Saturday, September 04, 2010

2010 FIBA Worlds: Round of 16 Analysis (Spain-Greece, Serbia-Croatia)

Spain 80, Greece 72

These two squads didn't play up to their capabilities in group play, but can't complain with the effort they gave today. This much-anticipated Sweet Sixteen game did not disappoint.

Coach Scariolo's decision to switch to a zone late in the 3rd decided the game. Spain went zone with about 2:00 remaining in the 3rd, and Greece managed only six points in a 10-minute stretch until Vassilis Spanoulis hit a 3-pointer with about 2:00 left in the 4th.

That 10-minute stretch was the key to the game. All thanks to Spain's 2-3 zone. Greece had a nice rhythm going in the 3rd and the zone almost immediately stunted their flow. That's what a good zone does--disrupts the offensive flow. Every FIBA team needs a quality zone at its disposal.

Greece starting rolling in the 3rd quarter, shooting 8-for-10 (four 3-pointers) in the first eight minutes of the quarter. Diamantidis and Spanoulis were making the defensive shape shift and the Greek ball movement was swift. Before the possession in which Spain went zone, Greece scored on five possessions in a row.

Juan Navarro led Spain with 22 points that came on a few floaters, perimeter jumpers and drawn fouls. Rudy Fernandez helped La Bomba with 14 pts. Rudy shined in the 2nd half with two big 3-pointers down the stretch, a drawn foul on a 3PA using a head-fake, and finishes of some weakside cuts.

Spain got a great lift from its bench. Sergio Llull scored a couple of leak-out lay-ins and put up 9 pts in 15 mins. Felipe Reyes had 6 pts & 10 rebs (4 off.) in 19 mins. Reyes turned three of those off. rebounds into tip-ins. Back-up PG Raul Lopez gave them good minutes as well.

Fran Vazquez notched 6 pts & 7 rebs (5 off.) in 16 mins. Fran made his presence felt late 3rd/early 4th with a steal, offensive rebound and alley-oop connection with Llull. My partner has been pleading for more time for Fran. He has also been wishing for some Rubio-Vazquez pick-and-roll pairing, and an attempt at a Vazquez-Marc twin-tower lineup.

Hate to say but might need to see less Jorge Garbajosa. Garba has been knocking down his outside shots, but he has not been rebounding much, while Reyes and Vazquez get on the glass. Vazquez gives the frontline a much-needed dose of athleticism.

Marc Gasol had a rough day (four fouls) and seemed to have some difficulties dealing with Big Sofo. Marc did do some nice things defensively, but only put up 4 pts & 2 rebs.

Same story for Ricky Rubio--creative passing, ineffective scoring. Ricky dropped delicious dimes as usual (6 assts), but his shooting/finishing was subpar (6 pts, 2-for-8). My partner has alluded to Ricky's poor finishing skills a few times in the past.

Dimis Diamantidis would not let Greece go out quietly. Dimis did a little bit of everything to keep Greece in this game. Dimis hit three 3-pointers and moved the ball while bringing his usual stellar defense. Dimis had two steals on the ball and two terrific blocks in transition. Dimis was the catalyst of Greece's 3rd quarter surge. Dimis did have some miscues in the 4th, in that he bit on some of Rudy's head-fakes and also threw a lazy pass that Spain picked off at a crucial juncture. Dimis finished his final game with Team Hellas with 16 pts (6-of-8 FG), 2 steals, 2 blocks & 3-for-5 3PA.

A tip of the cap to Diamantidis, a Painted Area favorite, who is retiring from int'l play. Dimis was one of the top FIBA ballers of the last decade and one of the finest defenders ever to play in int'l competition. Always thought he was too unselfish, often reluctant to shoot, but had a knack for knocking down big shots when his team needed them (Euro '05 vs. France, Worlds '06 vs. USA, etc). We'll miss his game.

Vassilis Spanoulis did score on a handful of drives scattered throughout the game, but he never got consistent deep penetration. The key number for Spain: 1-for-2 FTA for Spanoulis. When you can limit Spanoulis' foul shots, you're usually in good shape vs. Greece.

Nikos Zisis was killing Spain with mid-range pull-ups all game. Nearly all of his 16 points came on mid-rangers. Antonis Fotsis did his stretch-4 duties by knocking down three 3-pointers. Fotsis also provided solid help defense and seven rebounds (4 off.).

Sofo Schortsiantis coughed the ball up (4 TOs) as usual, but once again he was a factor in the lane. Sofo drew fouls and scored with a few righty hooks to end with 13 pts. Sofo did most his damage in the 4th with five drawn fouls and eight points. Thought Sofo did some nice things defensively as well.

Greece let Spain shoot 54% from the field partly because of too much over-helping and miscommunication--problems that plagued them in group play. Greece was not hitting the long ball heading into this game and they continued their struggle from behind the arc today--7-for-23. Greece did not help its cause by shooting 7-for-16 from the FT line, either.

Greece's team defense was just not up to par this summer. They used to be on the same page and function so well together. They could wreak havoc with active hands.

We have surmised the drop-off defensively has to do with the coaching change. Coach Yannakis held the Greeks back offensively but he made them incredibly tough defensively.

Spain moves on to face Serbia in the quarterfinals on Wednesday. Should be a great game, hopefully more competitive than Spain's blowout win in last year's EuroBasket final. Meanwhile, Greece goes home with its most disappointing finish in many years.

Serbia 73, Croatia 72

Thought Croatia could make this a competitive game and we got one of the better games of the tourney.

