Eurobasket 2009: Qualifying Round Monday
GROUP F: Spain 84, Lithuania 70
Spain officially slammed the door shut on Lithuania's Eurobasket run by outscoring the Lithuanians 49-19 in the middle quarters.
The turning point came early in the 2nd quarter when Spain went on 23-0 run to start the quarter. Lithuania went scoreless over the first 7 minutes and only produced eight points in the quarter.
After scoring 24 pts in the 1st quarter, Lithuania could only generate a total of 19 points over the next two quarters. Things started off very promising in the 1st quarter, with Lithuania making nine of 15 from the field.
Then, Spain really turned on the defensive pressure after the 1st quarter and the Lithuanians wilted. Spain scrambled in the half-court to contest/change shots and extended pressure up the floor that produced turnovers.
Lithuania has always been vulnerable to aggressive ball pressure (even with Jasikevicius around), and struggled mightily handling the dogged Espana defense. Lithuania coughed the ball up 19 times vs Spain, and now lead the tournament in turnovers with over 15 per game.
Active hands for the Spanish led to 12 steals. The steals were not just thefts in passing lanes, 4-5 of the steals came on strips right out of the ball-handlers' hands.
Pau Gasol led the Spanish assault with 19 pts, 8 rebs, & 3 blks. Pau ignited the 2nd quarter explosion with two straight strong finishes in transition. Spain was able to get Pau great looks near the rim, he rarely missed (8/10) and he usually ended these touches with dunks.
Easily the best ball movement from the Spaniards in the tourney--25 of their 31 field goals were assisted. Rubio had been pretty quiet for much of Euro '09, but you could tell the revved-up pace of the game got him flowing. Ricky (9 assts) pushed the ball ahead well and smothered the opposing guards. FIBA doesn't officially chart fast-break points, but I'd imagine Spain had one of the top transition scoring days of the tourney.
Rudy Fernandez joined Rubio in creating chaos on both ends of the floor with quick hands (3 stls) and attacking on offense (11 pts). Jorge Garbajosa dropped two 3pters. in transition and ended with 10 pts & 4 assts. Juan Navarro did most of his damage on jumpers--3/6 on 3pts. for 13 pts.
The normally sweet-shooting Lithuanians had another rough outing behind the arc--6/23 on 3pts. Lithuania's 30% shooting from 3pt. range for Euro '09 has been a key factor to their lackluster play. Not sure there has been national team in the last decade or so who thrived on perimeter shooting more than Lithuania.
Lithuania came into this tournament with serious question marks about the makeup of the backcourt. And the underwhelming backcourt play was the main reason for their failures. Some are blaming the coach or the inconsistent play of the frontline. Sure, they deserve a small part of the blame, but remember this same coach was here when Lithuania earned a Bronze at Euro '07 & a 4th-place finish at the '08 Olympics. This summer's frontcourt is pretty much the same as the previous two summers. You know what is different this summer compared to '07 & '08? Take a guess.
Lithuania could never get into a consistent groove on the offensive end like they do when Saras is orchestrating. The typical quick ball movement and quality shot selection was sporadic. Taking too long to get into their offensive sets was a constant problem. Players were not getting the ball on time and on target. Couldn't drain the deep ball like they normally have in the past.
Lithuanian fans shouldn't be despondent for too long because their squad should be a lock for a wild-card berth for the 2010 Worlds. But Lithuania's first priority must be to develop a point guard in the near future because Saras is close to shutting it down.
Actually, Spain (2-2) isn't quite out of the woods just yet. If they lose to Poland on Wednesday, they are done. Doesn't matter what happens in the Serbia-Lithuania game because Spain would lose the tiebreaker as of right now. If Spain wins, they're in & could be seeded anywhere from 2nd to 4th in Group F.
GROUP F: Slovenia 76, Poland 60
Slovenia rolled to a decisive win that puts Poland's 2010 Worlds qualifying chances in serious jeopardy. Slovenia continues to impress with its array of weapons on offense.
