Sunday, September 18, 2011

EuroBasket 2011 Final: Spain Repeats as EuroBasket Champ

EuroBasket Final: Spain 98, France 85

Wasn't quite as one-sided as the 2009 Euro final in which Spain thrashed Serbia, but Spain was in control for most of the 2011 EuroBasket final and became the first team to repeat as Euro champs since Yugoslavia did it 1997.

It was another impressive run through an EuroBasket competition for the Spanish national team. Spain's only loss came to Turkey with Pau sitting with a bum ankle. Spain outscored its opponents by an average of 13.5 ppg and won eight of its 11 games by double figures.

Over the last decade, Spain has been the undisputed king of European ball. This marked the fourth time in five tries that Spain played in the EuroBasket finals. Easily could have been five in a row, but a Dirk Nowitzki last-second shot in the '05 semis denied a Pau-less Spain a trip to the finals. Spain has now finished at least in the top four spots in the last seven EuroBaskets.

France would make mini-runs at different points of the game but one never got the sense that Spain was ever serious in danger of losing control of the game. Simply too much firepower.

It wasn't like France didn't have a good day on the offensive end, it's just that Spain was even more dominant. Spain shot 55.6% from the floor and was successful spreading the touches around again with five players in double figures.

Another international competition, another sterling tournament for Pau Gasol. Pau capped off a great EuroBasket with another sharp all-around performance vs. the French with 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Pau added a 3pt. make on Sunday to finish Euro '11 shooting 7-for-11 on 3PA.

Pau finished EuroBasket third in points (20 ppg), third in FG pct. (54%), fourth in rebounds (8.3 rpg), third in blocks (1.7 bpg). Pretty much does this everytime he suits up for Spain. If there were any doubts about his enshrinement into the Naismith Hall of Fame, they should cease forever. (We covered Pau's FIBA accomplishments after Spain's 2009 Euro final win.)

Don't agree with the MVP vote--Pau should have won over Juan Navarro. Pau was more of a factor of both sides of the floor, with an underrated impact defensively once again. Navarro was clutch in the knockout round for Spain, but was a little off at the start of the tourney while Pau was consistent throughout.

This was a big game so that meant Juan Carlos Navarro (27 pts, 5 assts) would most definitely show up. La Bomba's magical shot-making tricks were on display on Sunday with Juan tossing up pull-ups all over the floor (3-for-7 on 3PA). Juan hit them coming off of ball screens or off-ball screens, plus he added a few of his patented off-balance runners. Juan was also clever accentuating contact for 12 free-throw attempts. Once again Juan Carlos (5th in ppg) was one of the top players in a FIBA tournament.

France had trouble guarding the pick-n-roll all tournament and Spain hurt them in ball screen action, particularly with Navarro as the ball-handler. 19 Navarro pick-n-rolls generated 24 points for himself or his teammates (very good rate).

Jose Calderon (17 pts, 4 stls) looked unusually spry today, very aggressive on both ends of the floor, and even got a dunk out of Jose. Jose had multiple buckets in transition, added a few drives in the half-court, a few pull-ups and stripped the ball from Parker a few times.

Rudy Fernandez's kinetic energy was a boon for Spain once again. Rudy (14 pts) flew around for scores on tip-ins, cuts, fast breaks and off-balance jumpers. Rudy's jumper was off over the last few weeks but he contributed nicely in nearly every other aspect of the game. Rudy is a different player when he's allowed to fly around.

Marc Gasol (11 pts) was solid again with a few jumpers and effective plays on rolls. Maybe the most impressive aspect of Marc's play during Euro '11 was his passing, particularly his passing as the roll man. Marc averaged 13.3 ppg, 7.3 rebs and 2 apg, and should be considered for a 2nd team All-Euro selection.

Serge Ibaka only put up four points, but he was a major presence defensively, blocking five shots in 21 minutes. Serge chased down the ball to make multiple blocks flying in long distances (made a tremendous block on Nando De Colo in transition). Serge has added a much-needed dose of athleticism to the frontline and this could come in handy vs. Team USA in the future.

Tony Parker did all he was supposed to do, leading France with 26 points and five assists. Parker once again did damage with his pull-up jumper inside and outside the arc. His improved jumper has been a key reason France's offense has improved over the last few years. Tony ended the tourney as the scoring leader (22 ppg) and fifth in assists (4.4 apg). Tony rightfully earned a All-EuroBasket First-Team nod.

Nic Batum (10 pts) could not replicate his strong semifinal performance vs. Spain. Nic hit a couple spot-up 3pt. attempts but also missed six of his eight 3PA. Nonetheless, Nic had a nice tourney as a reliable second-option for France and would elect him to the All-EuroBasket Second Team.

Boris Diaw (12 pts, 7 assts, 4 rebs) decided to show up on Sunday, particularly looking unusally inspired in the 2nd half. Boris was effective driving the ball for his own scores or setting up his teammates. Diaw dropped some sweet dimes and knocked down two 3-pointers.

Joakim Noah (11 pts, 8 rebs) might have had his best offensive display on Sunday, finishing off a few rolls and banging home two mid-range jumpers. Noah's inaugural campaign with the French national team was solid as he brought boards and defense every game.

France should be a contender for at least the bronze medal next summer. After years of inconsistent half-court execution, the offense seems to be at a level that can allow France to hang with the big boys.

Spain heads into the 2012 Olympics as Team USA's main challenger. Next year's team could be more formidable than the 2008 version, thanks to addition of Ibaka and the improvement of Marc. In a one-game scenario, Spain definitely has the goods to upset Team USA.


At 10:34 AM, Blogger senormedia said...

This tourney had some of the oddest officiating that I have ever seen.

The announcers talked about "how much more physical European ball is than the NBA" yet the game was constantly stopped for touch fouls that I wouldn't call in my pick-up games.

At 3:27 PM, Anonymous random nba fan said...

I agree with you, there is no doubt that Pau Gasol will be enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Those who doubt that Pau deserves to be in the Hall are the same people who probably think of the Basketball Hall of Fame as the "NBA" Hall of Fame. Everyone who understands and recognizes that the Hall takes one's entire body of work into consideration knows that Pau's international accomplishments are Hall worthy.

If only his NBA accomplishments were part of the equation, the question of Gasol's Hall worthiness would be a matter for discussion. But since all of his basketball accomplishments will be taken into account, there is no doubt that Pau Gasol will one day be welcomed into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

At 3:49 PM, Blogger jordigomezsuay said...

All my life I heard the opposite, the NBA officiating allows much more phisicality than FIBA. I wonder which announcers where you listening to?

At 5:56 PM, Blogger senormedia said...

Whomever they had on ESPN3.

Kevin Conners and Brad Fruschilla (sp?)

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