Friday, September 18, 2009

Eurobasket 2009: Quarterfinals Recap (Greece-Turkey & Slovenia-Croatia)

Quarterfinals (Friday): Greece 76, Turkey 74 (OT)

I guess Greece doesn't need Theo & Dimis around to pull off a dramatic win in a playoff game. After a ragged first half, we were treated to exciting back-n-forth action in the 2nd half. Both teams traded off big play after big play down the stretch.

Greece took advantage of subpar offensive nights from Turkey's top players, Hedo & Ilyasova. Though, Greece did everything it could to give the game away down the stretch with a flurry of careless TOs--four TOs in OT.

Lately it seems all Vasilis Spanoulis does is hit clutch 3-pointers. Spanoulis was a force with the ball in his hands, scoring 23 pts, dishing out 7 assts, and drilling six of nine 3pt. attempts. Spanoulis hit two very deep 3pters, particularly a 30-footer to beat the shot clock with 1:20 left in OT to give Greece a 75-69 lead.

Also, Spanoulis was a major factor with his drive-n-dish game, especially late in the 4th, when he set up a Nikos Zisis 3pt. make and set up a G. Printezis 3pt. make to give Greece a 2-point lead with 0:35 left in the 4th. SG Zisis helped his backcourt mate by drawing fouls (6-for-8 fts) and hitting a few 3pters. to finish with 14 pts & 7 rebs. Though, both Spanoulis and Zisis nearly derailed all their positives with a combined 11 TOs (Spanoulis had seven, Zisis had four).

Greece was not too succesful on its initial offensive possessions, often clanking shots, especially in the 1st half. Greece was able to stick around in the 1st half by dominating the glass--outrebounded Turkey 25 to 11 (11 off. boards to Turkey's nine def. boards)

For the game, Greece wrecked Turkey on the boards 47 to 28. Greece hauled down 17 off. boards to Turkey's 19 def. boards. Greece somewhat neutralized their impressive off. rebound performance by turning the ball over 19 times, seven in the last 15 minutes.

Antonis Fotsis was again off on his shot, but he did a great job sneaking in for offensive rebounds. Fotsis pitched in with 11 pts and 13 rebs (5 off.) and played solid defense on Ilyasova. Giannis Bourousis had an off shooting day (5-for-14) but helped Fotsis on the offensive glass with five off. boards, most coming in the 1st half. Big Sofo Schortsanitis was successful carving out space inside, often leading to FTs (5-for-8). Sofo helped on the boards with 6 rebs (3 off.), but continued to have issues with TOs (four).

Turkey mixed things up in crunch time by choosing to put the ball in PG Ender Arslan's hands instead of Hedo's. It was a good call (at least in regulation). With Turkey down 65-63, Arslan got the switch in the pick/roll and drove by Fotsis for a scoop lay-in to beat the buzzer to send the game into overtime. Arslan was given a chance to win the game in OT but his last second 3pt. was off the mark.

Hedo Turkoglu was a total non-factor for most of the game, going scoreless in the first three quarters. Then Hedo found his groove just in time to help Turkey push Greece to the limit. Hedo scored all of his 13 points in the 4th & OT. Hedo got rolling midway thru the 4th, starting his scoring with a put-back dunk in transition. Hedo added an a long 2-pt. off isolation, then on the next possession, hit a pull-up 3pter. Hedo hit another big 3pter. off isolation and a big drive in OT. But Hedo sprinkled in some forced plays down the stretch that hurt his team, including a rushed jumper with 0:15 left in OT with Turkey down 75-74.

Turkish SG Omer Onan was the one Turkish player who was consistent throughout the game. Onan's 13 pts came on three 3pters. and two floaters in the lane. Ersan Ilyasova never could get into any kind of rhythm offensively, but found other ways to contribute with 7 rebs, 3 stls & 3 blks.

Omer Asik (Bulls property) did a nice job finishing early in the game (9 pts on 4/6), but he continued to be a major liability at the free throw line--1-for-6 today, currently shooting 8-for-36 for Eurobasket. Missed two big FTs (one was an airball) with just over a minute in regulation that could have put Turkey up by four points. Turkey had to pull Asik from the game in the last minute of regulation and all of overtime.

Greece's celebration will be short-lived because they have to turn around and play Spain on Saturday. Last time that Greece and Spain met in a Eurobasket semis two years ago, it was a classic.

In the classification bracket, the schedule really works in France's favor, with Turkey having to play roughly 16 hours after this OT loss. France also benefits from Turkey not really having anything to play for besides maybe seeding for next year's Worlds.


Quarterfinals (Friday): Slovenia 67, Croatia 65

Slovenia advanced to its first Eurobasket semifinal ever by shutting down the Croatian offense in the 2nd half. Croatia was held to 18 points on 7-for-27 shooting in the 2nd half.

Croatia was playing fluid ball early, hitting 10-of-15 in the 1st quarter to go up 25-18. Croatia kept up the sharp play on offense into the 2nd quarter and ended the half with 47 pts on 60% shooting. Croatia's ball movement in the first half might have been the best I've seen from them in the tourney.

Then apparently another Croatian team came out of the locker room after halftime. Croatia's offense had one of its all-time worst quarters, scoring just three points in the 3rd. Croatia was stuck on 50 pts for nearly nine minutes in the 2nd half. Kind of been a theme for Croatia in this tourney, where they look like two different teams in the course of one game.

A mental lapse by Croatia's Marko Popovic had a hand in swinging the momentum of this game. Croatia appeared to be taking a 13 to 15 pt. cushion into the halftime break. They were up 15 with 30 secs left in the half, then they allowed Slovenia to score seven points in 15 secs. Popovic picked up a tech foul after a timeout that gave Slovenia two free throws and the ball. With the last possession of the half, Domen Lorbek beat the buzzer with a 3-pointer.

If it wasn't for Pau Gasol, Erazem Lorbek would be the most dominant big in this tourney. Like Pau did against France, Erazem put on a big-man skills clinic vs. Croatia with 27 pts on 8-of-11, 8 rebs, 3 stls, & 2-for-2 on 3pts.

Lorbek scored in a variety of ways: turnaround banker, turnaround with a fake spin, righty hook, lefty hook, & a few long jumpers. His most impressive move came when he drove the ball from the high post than froze his defender with a fake spin then spun back for a lay-in. Second time in the game he utilized a fake spin effectively.

Boci Nachbar's 12 pts mostly came at the FT line (7-for-8). Though, Nachbar's biggest play sealed the victory for Slovenia. Boci grabbed an offensive rebound and quickly turned into a baseline 15-footer that just beat the shot clock giving Slovenia a 67-62 lead with 0:05 left.

Roko Ukic was the best Croatian player on the floor, causing serious damage with his dribble. Ukic sparked Croatia's hot start with 12 pts in the 1st Q. Ukic hit a variety of runners/floaters in the lane and banged home three 3pters. for a total of 21 pts, 5 assts, & 4 stls. Thought Ukic's length gave Lakovic trouble on both ends of the floor.

Slovenia meets up with Serbia for the second time in this tourney in the semis. Slovenia beat Serbia 80-69 in Group C play, and have to believe Slovenia is the slight fave on Saturday. Serbia did get to rest on Friday and they spread their minutes around, so they should be the fresher team.

Croatia heads to the 5th-8th classification bracket where they play Russia with a 2010 qualification spot on the line. Bad news for Croatia is they only get about 16 hours of rest, while Russia had Friday off.