Tuesday, August 31, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: Day 4 Analysis (Spain-Lithuania, Turkey-Greece)

GROUP D: Lithuania 76, Spain 73

If Spain is waiting to turn it on, it may be too late. Spain had a disastrous 4th quarter that was reminiscent of its 4th-quarter collapse in the 2007 EuroBasket final vs. Russia. Now, Spain is looking at a 3rd-place finish in Group D, which would put them in line to play Greece in the Round of 16 and the U.S. in the quarterfinals--a matchup that would be reminiscent of the USA-Yugoslavia quarter from the 2002 Worlds: the two best teams on paper playing, with one team going home medal-less.

Lithuania thoroughly outplayed Spain in the 4th. Spain was outscored 23-9 in the final frame and they committed seven TOs. Marc Gasol replicated his brother Pau's poor play in the 4th quarter of the '07 Euro final by missing three crucial FTs and coughing up two TOs in the last 6:00.

The offensive glass battle, in which Lithuania grabbed 14 off. to Spain's 23 defensive boards, might have tipped the game in Lithuania's favor. Thought Lithuania's work on the offensive glass in the 2nd quarter allowed them to stick around in the 1st half.

Spain was up 18 points with 4:00 left in the 3rd. Why did Spain squander this lead? Not sure I have a good answer besides Lithuania was just more aggressive over the last 15 minutes. Lithuania was just quicker to the ball. Spain also settled for threes early in the 4th, and went cold--they were 0-4 from distance in the first four minutes of the quarter, which helped Lithuania get back into it in a hurry.

Aggressive play from Martynas Pocius and Jonas Maciulis was major for Lithuania. Both guys are known for their hard-nosed style. Maciulis scored all his 13 points in the last 15 minutes while Pocius scored 10 of his 13 in the last 10:01 of the game.

All of Maciulis' four steals came in the 4th. Two back-to-back steals that Jonas took in for dunks gave Lithuania a huge jolt midway thru the 4th. Jonas' activity paid off with drawn fouls as well. Also, he had a big offensive rebound off a missed FT that led to FTs for him on the ensuing possession.

Pocius had a big off. rebound and put-back to beat the 3rd Q buzzer. Then, in the 4th, Pocius' quick pull-up 3-pointer off a high ball screen to tied the game 66-66. He sprinkled in some purposeful drives to rim as well. Pocius has given Lithuania good minutes this summer and is coming off a productive season with Zalgiris.

Linas Kleiza did work out of isolation as he is wont to do for Lithuania. He hit a couple off-balance mid-rangers and two 3-pointers in isos. Another iso was a clutch play in which Kleiza drove right by Jorge Garbajosa for the go-ahead lay-in with :40 sec left. Linas finished with 17 pts on 7-of-14 and 8 rebs.

Lithuanian PG Mantas Kalnietis outplayed Ricky Rubio today. Kalnietis was the one dictating the action and his speed caused problems for Spain. Kalnietis attacked off the dribble all game. Kalnietis stuck a step-back 3-pointer in Ricky's eye and also bounced an inbound pass off Ricky's back for a lay-up. Kalnietis is not known for his shooting but he did knock down an open 3-pointer with 1:45 left to tie the game at 71-71. Kalnietis dropped 12 pts, 5 assts & 4 rebs.

Marc Gasol caused major issues for Lithuania near the rim for most of the game. When he was not scoring around the rim, he was commanding extra defenders and opening up the floor for Spain. Marc scored on two patented baseline spins, a sweet post-up where faced-up then drove baseline for a reverse lay-in, and one inside-pivot jumper. But Marc's FT shooting was off the mark again--4-for-8 vs. Lith., 14-for-23 for Worlds. Marc finished with 18 pts (7-of-12), 8 (4 off.) & 4 TOs.

Rudy Fernandez was vintage Rudy today--a constant motion machine. Rudy scored in a variety of ways, flew in for rebounds, had a coast-to-coast flush and added an oop to a Rubio alley in transition. But Rudy's 4th quarter was one to forget as he coughed up three turnovers at crucial junctures. Rudy had 13 pts, 9 rebs & 3 TOs (one of his TOs maybe should have been credited to Rubio).

Juan Navarro was once again a reliable shot-creator, making jumpers, a few patented floaters, some sneaky drives and drawing fouls. Jorge Garbajosa banged down some open jumpers for 11 pts (3-for-5), but I thought he had trouble containing Kleiza.

Ricky could never get much going on Tuesday and did a poor job finishing in close. My partner has discussed Ricky's finishing skills needing work in the past. Rubio's bad passes in the 4th led to Maciulis' back-to-back dunks. Spain seems like it would be well-served to get Rubio into more of a pick-and-roll game, in which he plays his best. Ricky's box-score line was dreadful: 3 points on 1-7 FG, 2 ast, 2 TO in 28 min.

The outcome of this game sets up the likely scenario of a Spain vs. Greece meeting in the Round of 16. Then, the winner of that game would likely face Team USA. So, we could have two out of the pre-tournament medal favorites of Spain, Greece & USA not medaling.

In our preview, we referred to Spain's struggles in group play at Eurobasket and we're seeing a similar pattern this year. Last year in group play, Spain lost to Serbia and Turkey, while Britain and Slovenia came close to upsets. Then Spain found another gear in last year's game vs. Lithuania midway thru the 2nd quarter, and rolled thru the rest of the tourney. But this year their complacency could bite them in the butt since Greece and Team USA will likely be in their sub-bracket.

For whatever reason, these guys aren't responding to Coach Scariolo. And we have to imagine his job is hanging by a thread and only a victory over Team USA in a possible quarterfinal matchup can save it.

