France's Speed & Depth Shutdown Argentina; Russia vs. Brazil Preview
FRANCE 71, ARGENTINA 64
The normally high-functioning Argentine offense was smothered by a terrific French defense. The French utilized their athletic superiority to beat Argentina to spots and disrupt the offensive rhythm that Argentina thrives on.
France's defensive performance was great and basically every French player performed well defensively.
Neither team shot the ball well overall--France 39% overall, Argentina 37%. But France's superior 3pt. shooting was a key factor in the victory.
France hit 36% on 3PA with Nic Batum, Nando De Colo and Mickael Gelabale all hitting three a piece, while Argentina only managed to knock down 4-of-23 from deep.
Actually both teams had plenty of shots rim out, not to mention, about a half-dozen shots got tipped out of the cylinder.
France's athletic advantage was a significant factor--Argentina had trouble creating space. Also, Argentina's lack of depth bit them in the butt today. France got contributions from nine guys while Argentina had to rely strictly on their starting five.
Tony Parker couldn't connect from the floor (4-for-17) but he piled up points at the FT line (9-for-10) and he came on strong at the end. Tony recorded eight of his 17 points in the last five minutes.
With 4:30 left, Tony iso'd Scola after a switch and drove by him to finish with the shot clock winding down.
France got great play from the starting wings, Nic Batum (14 pts, 7 rebs, 3 assts) and Mickael Gelabale (13 pts, 6 rebs). Both guys knocked their spot jumpers, hit the glass and provided good defensive support.
Both guys did a nice job sliding over to provide backline help multiple times. The help defense as whole was on point. Besides the three 3pt. makes, Gelabale added two nice pull-up jumpers.
Kevin Seraphin was limited to 14 minutes but still had a big impact on the game scoring 10 pts and grabbing seven rebounds. Kevin hit two righty hooks and converted a clutch alley-oop lay-in in transition that gave France a 69-62 lead with just over a minute to play. (He started the transiton play by knocking away an entry pass)
Kind of odd Argentina could not take advantage of foul trouble on France's frontline. Boris Diaw and Ronny Turiaf fouled out in 18 minutes and four fouls limited Seraphin to 14 minutes.
Argentina never could get into a rhythm offensively besides parts of the 3rd quarter. France did a solid job not letting Luis Scola (16 pts) go off. He hit some of patented mid-range pop jumpers but he never got much working in the post.
Ronny Turiaf did a terrific job bodying up Scola and guarding on ball screens. Scola draws fouls as well as anyone in FIBA, but only managed four FT attempts. Though Scola wasn't getting the calls that he normally gets--it wasn't like France wasn't physical with him.
France also did a excellent job containing Pablo Prigioni and forcing the usually steady point into four turnovers. Thought Argentina got some flow to their pick-n-roll game in the 3rd and that helped them take the lead for a bit.
France got nice contributions from their bench, particularly defensively. Florent Pietrus and Yannick Bokolo provided value off the bench by using their athleticism to disrupt defensively. Pietrus played Scola well the limited time he was on him. De Colo moved his feet well to keep players in front of him.
Manu Ginobili (26 pts) did his best to spark a fire for his team scoring in variety of ways. But Manu could not get much going in pick-n-roll action either.
Granted, France's defense forced Argentina into tough looks, thought the Argentines didn't not help themselves by rushing some shots.
In particular, Carlos Delfino was trying replicate the magic from the Lithuania game--six 3pt. makes--a little too hard. Thought he held the ball a bit too much and was forcing up shots. Delfino ended with only four points on 1-of-8 shooting.
We thought Argentina could be vulnerable on the boards in this tourney and France won the rebound battle today, 44-36. If there is one thing that Argentina needs Andres Nocioni to focus on, it's rebounding. Noce only had four boards vs. France.
This win gives France the inside track on the 2nd-seed in Group A. Though, Lithuania can still muck up the order if they beat France on Thursday.
Thursday Games of the Day:
*-All times are London time.
Brazil vs. Russia (4:45 pm): A potential bronze medal game preview between two closely-matched teams. Two of the best FIBA coaches, David Blatt (Russia) and Ruben Magnano (Brazil) square off for the first time in national team competition.
Russia has looked impressive so far, easily cruising to wins over Britain and China. The offensive execution has been tight and their perennially-stout defense hasn't disappointed.
On the other hand, Brazil had to go down to the wire vs. both Britain and Australia. Brazil has struggled to find consistency on the offensive end and are having difficulty hitting outside shots.
Imagine Coach Blatt will flash some of his usual zone looks to test the Brazilians' outside accuracy. Expect some off-kilter matchup zone alignments from Russia as well.
Russia has done a nice job scoring inside the painted area. Russia's player movement and ball movement have been crisp so far. They thrive on back cuts and action off back screens. They like to keep the basket area open.
But like Brazil, Russia's outside shooting has been off the mark. This is an area where Russia has never been great at over the years. Here's a passage from our Group B scouting report on Russia:
- "In general, not really that great of an outside shooting team. Fridzon needs to be marked and Monya is solid, but after that they're kind of erratic. Teams maybe shouldn't respect their spacing as much as they do. Should slough off around the paint, keep the backline integrity to discourage the cuts."
Coach Magnano doesn't usually like to run much zone, but maybe some sort of sagging defense might be advised for stretches of the game. You have to stay at home on the baseline vs. Russia, or they will shred you with back cuts.
Andrei Kirilenko has been a FIBA force once again and has made a killing moving to the open spots on offense. Constantly making plays off of cuts--very dangerous on back cuts--and attacking the glass.
Very intriguing matchup between two of the most creative playmakers in the tourney, Marcelo Huertas and Alexey Shved. Both are terrific at changing direction off the dribble.
Huertas has a knack for running off a ball screen one way then immediately turning back to go through another ball screen (did this effectively vs. the Brits).
Shved is very shifty with the dribble as well. Love how he keeps his dribble low and very dangerous with hesitation/crossover moves. But both guys can get a bit careless.
Shved has been hitting his jumpers while Huertas has been doing damage with his patented floater. Both have been good dropping sweet passes as well
The Huertas-Splitter pick/roll worked well vs. Britain, especially in the 2nd half. Tiago had trouble finishing off plays vs. Australia, but he hurt Britain rolling and cutting his way to 21 pts.
Brazil moves fairly well off the ball as well. And they use some cross-screen and baseline cut/screen action (flex-style). Anderson Varejao has been active moving to open spots to score easy points and grab offensive rebounds.
Leandro Barbosa has been effective attacking the rim, but he also takes things off the table for Brazil by forcing plays that aren't there.
Brazil will need Marcus Vinicius to give them good minutes like he did vs. Britain. He made a few nice plays off the dribble (dishes & drives) vs. the Brits and his length should matchup better with Russia's forward rotation than Marcelo Machado or Alex Garcia can.
Russia's defensive prowess is well-documented but Brazil is not too bad themselves. Their trio of NBA bigs have all been sound defensively.
Should be a good game and the winner likely secures 2nd-place in Group B.
France vs. Lithuania (9am): France definitely has the athletic advantage and Parker should be hard to contain for the suspect Lithuanian defense. France's depth hurt Argentina, but Lithuania's goes about 10-deep. Last time these teams met, France won 73-67 in second round of Eurobasket '11. France forced 16 TOs and this could be a factor again as Lithuania has continued to struggle with TOs so far. If Lithuania can win, they could force a tiebreaker scenario in Group A that would likely favor Argentina.