Spain Holds Off France to Advance to the Semis
SPAIN 66, FRANCE 59
Low-scoring, competitive game where the defenses dictated the action. Spain pulled out a tough victory on Wednesday but they should be somewhat concerned with their play, particularly offensively.
Give credit to France, they had a 57-54 lead early in the 4th and were making Spain struggle mightily on the offensive end.
But France's six-point 4th quarter proved fatal. It was like a flashback to the brutal stretches that plagued France's offense constantly during the previous decade.
They failed to score over the last seven minutes of the game besides a meaningless jumper with five seconds left. They only managed to score 22 points in the 2nd half.
Both teams played excellent defense (both teams shot under 40% from the floor). Spain rarely had any space to get clean looks because of France's aggressive defense. While Spain's condensed alignments made life rough for the French.
The one key difference was Spain was able to draw fouls at a high rate. France committed 29 fouls and sent the Spaniards to FT line 28 times. While France only managed 12 FT attempts. The extra fouls shots combined with seven more rebounds than France gave Spain the edge in the game.
We thought going into this game Ronny Turiaf and Kevin Seraphin would pick up fouls quickly trying to guard the Gasols. No surprise Turiaf fouled out in 17 minutes while Serpahin picked up three fouls in seven minutes.
Did the refs contribute to the ragged flow? You bet. Questionable whistles on plays off the ball ruined the rhythm of another FIBA game. But it's just something you have to accept when dealing with FIBA refs.
Really thought France had left their inept offensive ways behind after their strong play last summer. But they struggled in London and Nic Batum was the only consistent outside shooter.
Spain had success mixing in some 2x3 zone, which was the right call vs. France. The zone was particularly effective in the 2nd quarter and put the brakes on France's offense after a 22-point opening quarter. In the 2nd half, Spain forced France late into the shot clock multiple times.
France's outside shooting let them down vs. Spain (32% on 3PA). Mickael Gelabale couldn't knock down some good looks today, which capped off a horrible shooting tourney for him (26% on 3PA). Gelabale had been France's most reliable shooter over the last few years (64% on 3PA in '11) and they desperately needed him to play better this year.
After a few years of solid outside shooting, France reverted back to the errant outside shooting ways of the previous decade. They only made 29% of their 3PA in London.
Whichever Gasol bro was guarding France's center was free to play a one-man zone. Both Gasols were constantly in the right spots to help. Was reminiscent of the way Spain guarded France in the quarterfinals of the 2009 Eurobasket.
Pau (10 pts, 11 rebs, 3 assts, 2 blks) did most of his scoring in the first half as France doubled him hard in the 2nd half. Pau mixed in a couple nifty post scores with a few impressive drives going to his left. Thought his help defense was outstanding. Actually his defense has been pretty good so far in London and his defense in FIBA play has always been underrated.
After some uninspired preliminary play, Marc Gasol (14 pts, 8 rebs) brought better energy vs. France. Mentioned his good defensive effort above and he led Spain with 14 points. Marc made some plays in transition, even hit a 3pt. off a screen and converted a decisive bucket rolling to the rim off a nice entry pass from Pau.
Rudy Fernandez and Sergio Llull used their speed to contribute on both ends of the floor. While Juan Navarro (12 pts, 6 rebs) created some plays for Spain and knocked down some spot jumpers. But once again Juan wasn't very efficient (3-for-11) and he continues to have a tough time creating separation from his defender.
Can't fault Boris Diaw's (15 pts, 8 rebs, 5 assts) effort as he came to play today (Now if only Boris could play with this type of intensity every game). Boris was attacking off the dribble to set up scores for himself (sweet step-thru move) or his teammates. Dropped some nice feeds including a nice bounce pass as the pressure release in the middle of the zone.
Tony Parker (15 pts, 6 rebs) did finds some ways to wind his way to hoop but Tony never really got his jumpers to drop (6-for-20 overall). With the way Spain had their bigs sloughed off, Parker's penetration was neutered and that cut down on his FT attempts (2-for-3 FTA).
Nic Batum (9 pts, 5 rebs) couldn't find the range on his shots but his activity level helped France overall. Batum was seemingly everywhere defensively and gave little air space to the Spanish perimeter players.
France's London stay is over while Spain goes on to play Russia in the semis on Friday. Spain lost to the Russians in group play after they had comfortable leads early and late in the game.
Spain's outside shooting continues to be a concern after they only hit 20% on 3PA vs. France. They are currently shooting 31.4% from behind the arc. Russia will look to sag off and collapse on the Gasols, so Spain needs to improve their shooting go forward.