GROUP C: Turkey 75, Greece 66

Important win for Turkey since this should secure first place in Group C and thus would ultimately allow them to avoid Team USA, Spain & Greece until the finals.

The game had some nice back-n-forth action in the middle of the 2nd, and thought we had the best game of the tourney brewing. But the action bogged down in the 2nd half. Greece had some success in the 1st half, but that was mostly against man-to-man; once Turkey went zone Greece rarely found any consistency on offense. Though, Greece did find some success getting out in transition.

I now have a new favorite FIBA zone, sorry Russia. Very impressed with Turkey's 2-1-2 for the second time in as many games. The guards do a good job shifting and are adept at pushing the ball to the sides. Then you have to deal with a backline with two 6-9 guys & a 7-footer, all mobile. (We discussed Turkey's zone in more detail here)

Turkey went with the zone for most of the 2nd half with much success. Turkey also went with a super-sized lineup with Hedo at the 2 for extended stretches, and this strategy definitely made the zone more effective. I could foresee this zone giving Team USA all type of issues if they meet Turkey.

Vassilis Spanoulis and Dimis Diamantidis rarely got the deep penetration that is vital to their games. When you can limit Spanoulis to six shot attempts, two FTAs & five points your, chances of toppling Greece are very good.

Ersan Ilyasova was the star of the day. Simply, Ilyasova's jumper was wet. Ersan banged home all of his six 3PA to finish the game with 26 pts & 5 rebs.

Was Hedo's shot selection poor? You bet. Hedo was only 2-for-12 from the floor with many ill-advised attempts. Hedo is currently shooting 24% overall and is coming off a EuroBasket in which he shot only 33%. Hedo did knock down a big 3-pointer with 3:00 remaining that gave Turkey breathing room. He also did some other productive things like 6 rebs, 3 assts & 2 stls.

Omer Asik was a finishing machine once again. Asik finished strong with a few dunks off roll/cuts and finished thru contact to draw the foul a few times. Last year, we noticed his ability to re-adjust his body on the move and did a few times today. Defensively, he changed some shots and even blocked a Spanoulis 3pt. attempt helping on pick/roll. Though, the FT-line woes still exist--2-for-6 from the line. Omer put up 12 pts (5-of-6), 6 rebs & 2 blks in 17 mins.

Giannis Bourousis led the Greeks with 15 pts, mostly by spotting up behind the arc (3-for-8). Thought Nick Calathes (6 pts, 4 assts) did a nice job generating points in transition.

Sofo Schortsiantis impacted the game the moment he entered. He carved out post position like Shaq and scored on some nimble post moves. He must have drawn 5-6 fouls and also drew extra defenders. He also picked up fouls in hurry, basically Sofo in nutshell. He just does not understand his own strength or width. Some of his TOs were offensive fouls (this is usually the case). Sofo had 9 pts & 4 TOs in 13 mins.

Right now, Turkey might be the team that Team USA wants to see least. Turkey's zone, deep frontline and home crowd could be hard to overcome in the finals.

*--For other scores from Tuesday check here.


At 4:31 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

Unofrtunately, Greece has been having issues with the zone in this tournament and they are firing up threes like they're Lithuanians - the difference is they are are only making around 30% of them. When you shoot 32 threes in a game and less FGs, with that percentage..... However, as you've mentioned about Spain, the group stage is simply phase A, the knockout games are a whole different story and as we have already seen, anything can happen.... I'd prefer we (Greece) meet Spain in in q-finals, it's time we beat them....

At 5:07 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain's bench is just not up to the task.

Scariolo should be out, but the real culprit here is Spanish Basketball Association's president, Saez. He first fired Pepu Hernández after the world championship gold, and then Aíto García Reneses after 2007 Euro silver, saying that he didn't want a coach with more than one job, only to then go and hire Scariolo, who also coaches the Russian Khimki.

Besides, Scariolo has obviously has no chemistry with the team. 2008's Olympics silver and 2009's Euro gold were won because of the players, mainly Pau and Navarro, not him.

Oh, well. Spaniards will always remember the good years in which they were Euro & World champions for both Football and Basket. This year, I'm afraid, they're deservedly going home soon.

At 6:34 AM, Anonymous Ben said...

It seems like Greece's offense is hell bent on creating open outside looks first and foremost. This is an issue when they are a. cold and b. not the greatest shooting team to begin with. Their strength is more inside but they seem a bit hesitant to get it there and attack.

At 6:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone thought of Greece's unwillingness to placed 2nd in group stage?...

Kind reminder: 1st place is impossible...


At 8:03 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

Yes, but you can't play that game.... you need to play to win all games

At 8:25 AM, Anonymous warsaw said...

"He first fired Pepu Hernández after the world championship gold, and then Aíto García Reneses after 2007 Euro silver, saying that he didn't want a coach with more than one job "

Not true. The ACB rules dictate a coach can't be in two different coaching jobs. Not Sáez's fault.

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Filipe said...

I do think there's the possibility that Greece tank the Russia game tomorrow. They did try to tank the France game last year in Eurobasket to avoid Spain (and succeed despite France best efforts to do same).

At 1:10 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

Only one way to avoid “tanking”…. The matchups should not be pre-determined, i.e. group A with B etc. After all the games are done, they should randomly select the groups that will play each other… that way you don’t know the group you are matching up against until after the first phase is over…. and you play for the best position possible… I’m not saying Greece or France tanked (and if France tanked then they are really bad at it….), some even say Argentina tanked to get three days off instead of 1…. so… to end all the scenarios, they need to determine the matchups after the group stage ends, not before! Easy solution….

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