Tuesday, September 8, 2009

EuroBasket 2009: France Advance, Spain Plain

If you missed the first update from EuroBasket 2009 as it pertains the Trail Blazers, check out the post below. It's a little outdated now, but it couldn't hurt to get a little refresher course on what has transpired so far in Poland.

France Takes Control Of Group B

At first glance, it might seem like the French would suffer from having to play their way into EuroBasket. While the other 15 teams were practicing and playing warm up games, the French were fighting for their EuroBasket lives. But the way the tournament is shaping up, it's looking more and more like the French might be benefiting from all of those extra games. They've got a 2-0 record and a spot in the next round to prove it.

Les Bleus locked up a spot in the qualifying round (named as such because it determines which teams qualify for the World Championships) by beating Latvia 60-51 (video highlights here) today in Gdansk, Poland. France can't completely relax considering results in this preliminary round can determine which teams advance from the qualifying round, but at least they know their tournament run will go on regardless of the outcome tomorrow against Russia.

Nicolas Batum finished with another nice line: 7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, a block and a steal in 36 minutes, but it was Tony Parker who carried the French through an otherwise anemic offensive performance. Parker scored the last 10 points for the French on the way to a game-high 23. He also pitched in 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in 36 minutes. No other French player scored in double figures.

"It was a difficult game for us, because in the beginning we did not score, as the ball did not want to go in," said Batum postgame. "We had pressure to win the game - from ourselves, from fans. It helped us and I think it will help us to win our game tomorrow."

The Latvians were paced by Kaspars Kambala, a former professional boxer and one mean looking dude (check the tattoo on the chest), who scored a team-high 18 points to go along with 7 rebounds. Andris Biedrins, he of Golden State Warriors fame, only managed 6 points on 3-of-10 shooting, but he did pull down a 20 boards in the process. Latvia is now winless in their first two games and need a victory tomorrow against Germany to have any chance to avoiding elimination.

With the Spaniards having a rough go in the first two games of the tourney (more on that in a second), one might consider the French, along with the Greeks, as the new tourney favorites. Only problem for Les Bleus is that their starters have played a ton of minutes in the first two games. Batum played 32 and 36 minutes against Germany and Latvia, respectively, in back-to-back games. Parker played 34 and 36 minutes. 34 and 37 minutes for Boris Diaw. 24 and 31 minutes for Florent Pietrus. Only Ronni Turiaf, who played only 12 minutes against Latvia, got any kind of rest in Game 2. With another game tomorrow (that's back-to-back-to-back, by the way) it'll be interesting to see if French coach Vincent Collet gives his starters a break.

Spain Survives British Invasion

Spain losing to Serbia in their first game could have been considered an anomaly, but after their performance today against Great Britain, it might be time to reevaluate the reigning World Champs' chances of taking the gold at EuroBasket.

Sure, Spain ended up winning 84-76, but the result couldn't have been too encouraging for a team that has (or at least had) championship aspirations.

Spain had a 16 point lead at one point in the second half, but didn't manage a field goal until the 5:56 mark in the fourth quarter, and by that time the Brits had taken a 70-68 lead. A Rudy Fernandez steal-turned-dunk sparked a game-closing 14-3 run to tilt the scales in Spain's favor, all but proving that without Rudy's expertise, the Spanish are sunk.

Fernandez, who didn't look like he was 100 percent healthy after the game, finished with 12 points and 2 assists in 21 minutes off the bench. Victor Claver, who played only 7 minutes in Spain's loss to Serbia, scored 12 points, all in the second quarter, to go along with 4 rebounds and 3 really nice assists in 17 minutes of burn. Pau Gasol scored a game-high 27 points, 11 of which came from the free throw line, and 11 rebounds.

Joel Freeland had a nice, albeit foul-plague, performance for Great Britain, finishing with 10 points, 3 rebounds and 2 steals in only 14 minutes. Freeland's aggressiveness and physicality, two of the strengths of his game, resulted in 4 fouls, 3 of which came before the end of the first half. He didn't get a chance to see much run late, as British head coach Chris Finch had to go small to get GB back in the game.

With the win, Spain gives themselves a decent chance of moving on to the next round. A win against undefeated Slovenia tomorrow would assure that (I think. Someone please correct me if I'm wrong). The Brits can move on if they beat the Serbs tomorrow (I think).

A more detailed look at the performances of Rudy Fernandez, Victor Claver and Joel Freeland coming soon.

(Photo credit: FIBA Europe.com)


EthanZ said...

thanks for the post Casey...hope Rudy can be 100 percent for the regular season.

lukedunn said...

Hey Casey,
If Spain wins tonight, they are in the 2nd round, no matter of the GB-Serbia game. Spain would have 2 wins and GB has none so far, so Spain will finish ahead of them for sure (there are four teams in a group and three of them advance to the next round). For GB to advance, they have to beat Serbia tonight by at least 10 points. In any other case, GB is out of the tournament.
Hope it's quite clear ;-)

Greetings from Warsaw,
Biggest Blazer fan in Poland

lukedunn said...

I was at the Spain-Serbia game the other day and Spain just didn't look good for long periods of time... I wish Rudy could play in that game - I'm sure they'd win if he played.
It was interesting though to see him cheer for his team. I mean there were 12 players, 7 on the bench and Rudy was the only guy standing most of the time and talking to his teammates - even their coach spent less time doing it. You could tell he was more into game than number of Spanish players.
Anyway, even though he didn't play, it was great to see him in person...
I also took a look at Victor, but unfortunately, he didn't play much better than rest of the team... He looked like he has a lot of work to do before he's NBA ready, but to be honest, both Pau Gasol (1 for 8 from FT with the only FT made coming at the end of the game) and Marc Gasol had a ton of bad plays and they looked nothing like NBA players (not to mention they are starters) to me.

I got the tickets for my birthday and I could live with Rudy's injury and not seeing him play, but this L*ker who couldn't made any FTs when it mattered sure ruined this night for me for good.

Well, hope Spain wins tonight and advances to the 2nd round.

Greetings from Warsaw to all of you, Blazer fans,
The biggest Blazer fan in Poland ;-)

PS. Thanks Casey for all the great job you're doing!

Baddaboom said...

Good to see Nic, Rudy and Victor post the wins -- although any game they get through without an injury is a win in my book. Hope they make it back for training camp at 100%.

That Kaspar Kambala is one mean looking dude alright. I could've sworn by some of the photos on that link, that that tattoo on his chest was of Whoopi Goldberg. But I'm definitely not going to be walking up to him and making fun of his tattoo anytime soon.

Ethan said...

yeah...Kambala is one mean looking guy.I google'd like 50 pictures of him, trust me, i wouldn't want to play man on man with him!