Saturday, September 19, 2009

Eurobasket 2009: Semis Recap & Finals Mini-Preview

Semifinals: Serbia 96, Slovenia 92

PG Milos Teodosic's (Olympiakos) clutch shooting down the stretch propelled Serbia past its Balkan neighbor, Slovenia, in overtime.

Teodosic scored 24 of his 32 pts in the 4th & OT. He buried five of his six 3pt. attempts in the final 15 minutes. His biggest 3pt. came with 0:22 left in regulation, which eventually forced OT. Teodosic hit another clutch 3pt. in OT with 0:25 left to give Serbia a 92-88 lead.

Teodosic cooly ran the Serbian offense all game, using the pick/roll to feed his friends or attack the rim for lay-ups and drawing fouls. Milos hit 10 of 13 free throws, including seven in the last 15 minutes.

Slovenia could not hold a 10-point halftime lead. Two factors for Serbia making up ground in the 2nd half were increased intensity on the defensive end and on the boards.

Serbia really flung its bodies at the offensive glass (seemed like all five guys were crashing) and outrebounded Slovenia 24 to 16 in the last 25 minutes. Serbia grabbed 9 off. boards to Slovenia's 11 def. boards.

Was this increased intensity due to a day of rest for Serbia? Can't say, but it's something for FIBA Europe to consider next time they set up the cockeyed Eurobasket schedule.

Don't want to make excuses for Slovenia, but have to take into account they had to play on Friday while Serbia had the day off. Also, Slovenia possibly could have protected Erazem Lorbek better from fouling out if they'd had Matjaz Smodis available.

A lot of stop & start action thanks to a combined 72 fouls whistled. That is a ton for 45 minutes of action. A huge chunk of points came at the FT line for both teams--Slovenia made 40-of-49, Serbia 32-of-39. Just too much incidental contact called away from the painted area; this could be the overriding theme from this Eurobasket.

Serbia went with post-ups for N. Velickovic or N. Krstic almost exclusively in overtime. It was a great strategy because Serbia often scored points by moving the ball out of the post-up. Krstic scored on two put-backs in a row off missed tries by Novica Velickovic on post-ups to start the OT.

The Serbian center tandem of Nenad Krstic and Kosta Perovic was huge to the Serbian cause, with 18 pts. each. Anytime Perovic touched the ball he either converted a bucket (4 for 5) or made his way to the foul line (10 for 13 fts). Krstic scored on turnaround jumpers, up/under moves, short lay-ins, and put-backs. Nenad's 18 pts came on 8 of 12 shooting and he had 6 rebs (3 off).

Combo guard Milenko Tepic's activity paid off big for Serbia, to the tune of 11 pts, 6 rebs (3 off), & 3 stls. Tepic drove the ball to the basket hard and teammed with backcourt mate Stefan Markovic to crash the offensive glass in the 2nd half.

Erazem Lorbek did everything he could for Slovenia, with a killer stat line of 25 pts on 7-of-11, 10-for-10 on FTs, 10 rebs (3 off), & 3 stls. He did all this in only 28 minutes because of foul trouble. Only Pau Gasol has been better than Erazem in this tourney. Lorbek again used his fake spin moves effectively for a few scores and scored off baselines spin moves a few times.

Domen Lorbek put up 22 pts by burying four 3pters. and mixing a handful of strong drives to the rim. For the second game in row, Boci Nachbar found a way for defenders to hit him--Boci scored 13 of his 18 pts at the FT line.

SF Goran Jagodnik only played limited minutes, but he gave Slovenia a huge jolt by scoring all of his eight points in a two-minute stretch late in the 4th quarter. Goran had a put-back and two 3pt. makes, including an improbable off-balance corner fling with a hand in his face that gave Slovenia a 78-72 lead with a 1:45 left in the 4th.

A lot of what-ifs for Slovenia. Have to imagine if Goran Dragic & Matjaz Smodis had been healthy, this game might have had a different outcome. Don't forget injuries robbed Slovenia of guys like Beno Udrih, Sasha Vujacic, & Sani Becirovic as well. If Slovenia can get all their main guys healthy at the same time, they can be a serious contender next summer.


Semifinals: Spain 82, Greece 64

Just like vs. France, Spain cruised to victory thanks to an active, scrambling defense that forced bad passes and shut down the opposition's best scorer. Spain used this pressure to spark its transition game. Spain continued to frustrate the Greeks in the 2nd half, and eventually put this game away by the end of the 3rd quarter.

Spain's defensive gameplan was the same as in the France game. The backline was essentially zoning up and when the Greek ballhandlers neared the rim, Spain sent extra bodies. This forced passes back out, which the Spanish perimeter players were waiting to pounce on. Spain had 12 steals, one less than vs. France.

Vasilis Spanoulis was bottled up similar to the way Tony Parker was the day before. Spanoulis was held to only seven points and, most important, was kept off the FT line, where he piles up points. Spanoulis (6 TOs) tried to get to the rim but was usually shut down, which forced him to makes passes against the grain.

Even though Spain got owned on the boards, 47 to 29, they were able to compensate by holding the Greece to 36% shooting and forcing 20 Greek TOs.

Greece was able to stick around in the 1st half strictly because of its rebounding. Like they did vs. Turkey, Greece pounded the offensive glass in the 1st half with 13 off. boards to only 8 def. boards by Spain. Greece ended up the game with 24 off. rebs to 20 def. rebs for Spain.

Pau Gasol was too much for Greece to handle, scoring inside and out. Pau wasn't quite as dominant as yesterday but was still pretty damn efficient, scoring 18 pts on 6-of-8. Rudy Fernandez was a bundle of activity again, flying around on both ends of the floor. Rudy finished with 14 pts and broke on bad Greek passes like a cornerback, coming up with 3 stls.

Sergio Llull and Alex Mumbru came off the Spanish bench to provide a spark. The speedy Llull scored most of his nine pts finishing in transition, while Mumbru got his nine pts thanks to a couple 3pt. makes.

A quick look at the Eurobasket Final on Sunday:

Spain vs. Serbia

Spain returns to the Eurobasket final hoping to exorcise the demons from two years ago. Spain will not only be looking for redemption for their failures from the last Eurobasket, but also will be looking to payback Serbia for the beatdown they gave Spain at the start of group play.

Serbia totally outplayed the Spaniards in the opening-day game, controlling the game from the start. Serbia played with purpose and tenacity, while Spain looked disinterested.

Not many figured the Serbs would get this far, just getting into the quarters and grabbing a qualifying spot was more of a realistic goal. But this young nucleus has been playing dogged defense one doesn't normally equate with Serbian basketball. They have a deep roster that should have no problems playing back-to-back games.

The bad news for Serbia is Spain currently looks like a polar opposite to the team Serbia played almost two weeks ago. They've turned up the defensive pressure the last four games, which in turn, ignites their transition game. Spain just shut down two of the best PGs in this tourney the last two games, so I have my doubts Teodosic can fare better than Parker or Spanoulis. Spain should finally take home a Eurobasket Gold Medal, it's just happening two years late.


At 6:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Serbia almost exclusively went with post-ups for N. Velickovic or N. Krstic in overtime"

This strategy wasn't "great", it was the only rational one. Lorbek was fouled-out and Brezec having 4 fouls.

My team (slovenians) lost control of the game in the 3rd Q. The reason was not having backup PG. We didn't pressure their guards enough, Theodosic looked fresh to me in OT?!?

Dragić injury is totally killing us.

I am totally empty emotionally, no way we can beet Greece:(

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