Eurobasket 2009: Qualifying Round Friday
Greece 84, Germany 76
Greece withstood a late push by the feisty Germans and qualified for the quarterfinals with the win. Germany stayed within striking distance the whole game, and made things kinda interesting in the end. But Spanoulis & his crew wore down the Germans with their superior talent in the end.
Once again, Germany was fortunate b/c of a poor foul shooting day from its opponent. Greece's 18/29 free throw shooting day was a key in Germany staying close, particularly in the 1st half, in which the Germans only shot 38%. Though, in the 2nd half, Germany played some of its finest offensive ball of the tourney by shooting 60% from the floor.
Vasilis Spanoulis was a terror running the pick/roll all game. Relentlessly attacked the rim going to his right or left to finish or draw fouls. Scored most of his 20 points on lay-ins/runners or at the free throw line (7/9). Made some great feeds (7 assts) to his friends when darting into the lane. Even when Germany made the sound decisions to go under screens, Spanoulis found creases to get to the rim. Spanoulis banged home a back-breaking pull-up 3pt. off a pick/roll with 2 mins. remaining.
Sofo Schortsanitis got deep post position all game, and when he's got you pinned by his massive flank cakes, your best bet is to foul. The deep position allowed for some easy scores (14 pts on 5/8), including a drop-step dunk that nearly took the stanchion down. Sofo added a nice righty hook late in the 4th that helped hold off a German rally. Still an adventure when Big Sofo goes to the FT line--4/8 today.
Antonio Fotsis scored his 12 pts on two 3pt. makes & two leak-out dunks. Nikos Zisis (12 pts) did a nice job hitting a few mid-range pull-ups and was effective curling off weakside screens to score or set up teammates.
The Germans got a great lift in the 4th from its young guns, Heiko Schaffartzik & Robin Benzing. Benzing dropped 11 pts in the last stanza, while Heiko hit for 10 pts.
Germany's Heiko Schaffartzik's speciality is to drill pull-up jumpers coming off ball screens. Heiko was downright dead perfect vs. Greece, hitting all of eight shot attempts, five of which came behind the arc. Most of the his 23 pts came off of pull-ups. Why this cat wasn't getting Pascal Roller's minutes the last few years is a mystery.
6-10 Robin Benzing helped out Heiko with some clever dribble-drives that led to lay-ins or drawn fouls. Benzing dropped 16 pts on 5/8 shooting & 5/5 fts.
Germany has been able to stay competitive in all three losses, which is an accomplishment considering its humble roster. The Germans (1-2) face Macedonia (0-3) on Sunday in what is a must-win game. Greece (3-0) squares off vs. Russia.
Russia 62, Croatia 59
The Russians pulled off a mild upset by hanging on for an ugly 3-point win over Croatia. Croatia's Davor Kus's desperation 3pt. heave was off-line, preserving a crucial win for Russia that greatly increases its chances of a berth in the quarterfinals.
Croatia has one of the deeper rosters in the Euro field and just hasn't figured out how to put it all together. Even in its two wins, Croatia has struggled to put away clearly inferior competition. Maybe the loss of Marko Tomas is taking a bigger toll than expected.
Croatia shot just 34% overall vs Russia. The typically strong Russian defense needs a chunk of the credit for the poor numbers. But it was also a case of Croatia just missing shots. Croatia missed a bunch of open short jumpers/runners, many rimming out.
Tight game throughout, but that did not mean the game was a joy to watch. Watching the first three quarters was a painful viewing experience. Sorry to say that this seems to be a recurring pattern at this year's Eurobasket.
Russian 7-footer Timo Mozgov was a finishing machine (had 4-5 dunks) mostly off rolls or put-backs. Worked the pick/roll effectively with Sergey Bykov. Hit a big 10-foot jumper with 2:00 after flashing across the lane while Bykov penetrated. Changed shots on defense and inadvertently helped his team by knocking Mario Kasun out of the game with a swinging elbow.
PG Sergey Bykov did a nice job penetrating off ball screens either for a few runners or dropping off passes (mostly to Mozgov). But for as many good plays executed by Bykov, he counteracted them by trying to force passes thru traffic (5 TOs). Just couldn't understand some of the passes he was trying to make.
Russia lucked out in that Nikola Vujcic had an awful day after scoring double figures in each 1st round game. Nikola just couldn't get anything to fall--1/10 from the floor. Vujcic missed 4-5 running jumpers, and missed a key free throw that could have tied the game with 15 secs left.
Zoran Planinic continued to do a solid job probing the lane to set up his teammates--they just did not convert all that well today. Zoran actually hit his jumper (2/3 3pt.) for 12 pts. The frontline combo of Mario Kasun (13 pts) & Marko Banic (11 pts) did most of their damage finishing off close shots or scoring off put-backs.
Croatia was able to stay close on a bad shooting night thanks to attacking the offensive glass, something that's their strength. Hauled down 15 off. rebs thanks mostly to Banic & Kasun, who had four each.
Up next for Russia (1-2) is a tough test vs. Greece. Longshot for a win, so they will need to take care of business vs. Macedonia. The underachieving Croatians have very little time to regroup with France on tap for Sunday. They have a shot against France if they can get their drive-n-kick game working. Need to start bombing from deep more, that's what made them effective last summer.
Other Group E action on Friday:
France 83, (FYR) Macedonia 57: France finally pieced together an impressive offensive showing in its clobbering of Macedonia. Les Bleus put 83 pts on the board while shooting a sizzling 60%. Maybe most encouraging, the Frenchies hit some outside shots--8/12 from long-range. SA Spur draftee Nando De Colo has been the lone consistent outside threat this summer, and he was key today with 3/5 on 3pt. shots. De Colo & Florent Pietrus both scored 14 pts, while Tony Parker, Nic Batum, Ali Traore all hit for 13 pts. With this win, France qualifies for the quarterfinal round, and are one step away from qualifying for the 2010 Worlds.