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 It's a little outdated now, but it couldn't hurt to get a little refresher course on what has transpired so far in Poland.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)