Thursday, September 10, 2009

Eurobasket 2009: Day 3 Analysis (Turkey-Poland & Latvia-Germany)

GROUP D: Turkey 87, Poland 69

Had an NBA vibe with a ton of post-ups for both sides and straight pick/rolls, while the players off the ball didn't move much. Nowhere near the off-ball movement we've seen in other Euro games. And this game was heavily influenced by NBAers from the past (Lampe), present (Hedo, Gortat, Ilyasova), & future (O. Asik).

It was finally nice to watch a game where the flow was not destroyed by constant whistles. Only 29 fouls & 16 TOs between the teams. The 3rd quarter had great back-n-forth action that was augmented by a boisterous Polish crowd.

Turkey was able to build a comfortable cushion in the 4th thanks to Hedo banging long jumpers. Hedo hit two back-2-back 3pters midway thru the 4th that put the game out of reach, then knocked in a long 2-pointer a few minutes later. Hedo hit 3 of 8 on 3pters. to finish with 13 pts & 8 rebs. Hedo paired with Kerem Tunceri & Ender Arslan to run the Turkish offense with a steady hand.

Most of Omer Asik's 22 points were set up by his teammates. Did a nice job moving to the open spots or rolling, on which he did a great job finishing--Asik was 10 for 11 from the floor, 4-5 dunks. Omer (Bulls property) didn't have too many post-ups, but he did finish on a nice up/under move.

Once again, Ersan Ilyasova showed off his versatility & mismatch ability that should translate well to the NBA. Ilyasova hit a 3pt. off of pick/pop action with Hedo (something he would do with Navarro or Lakovic with Barcelona). He also hit another 3pt. off an iso situation with a ball fake, something he's shown a knack for in the past as well. Ilyasova scored put-backs on all of his 3 off. rebs. Ersan ended with 18 pts on 7/12 & 8 rebs.

Poland did not get much from its perimeter, and its main scoring option, David Logan, was bottled up by the strong defensive backcourt of Turkey. Poland made a concerted effort to pound the ball into the post, and it paid off well. Poland got a tremendous effort from its starting backline, Marcin Gortat & Maciej Lampe.

Maybe Marcin Gortat is more than just a defensive & rebounding presence. Looks like Marcin can show D-Howard a few things about post footwork. Marcin put on a clinic. That's right, Gortat put on an offensive clinic.

Marcin did most of his work on the left block, usually choosing to turn right shoulder. He had two quick baseline spin moves for reverse lay-ins, two turnaround jumpers, and a nice up/under step-thru into a scoop shot. Marcin even hit a 12-foot jumper coming up thru the lane off a baseline screen.

Wait, we're not done yet. Maybe Marcin's most impressive move came when he faced up from just below the right elbow and proceeded to drive into a spin move that he finished off with a lefty hook. Maybe this game was a one-off, but maybe Stan needs to add some Gortat plays to his Magic playbook.

Maciej Lampe showed off a skilled package today that makes you wonder if he needs a second shot at the NBA. Lampe owned the 3rd, scoring 11 of 14 pts in the quarter. Lampe did damage with his back-to-basket--scoring two righty hooks and a long jumper after he faced-up on an extended post-up. Lampe also drilled two 3pters. & grabbed 7 rebs.

Turkey has been one of the most impressive teams so far, polar opposite to the way they performed two years ago.


GROUP B: Latvia 68, Germany 62

I don't know if I've ever seen a team celebrate with more on-court jubilation after a six-point loss. Latvia won the game, but didn't win the game well enough. Latvia not only needed to win this game to avoid elimination, but needed to win by eight points to secure the tiebreaker. Germany unexpectedly gets to play on, Latvia goes home.

Latvia was up 11 pts with 20 seconds left, but could not close the deal. They let Germany execute a very quick pick/pop 3pt. to cut the lead to 8 pts with 15 secs left. (Why they didn't overplay and force everything inside the arc, not sure.) Then, Latvia's Ernests Kalve missed two free throws that could have pushed the lead back up to 10 pts. Then, Latvia inexplicably fouled Jagla on the rebound of Kalve's 2nd miss. Jagla hits both free throws to get the game to 68-62, and Latvia could not convert on their desperation shot.

Even though we had a suspenseful finish, this was another ugly Group B contest. The teams combined for 55 fouls & combined to shoot 38 for 102 (37%) from the field.

For the 2nd game in a row, Germany accumulated a boatload of fouls (30). But for the 2nd game in a row, they were fortuitous that the opposing team pooped the bed from the FT line--Latvia shot 19/38. Atrocious opponent's FT % is the overwhelming reason Germany is still alive.

Jan Jagla had another strong showing for Germany with 13 pts & 7 rebs, converting a few times off curls coming on downscreens. Jan's biggest 5 points came in the last 0:20 secs with the Germans down by 11 pts. First, Jagla hit a quick pick/pop 3pt. that cut the lead to 8 pts with 0:15. Then, Jagla got fouled rebounding the Kalve's missed FT. Jagla went to the FT line to bury two that cut the lead to six points.

