Eurobasket 2009: Day 2 Recap (Greece-Croatia & Germany-Russia)
GROUP A: Greece 76, Croatia 68
In a battle of Group A heavyweights (and medal contenders), Greece's near-flawless 1st half offensive execution was too much for Croatia to handle. Greece scored 52 points in the first 20 minutes on 76% shooting.
The Greek offensive spacing was superb, with the wings staying wide and lots of weaving action up high in the 1st half. Lots of motion which made it hard for Croatia to get to shooters.
But the Greeks slowed considerably in the 2nd half, particularly in the 4th quarter, when they only managed 11 pts--sloppy 4th quarter with too many fouls & TOs. Croatia chipped back into the game in the 2nd half by getting out in transition and getting to the free throw line.
Even with the sharp offensive execution by the Greeks, this game was tough to enjoy. Like the Lith-Turkey game from the night before, we had another Eurobasket game marred by too many whistles--a combined 49 fouls.
Olympiakos' Giannis Bourousis showed why he's one of the top centers outside the NBA with 19 pts & 8 rebs. The 7-foot Bourousis was pure in the 1st half, burying two 3pts. & a long jumper off the dribble. The big Greek scored 17 of 19 in the half on a perfect 7/7 shooting. Giannis Bourousis even added an emphatic dunk over Kasun off a roll that drew a foul.
Vasilis Spanoulis, always a better long shooter when he can get a little dribble into his shot, buried a key 3pt. off an iso up high to seal the victory. Spanoulis sliced into the lane for some points (11 pts), but never got consistent deep penetration, and still struggled trying to force passes (5 TOs).
Greek SF Strat Perperoglou knocked down some 3pts. for 10 pts, and Utah's Kostas Koufos added 10 pts on short shots mostly in the 1st half.
Roko Ukic was the lone bright spot for Croatia's offense in the 1st half, hitting a variety of runners. Ukic couldn't connect with his jumper (no surprise), but he did lead all Croatia scorers with 15 pts.
Olympiakos vet center Nikola Vujcic helped Croatia make a late run with nine pts in the 4th quarter. Vujcic drew fouls (6/8 fts) & knocked down a 3pt. to cut the Greek lead to 6 pts with 2:00 left. Vujcic ended with 13 pts.
With the win, Greece is through to the 2nd round. Greece plays Israel on Wednesday in a truly meaningless game because Israel can't advance with a win, so a Greece loss doesn't carry over to the next round.
GROUP B: Germany 76, Russia 73
Wasn't expecting an aesthetically pleasing game, and pretty much got what I expected. A battle of teams without dynamic scoring options ended with both teams combining to hit 35% of the shots attempted for the game.
Combine this putrid shooting with 60 fouls combined, and you have a recipe for another Eurobasket contest that was tough to follow. If there is one overriding theme in the first few days: way too many whistles. Doesn't make for a memorable viewing experience.
Russia sunk its chances by failing to capitalize on these aforementioned whistles. Russia went to the line 49 times, but only made 28.
Germany controlled the 1st half, but let Russia stay within reasonable striking distance by putting the Russians on the free throw line 28 times. Russia made a run in the 3rd in which they pieced together a few positive offensive possessions and Germany helped with poor shot selection.
As usual, Russian Head Coach David Blatt mixed up his defensive looks, which was successful in the 2nd half. We saw some extended pressure on occasion and some off-kilter zone alignment with man principles.
The always-active Jan Jagla led the German squad with 19 pts, 11 reb, & 2 blks. Jagla, known for his off. boarding, grabbed 7 off. rebs, including a big off. board that drew a foul with 3:00 left. Jan Jagla has always been valuable as a live body who crashes the glass. He's just always been in the unfortunate situation of playing the same position as Dirk.
Germany got good play from its combo of speedy PGs. Veteran starter Stefann Hamann attacked the painted area and dished some sweet passes. Could have had more than 4 assts if only his teammates could finish a little better.
Reserve PG Heiko Schaffartzik scored 10 of his 13 pts in the 1st quarter thanks to two pull-up 3pts. (his speciality). Heiko only made one basket after the 1st quarter, but it was a clutch 3pt. to give Germany a 71-67 lead with 1:45 left. Though, maybe his biggest play came when he soared to secure his own missed jumper with 0:12 left, which gave Germany another possession. Schaffartzik's cleverness with the dribble & lateral quickness helped him set up 4 assts.
Russia's PG play was too bad either. PG Sergey Bykov was key to Russia chipping into Germany's 14-point halftime lead. Bykov scored Russia's first eight points of the 3rd. Sergey mixed some stellar drives with a few jumpers to score all of his 11 pts in the 3rd. But Bykov was the primary culprit of Russia's foul shooting nightmare--Bykov shot 3/11.
Big PG Anton Ponkrashov did a solid job off the dribble and was the one reliable free throw shooter--made 8/9 fts to end with 12 pts. Naturalized Russian Kelly McCarthy's athleticism helped him draw fouls (7/10 FTs) and bust up passing lanes (4 stls).
The good news for Russia is that they've qualified for the 2nd round with Latvia's loss to France. The last 2nd Round spot out of Group B will be determined by the outcome of the Germany-Latvia game. If Germany wins, they're on to the next round. They can actually afford a loss, as long as it's by less than 9 points. But that scenario is contingent on Russia losing to France. If Russia beats France, then whoever wins the Germany-Latvia game outright goes to 2nd round.
Also on The Painted Area today:
Hall of Fame '09: Was The Admiral in The Big O's Class