Thursday, September 17, 2009
EuroBasket 2009: Spain Returns To Dominance Versus France
I mentioned on the podcast that today’s Spain v. France quarterfinal game had some similarities to the Trail Blazers’ playoff series against the Rockets: a young team with more raw talent going up against a bunch of savvy vets who’ve been there before. And the result was the same. Spain, lead by Pau Gasol and Rudy Fernandez, jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, eliminating France 86-66 in the quarterfinals of EuroBasket in Katowice, Poland.
Started out as good games for both Rudy and Nicolas. Batum had two steals and the first points of the game, a three from Ronni Turiaf, to get things going, but then Rudy answered back with a steal and back-to-back three’s to get Spain on the board. Nic would go on to make just one field goal, whereas Rudy was just getting started. Fernandez drained another three and added two more steals before the end of the first quarter, and by that time, Team Spain was rolling.
Rudy ended the night with 16 points, 6 steals (!), 5 rebounds and 2 assists in probably his best game of the tournament. Nic finished with 7 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals. Batum seemed like the best French player on the floor for most of the game, which isn’t really saying much in this instance.
The French made a few small runs here and there, but with Spain, and specifically Pau Gasol, firing on all cylinders, the chance of a comeback by an inexperienced team like Les Bleus was unlikely. Heck, even a veteran team wouldn’t have been able to get back in the game with Spain playing like the team that won the World Championship in 2006.
You have to wonder about the mindset the French took into the gam. France’s coach Vincent Collet stated that he wanted his team to beat Greece in the last game of the qualifying round, even if that meant having to play against Spain in the quarterfinals, but when he says prior to the game that “It's certain that Spain are the big favorites at the EuroBasket and it is unjust to face them at this stage of the competition but that's the way it is", one has to question whether he was being completely honest.
If it’s really was the case that the French were trying to duck Spain, then it’s no wonder that they lost by 20. If Les Bleus thought so little of their chances of beating Spain that they would have rather lost to Greece, then they were doomed before the opening tip. You can’t take that kind of self-doubt into an elimination game.
Confidence or no, stopping Pau Gasol wasn’t going to happen, at least not today. Turiaf was the only post who could hold his own, and he had to play soft after picking up three fouls in the first half. Pau finished with 28 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks in 28 minutes. He’s the MVP of EuroBasket and it’s not even close.
French were also undone by Tony Parker’s forgettable performance. Rubio seemed to really bother Parker defensively, something that had to be bittersweet for our friends in Minnesota to see. Parker finished with 6 points, by far his lowest output of the tournament.
France has no chance of medaling, but they’ve still got to win another game in the consolation round to assure a spot in the 2010 World Championships. Spain moves on to the semifinals to play the winner of the Greece/Turkey game. Either will be a formidable opponent.
(Photo credit: FIBA Europe.com)