Wednesday, July 16, 2008

FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tourney--Day 3 Recap

Also see: FIBA Olympic Qualifying: Quarterfinal Preview

Rundown of Day 3 (7/16) slate of games in Athens:

Germany 89, New Zealand 71
- Not surprisingly, Germany's game plan was to establish Dirk & Kaman in the post. Dirk was deadly with his turnarounds all-game, threw in a few 3pts. as well (3/6 on 3pts.). Dirk's line: 35 pts on 14/22, 7 rebs, 3 assts & 2 blks. Liked his aggression all game, especially on one play where he had the ball on the right sideline in transition, then went crossover to the middle of the floor, & drove the lane hard for a hard flush.

- Best ball-movement I've think I've ever seen from Team Deutschland. Dirk & Kaman both passed the ball out of the post well; Dirk had two nice feeds where he found Kaman roaming. The rest of team followed suit, and the ball moved crisply with very little sticking.

- Kaman had 20 pts on 8/12 in only 21 minutes of floor time. Hit some face-up jumpers, had a few put-backs off off. rebs, made some plays off of pick/rolls with Hamann, and finished some nice post moves. Also, teamed with Dirk & Femerling to deter the Tall Blacks of much success inside of 10 feet.

- Kirk Penney was hitting everything he threw up early. Hitting quick pull-ups or set shots, Penney single-handedly kept NZ afloat with 29 pts with 5 3pts. Germany's defense picked up in the 2nd quarter--they located Penney better--holding New Zealand to 7 points in the quarter & only 45 pts the last 3 quarters. New Zealand rarely looked for anything within 12 feet.

- Undersized bruiser Pero Cameron was the only other factor for the Tall Blacks and helped Penney early with some perimeter makes in the 1st quarter. But Pero's effectiveness was soon cut short by foul trouble--he was just giving up too much length when trying to guard Kaman or Dirk.

Greece 89, Brazil 69
- Game had a ragged flow and was tough to follow in spots, probably due to a combined 52 fouls between the teams. But this is the type of game you expect from Greece, as they love to muck up the rhythm.

- Turned the pressure up in the 2nd quarter with extended pressure & traps. This looked like the Greece circa '06--causing havoc & turnovers (forced 15 TOs). Brazil was having a hell of a time trying to run their offense, and when they could get shots up, they were held to 42.5% shooting (5/19 3pts). Also, Greece had tremendous ball-pressure in the half-court all game--Diamantidis & Spanoulis were particularly dogged. The only thing wrong with Greece's defense--all the aggressive pressure led to 32 fouls.

- Antonis Fotsis continues his strong play this summer--18 pts on 7/11 & 10 rebs--and just magnifies how much Team Hellas missed him last summer on the offensive end. He hit some jumpers (2/5 3pts), hit the glass (10 rebs, 4 off) and finished at the rim---two plays in particular: a nice alley-oop from Papaloukas & a impressive follow-up slam in traffic.

- V. Spanoulis was his usual aggressive self on both ends of the floor--14 pts, 4 assts, & 2 stls. He was looking to attack off the dribble on offense & was ballhawk on the other.

- Wasn't just about Fotsis & Spanoulis, got good contributions down the rotation. Diamantidis & Papaloukas with their playmaking & defense, Zisis & Bouroussis with some scoring, Tsartsaris & Vasilopoulos with defense.

- T. Splitter was the best player for Brazil today with 20 pts on 7/12, 7 rebs & 2 blks. His footwork has gradually gotten better over the last few years, and has turned himself into a solid offensive player. The touch on his shot still needs work--kinda stiff arms the ball--but his hook shots are effective, used the hook well today. Also, was solid as usual on the defensive end.

- Though guards M. Huertas & A. Garcia had issues with the Greece pressure defense, they were able to draw fouls--Huertas was 9/10 on ft line, Garcia was 8/10. Brazil got to the line 44 times, but only got 30 to fall; Brazil's foul shooting has been a bugaboo in the past.

In other action
In a game a lot closer than expected Canada rallied to beat Korea 79-77 and advanced to play Croatia in the quarters. But the biggest storyline surrounding Team Canada on Wednesday was the departure of Sam Dalembert. The details are kinda spotty, but it sounds like Sammy had a falling out with Leo Rautins that was more than just Sammy's poor outing vs. Rasho.

Croatia handled Puerto Rico easier than expected, 95-81. Croatia once again got strong play from their deep & versatile backcourt. New Raptor Roko Ukic filled in for injured Zoran Planinic, and Croatia did not skip a beat--Ukic finished with 12 pts, 6 rebs, & 5 assts. SG/SF Marko Tomas had another strong game with 15 pts, while combo guard Davor Kus stayed solid with 15 of his own. Croatia was dealt a minor blow with Damir Markota suffering a knee injury that will sideline him for the rest of the competition. But do have N. Prkacin & Banic to step up on the frontline to cover for the loss of Damir.

Up next are the quarterfinals on Friday - here are the matchups:
- Greece vs. New Zealand
- Slovenia vs. Puerto Rico
- Germany vs. Brazil
- Croatia vs. Canada

Based on how things have gone to date, Greece and Croatia should be big favorites, with Germany and Slovenia being solid favorite. Puerto Rico is probably the underdog with the best shot of pulling off the upset.

The semifinals - when two Beijing spots will be clinched - are on Saturday, and the bracket matchup is in the order listed above: Greece would play Slovenia and Germany would play Croatia if form holds. Should be an intriguing weekend in Athens.

For more analysis, see our complete preview of the quarterfinals


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