Looked like '06 Worlds vintage Demond Greene out there, with him drilling jumpers all over the court. Demond got rolling the 2nd half, hitting off screens or spot-ups to score 11 of his 14 pts, including a shot-clock-beating banker 3pter. with 4 mins remaining.

Andris Biedrins & Kaspars Kambala did a good job drawing fouls, they just couldn't finish the deal at the line. The bigs combined for 7/16 from the FT line. Biedrins was 2 for 8, not a big surprise to G-State fans.

Latvia has to be the disappointment of the 1st Round. Latvia had a decent chance at a qualifying spot but they could never get on the same page. They arguably had the most talented half-court offense in Group B with solid interior options surrounded by a fleet of quick guards who could shoot.

Quick wrap-up of other Wednesday action:

Greece 106, Israel 80
--Greece rolls into the 2nd Round undefeated, while Israel leaves Poland without a victory. Even in a meaningless game, Greece's offense continued to impress. Primary playmaker Vasilis Spanoulis led the way with 18 pts & 5 assts, and kept his TOs down. Spanoulis' Panathinaikos teammate, Antonio Fotsis, had his outside stroke working, scoring all of 16 pts on four 3pts. Colossal PF Sofo Schortsanitis bulled his way to 16 pts, and most encouraging, he made his fts--8/9 on the line. The Greeks took the opportunity to sit their starting center, Giannis Bourousis. Israel got another strong game by uber-athletic forward Lior Eliyahu (Hou. Rockets hold rights). Eliyahu was superb with 21 (9/14), 8 rebs, & 4 assts. Lior was the top scorer in the 1st Round with 21 ppg.

Croatia 81, (FYR) Macedonia 71--After a poor 1st half, Croatia came out of the locker room to outscore Macedonia 47-23 in the 2nd half. Croatia shot 56% from the floor, and 21 of its 24 field goals were assisted. Croatia's combo of tall PGs, Roko Ukic & Zoran Planinic, combined for 13 assts. Croatia got solid effort from their deep frontcourt rotation. Nikola Vujcic pitched in wih 12 pts & Marko Banic 11 pts. Ex-Kansas St. forward Jeremiah Massey paced Macedonia with 12 & 10 rebs. Grizzled vet PG Vrbica Stefanov played his usual steady floor game with 12 pts & 5 assts. Both teams advance to the next round.

France 69, Russia 64
--France sweeps thru the weakest group with another less-than-impressive win. Hey what do you know, Boris Diaw decided to show up today. Boris had himself a great all-around game with 19 pts (9/12 fga), 7 rebs & 7 assts. Now expect a no-show in the next game from Diaw. Tender Ronny Turiaf dominated the interior with 18 pts & 14 rebs. Tony Parker had an uneven game with 17 pts, 4 assts, 4 stls, but 5 TOs. France still had issues shooting either from the perimeter or on the foul line. They were 4/15 from deep & 15/28 on free throws. France glossed over these negatives by grabbing 15 off. rebs to Russia's 15 def. rebs. Wing Kelly McCarty led Russia with 13 pts. Big PG Anton Ponkrahov had another solid floor game with 8 assts & 7 pts. Russia will take a 0-2 record into the 2nd Round because their win over Latvia is wiped off the books.

Spain 90, Slovenia 84 (OT)
--In one of the most anticipated games of the 1st Round, Spain held off Slovenia in OT. Should have a more detailed analysis of this game Thursday later in the day.

Serbia 77, Great Britain 59--Serbia ended Britain's Eurobasket campaign. Serbia got nice contributions up & down its deep roster. Nenad Krstic & combo guard Milenko Tepic led the Serbs with 17 pts each. Lefty PG Nate Reinking tried to keep the Brits close with his perimeter touch--4/5 on 3pts, 21 pts overall. High-flying Pops Mensah-Bonsu helped with 16 pts. Britain will have to wait to see if a wild-card berth to the World Championship is awarded. A longshot, but FIBA might want the next Olympic host country to get some major competition experience under its belt before the Games.

Lithuania 84, Bulgaria 69
--Lithuania picked up its 1st victory after looking out of sync in their first two games. This game was a little closer than the score would indicate. Lithuania pulled away in the 4th to end Bulgaria's Euro '09 run. Ksystof Lavrinovic was big for the Green Team with 16 pts, 6 rebs, & 4 assts. Ksystof's eight points in the last 5 mins were key to Lithuania's 18-5 run to end the game. Bruising big Marijonas Petravicius continued to be a physical interior presence with drawn fouls (8/9 fts) & 8 rebs. Former Nug Linas Kleiza brought 10 & 7 rebs to the mix. Bulgaria shot just 34% from the floor, but were able to stay close because they crushed the offensive glass--22 off. rebs. The Ivanov twins combined for 9 off. rebs & former UNC Tarheel Vassil Evtimov hauled in 5 off. rebs, 13 total. Bulgaria's offense was led by its dynamic scoring perimeter. Explosive PG Earl Rowland dropped 18 pts on 7/14 shooting, while wily wing Todor Stoykov scored 16 pts. Lith takes a 0-2 record into the 2nd round.