greece's defense was impressive, especially a tremendous display in the 2nd quarter. Greece got back to creating havoc like last year, with dogged rotations & quick hands that were a staple of their '06 defense. Their activity lead to 11 steals, and 16 Spain TOs overall. Dimis Diamantidis led the defensive attack by scrambling all over the court disrupting the Spain attack & getting his hands on everything--had a beautiful steal where he took the dribble right out of Cabezas' hand in a split second.

- Dimis Diamantidis once again was too reticent looking for his shot, but contrary to other reports, had a solid all-around game--9 rebs, 3 assts, 2 stl, 1 blks (I counted 2-3) & the aforementioned great defense. But the unquestioned Greek leader, Theo Papaloukas, could not replicate the magic he performed the night before. Never got into a rhythm, and had a rough evening offensively: tried to challenge Gasol but was denied multiple times, and fumbled away the ball a few times, including a mishandled drive with :10 secs left.

- Thought Greece attacked the vaunted Spanish zone very well. Penetrated it very effectively (Spanoulis in particular), moved the ball well, and shot the ball better than they normally do from outside--8/22 from 3pt.

- Greece also helped its cause by grabbing 14 off rebs to only 4 for Spain. These extra boards combined with the forced TOs helped Greece take 23 more field goal attempts than Spain. And underrated factor was Spain's free throw shooting--27/28 overall. Even though Greece hit some 3pts late to chip into the lead, Spain always kept them at bay by hitting their FTs down the stretch.

- A few old-fashioned dust-ups added to the already raucous atmosphere. The normally reserved Diamantidis got in Navarro's face after blocking his shot right before the half. Then the two got into some sort of simulated hip check thingie & both benches spilled onto the court. The heighten emotions spilled over into the 4th quarter when Tsartsaris ran into Calderon, necessitating an intentional foul, which led to more flare-ups. Though, watching the replay it looked like Calderon has been well-versed in the Euro art of selling the slightest bit of contact. And the refs...well they were FIBA refs, so you just gotta deal with it. They seemed overwhelmed by the environment, and got caught up in the emotions of the arena in the 4th quarter.

- Spain is now one step away from their main mission--winning a Euro Championship at home. Russia has played above their heads and their underdog run is a great story. But I just can't see any way Russia can knock off Spain at home. Spain already had their big scare vs. Greece, and I don't feel confident Russia can piece together back2back strong offensive outings, especially vs. Spain's zone looks.


At 11:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check this out. I know it comes from a greek guy, but yeah i guess the game wasnt quite "fair" :) see for yourselves!

At 5:46 PM, Anonymous Jimmy da Greek said...

Grey guys were really bad for both teams. The vid shows only the Greek side. There is no meaning on starting counting which team was benefited the most.(although I do agree it was the Spaniards :P). And the truth is Spain, at least as units, is a better team. It was a great game, it would be a shame to remember only the FIBA's dudes from it.

P.S: A great blog you have guys, keep it coming.

At 12:33 AM, Blogger Kosta said...

Once again, awesome report.
I absolutely agree with Jimmy da greek's comment - great game, great teams, Spain somewhat better, atrocious refs, Spain benefitted more. But I wanted to point out some things:
Spain is too good a team to need to resort to such horrible acting in order to get calls. I was so infuriated by their attitude that I celebrated the Russians' win with passion. It was less the flopping on defense than the letting-go-of-the-ball-and-acting-like-having-been-shot routine after the slightest contact with the defender. Diamantidis has NEVER initiated any kind of fight; as one of the world's best defensive players, he was so infuriated by Navarro's and Calderon's whining that he couldn't take it anymore. Watch the clip: Navarro tries to get the foul flailing around and then looks at the ref ready to complain; Diamantidis sees this and scrams at him "WHAT?? WHAT??". Awesome.

At 1:00 AM, Blogger Kosta said...

Oh, and excellent job pointing out that Spain had 27/28 FT in the semifinal. In the final? 15/26 (Gasol: 9/10 vs. 5/12). You need luck to win elimination games, and Greece just got a bad break. Obviously, we had it coming after all the good fortune we had the past 3 years - you mentioned yourself the 6-0 in close games. Sure, the players are clutch and they fight like crazy, but you always need some luck; Papaloukas said it himself after Greece-Slovenia.

At 4:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a very subjetive video,why is not showed the lateral view of the foul on Navarro by Diamantidis? You can see clearly how Diamantidis jumps one meter away of Navarro and hits him, unbalancing him in his layup attempt. After make a so clear foul he challenges Navarro. Greeks are the less indicated team to rip the refs, they always are favored by them in spite of play defense with lots of hands, flopping and pushes.

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