Much like the Spain-Lithuania game, Slovenia blew this game open in the middle section. Slovenia outscored Poland 42-23 in the middle quarters. Was never much of a contest in the 2nd half.
Poland had a decent offensive groove working in the first quarter and was getting the crowd behind them. But after a 17-point 1st quarter, Poland could only muster 23 pts over the next two quarters. Poland just went ice cold, clanging one shot after the next.
Slovenia made sure the ball was in Erazem Lorbek's hands often and it paid off well. Lorbek showed off his multi-skilled arsenal, scoring on the blocks with a hook, turnaround jumper, & a face-up jumper. Lorbek stepped outside to hit two pick/pop 3pt. jumpers. He also did a nice job passing from the high & low post. Lorbek had a mighty fine stat line--20 pts (7/14), 9 rebs, 5 assts, & two 3pters.
Slovenia's Primo Brezec hit two long 2-pointers up high and did a nice job flashing from the weakside for some easy scores on his way to 12 pts on 6/7. PG Jaka Lakovic kept up his strong Euro '09 campaign with 14 pts, 6 assts, 4 rebs, & 3 stls. Lakovic set up his bigs well on pick/pop and continued his sharp shooting with three deep balls (Jaka's 18/35 from 3pt. in the tournament).
Poland could never get its bigs going: Marcin Gortat & Maciej Lampe only managed 6 pts apiece. Gortat was a strong interior presence on the boards (10 rebs) & defensively (3 blks), but just couldn't connect on any type of shot. Gortat must have botched 2-3 lay-ins by simply fumbling the ball.
Tried to get Lampe going on the blocks but he was off-the-mark all game (1/7 overall). SG David Logan gave a little life to the Polish attack with 15 pts coming from three tough 3pts. and a handful of drives. Szymon Szewczyk (15 pts & 7 rebs) gave the Poles an early lift scoring on put-backs, in transition, jumpers, and even a soaring slam on the baseline in the half-court.
No worries for Slovenia (3-1) for the quarters, besides seeding . Been very impressed with Slovenia and like them to squeak by Turkey on Wednesday. If they beat Turkey, they win Group F and grab a #1 seed. It's do-or-die for Poland on Wednesday vs. Spain. It will be a tall task to take out the Spaniards, but they do have the home crowd.
GROUP F: Turkey 69, Serbia 64 (OT): Turkey kept its undefeated record alive by outlasting the Serbs in overtime. Ragged game where both teams shot less than 40% from the floor and a total of 52 fouls were whistled. The Turks made things hard on themselves by shooting 18/31 at the FT line. The Bucks must be giddy with the way Ersan Ilyasova has ripped it up this summer. Ersan carried the Turks today with 22 pts, 11 rebs & 2 blks. Ersan was damn efficient with a 7/12 shooting day and smoked the ball from long range--4/6 on 3pts. Ersan's stellar play covered for a miserable night by Hedo. Hedo did contribute with 7 rebs & 4 stls, but his awful 1/16 shooting day wasn't helpful. Omer Asik should be commended for his 11 pts on 5/6 & 6 rebs day. But Omer nearly single-handedly submarined his squad's chances with a 1/10 day at the FT line. Serbia's offense was a disaster--combining 31% shooting with 18 TOs is never advisable. PG Milos Teodosic had one of his finer national-team games with 16 pts, 8 assts & 6 rebs. Milos and Novica Velickovic each drained three 3pters for the Serbs. OK City's Nenad Krstic managed to add 11 pts & 7 rebs, but also had 4 TOs. Serbia (2-2) can shake this loss off quickly because they're qualified for the quarterfinals no matter what happens in their game on Wednesday. Serbia is just playing for seeding purposes like Turkey. Turkey (4-0) plays Slovenia to determine the winner & #1 seed of Group F.