We saw the European tactic of fouling when up two points come into play today. Serbian Coach Ivkovic decided to foul with 5.9 secs left and Serbia up 72-70. I might take that foul with 8 secs or more, but taking it with 5-6 secs left puts a lot of pressure on the offense.

Generally don't like the tactic of fouling when up two or fouling when tied. Have seen the tactic backfire enough--see Germany vs. Angola from a few days ago and see Spain vs. Argentina 2006 Worlds semis. But it worked for Serbia today.

Croatia looked very sharp coming out of the gates. Put 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting up in the 1st quarter. Then Croatia could not find the basket in the 2nd quarter, finishing the 2nd with nine points on 4-for-17.

The normally sweet-shooting Croats were off the mark from long range--5-for-24. Croatia is always a strong offensive rebounding team and that kept them hanging around today.

Thought both teams took advantage of their transition opportunities. A bit surprising how much these teams looked to push the ball. Serbia has definitely looked to run more this summer, as opposed to last year, when they would grind the game out.

Nenad Krstic definitely got the better of Ante Tomic today. Nenad simply overpowered Tomic for a few scores and re-routed Tomic, even forcing a TO simply by outmuscling him. Krstic was aggressive once again getting great post position, often leading to drawn fouls. Nenad drew a big foul on a roll to the rim with :45 left. Nenad led Serbia with 16 pts.

Alexander Rasic (15 pts) is usually just a spot shooter, but today he did damage with his dribble drive. It seems that in this tourney, Rasic just makes big baskets and buries clutch FTs. Rasic made a couple huge plays in the 4th. He converted a huge plus-1 on a tough drive midway thru the 4th. Then he squirted out of a back pick at half-court to streak in for lay-in with 10 secs left to give Serbia a 72-70 lead. Finally, he drove the ball and drew the foul with one second left. Rasic knocked down the first FT (missed the 2nd on purpose) that sealed the game.

Serbia's depth let them cover for a very poor showing from PG Milos Teodosic. Teodosic forced the action in spots with dicey shot selection and lazy passes (4 TOs).

Serbia got nice input from the bench corps. Milenko Tepic (7 rebs, 4 assts) set up his teammates nicely (particularly in the 2nd Q.) and grabbed some boards while Ivan Paunic's relentless ball pressure was on display again. Reserve PF Milan Macvan (8 pts) did some dirty work-type plays to fill in the gaps. And Kosta Perovic gave them valuable minutes again, scoring (10 pts) on rolls or cuts.

Roko Ukic caused Serbia problems off the dribble. Roko drove the ball well to score at the rim and to connect on a couple floaters. He also set up his teammates off the bounce, including a nifty pass to a cutting Banic after a spin move.

The Croatian Vinnie Johnson, Marko Popovic, gave his team a dose of instant offense off the bench once again. Popovic came alive in the 4th with a two 3-pointers and multiple drawn fouls. Marko scored 14 of his 21 in the 4th, including 10 FTAs in the quarter.

Ante Tomic did grab eight boards but turned the ball over five times. Tomic had an alright tourney and showed some NBA potential. The basketball skills are there--great footwork and great touch plus good passing skills. Obviously, he needs weight, but I'm not sure he has the frame to handle much more muscle.

NBA draft prospect Bojan Bogdanovic started off the game pretty well, scoring seven of nine points in the 1st Q, but was fairly quiet until he made a costly mistake giving the ball up in transition late in the 4th.

Marko Banic did things he's known for--moving to the open spots on offense and crashing the offensive glass (10 pts & 7 rebs (4 off.)).

Croatia should feel alright about its Worlds performance. They made the knockout round as expected and pushed a superior Serbian team to the brink. If Bogdanovic and Tomic progress as they should, Croatia can contend in a few years.


At 3:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Guess Greece is not so happy now that they threw the match with Russia.

Much much better Spain. Still, Garba is somewhere else and Ricky can't even begin to fill Calderon's shoes. He's a revulsive, nothing more. We'll see how it goes from now on, here's hoping Fran Vasquez can keep up the good work.

BTW, "My partner has eluded to Ricky's poor finishing skills a few times in the past.". That should be alluded ;)

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous milaz said...

Spain might be better than Greece but this was a close one... not as bad as other times. I think we saw a good, balanced game. If Kazlauskas had used more of the bench - especially Tsartsaris and Printezis - things might have been different. In any case, congrats to Spain, the defending world champs.

At 3:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Spain got some very weird calls against Greece in this game. Everyone knows that the Spanish players flop at a rate triple to what every other European team does. This happens on both ends of the court and the refs seem to buy it. I saw at least 5 instances that could have qualified for a technical foul but it seems that FIBA dont want to go down that alley.
I think the refs should take most of the credit for not letting Spanoulis go to the line and not Spain's defense. On the other hand, Spain would get fouls for minimal contact such as Fotsis' foul on Navarro in the 4th quarter.
There were some other weird decisions too. Not because they were easy, but because the refs could have used a replay. Diamantidis' 3 in the 2nd was within time and Fotsis call for goaltending in the 4th were two crucial decisions.
Overall the refs have been terrible, helping the bigger names throughout the group stages. In the Greece-Spain match, the only ref that was any good was the American. I don't remember where the other two were from but they weren't from a country where they get to officiate top level games and this is a problem. This happens in the soccer World Cup where the refs have to represent every continent. This is a very bad idea and i think FIBA should do something about it.

At 4:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I don't think the referees in this match were so terrible as the previous anonymous poster (3:19 AM) says, I agree that both FIFA and FIBA have to incorporate some technology into it. There have been some dubious or wrong fouls that may have changed the course of important games.

There's just no excuse anymore not to use replays. A fourth referee in the bench could validate or refuse important issues and everybody would be happier.

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