HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Twelve games in one day is a bit much to chew on when you’ve been away from live game action for nearly two months.
We’re admittedly a little rusty around the hideout.
But we can’t thank the basketball gods enough for delivering us this smorgasbord of hoops when we needed it most. Day 1 of EuroBasket 2011 was filled with action and plenty of surprises, both good and bad.
In case you were worried, Dirk Nowitzki hasn’t lost a step since his triumphant playoff run and Finals MVP showing. Pau Gasol looked good and rested. And the host nation team, Lithuania, didn’t disappoint in their opener.
There was even a Ricky Rubio sighting this morning, although I’m still trying to figure out how he pulled off the performance he did. In fact, Rubio stole the show here at the hideout, posting donuts across the board (save for a couple of steals) in 16 uninspiring minutes in his international debut as a bona fide NBA player.
More on that later in the rundown of games we saw … (some more than others) …
Serbia 80, Italy 68 (Box Score)
You know it’s going to be a good competition when you tip off group play with a game like this one. Italy chewed into an 18-point deficit in time to make Serbia work for this one in the fourth quarter. Serbia made just nine of 26 shots from beyond the 3-point line to Italy’s 2-for-17, another advantage for a team that finished as the silver medalist in this competition in 2009. Having superior depth is what made the difference for Serbia as they got 30 points off the bench in the win.
- Italy’s 18-10 lead early on didn’t hold up, not with center Andrea Bargnani contributing just two points on 1-for-6 shooting in the first half (he came off the bench). He warmed up after halftime and finished with a game-high 22 and nine rebounds. Danilo Gallinari turned his right ankle midway through the third quarter and came out of the game a couple of minutes later. He did return in the fourth.
- Milan Macvan came off of the bench for Serbia and dropped 10 second-quarter points as they erased that early deficit. He chipped in with four more during an 11-0 run to start the fourth quarter to help put the game away. He found all the holes in the Italy’s zone defense, making six of his seven shots from the floor. As we learned from the Dallas Mavericks during the playoffs, bench play is often the difference between winning and losing in a tournament setting.
- Serbia’s starting guards, Milos Teodosic and Milenko Tepic, put on a show of their own. They combined for 30 points and 12 assists and combined to shoot a wicked 6-for-10 from beyond the 3-point line.
Spain 83, Poland 78 (Box Score)
One Gasol is enough to keep defending champion Spain in the hunt for a repeat title. Having two, however, is a luxury that no doubt every other team in the competition would love to have. Pau Gasol scored 12 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter as Spain had to hold on to squeeze past Poland in the final seconds to win their opener. Marc Gasol finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in just 23 minutes of action.
- Rubio was still the one guy we were most eager to look at in this game and something was clearly missing from his game. He missed a wide-open, second-half layup and was not a factor in his limited minutes on the floor. Piling up zeros across the board the way he did after all the hype that has accompanied him the past months (and years) was definitely a disappointment.
- Seeing Serge Ibaka work as a role player behind the Gasols was interesting, especially after seeing him play such a huge role for a Thunder team that made its way to the Western Conference finals during the NBA playoffs. Ibaka was his usual workmanlike self, though, scoring seven points on 3-for-4 shooting in his 14 minutes.
- HT-fave and former Hang Time Grizzlies point guard Juan Carlos Navarro is always a welcome sight on the court. We jokingly nicknamed him the “Stockbroker” a few years ago (the logic being that he’d look like a Wall Street-type in street clothes). It’s a term of endearment for a player that always shows up the way he did against Poland (23 points). His free throws and a crucial 3-pointer in the final seconds were the difference in what turned out to be a much tighter game than most expected.
Georgia 81, Belgium 59 (Box Score)
Zaza Pachulia (16 points) led a balanced scoring attack and Viktor Zanikidze (13 points, 11 rebounds) sparked a relentless rebounding effort as Georgia pounded an overmatched Belgium team in their opener. Georgia won the rebounding battle 38-21 and used that advantage from start to finish. “We played very good defense and were ready for them,” Pachulia told reporters after the game. “We lost to them twice last year and wanted to come here and get a win that will give us confidence for the next games.”
Montenegro 70, Macedonia 65, OT (Box Score)
Valdimir Dasic posted a rugged double-double (20 points and 16 rebounds) to lead Montenegro to its first EuroBasket win in the only game of the day that needed extra time to decide a winner. Dasic’s baseline drive and finish with a minute to play in overtime made it a two-score game and Montenegro was able to hold on for the win.
France 89, Latvia 78 (Box Score)
After never seeing so much as a highlight clip of Janis Blums before his outlandish effort against France, we’re unabashed fans of Latvia’s captain now. His 32 points, including a wicked 6-for-9 shooting display from beyond the 3-point line, was as impressive as any individual offensive performance of the day. But France, with a roster loaded with familiar names, survived his onslaught to win their opener. It never hurts to have Tony Parker on your team. And he took over the game after halftime, scoring 19 of his 31 points after the break.
Turkey 79, Portugal 56 (Box Score)
Like plenty of Utah Jazz fans, we were on Enes Kanter watch this morning. We wanted to see if the teenage center would live up to the immense hype that has accompanied his rise to prominence over the past two years. Give him credit, he didn’t disappoint. He even had the Prime Minister, our resident Jazz aficionado, in relatively good spirits after his strong EuroBasket debut. And trust us, that is no small feat.
- Kanter didn’t waste any time in the blowout of Portugal, making all six of his shots from the floor and scoring 12 of his 14 points before halftime. His scoring total matched veteran swingman Hedo Turkoglu for team-high honors. Kanter also grabbed seven rebounds and looked extremely comfortable on the offensive end.
- “I was very nervous before the game but my team-mates have helped me a lot and everything went very well,” Kanter said afterwards. “We started the tournament on the right foot and this is the most important thing.”
- A recurring theme throughout this competition will be the work of a team’s reserves and whether or not they can answer the challenge to produce at a high level on a given night. Turkey’s bench did just that in this game, outscoring Portugal’s reserves 43-17.
Greece 76, Bosnia-Herzegovina 67 (Box Score)
Nick Calathes and swingman Nikolaos Zisis scored 13 points each to help Greece squeeze by a feisty Bosnia-Herzegovina squad in the final minutes of back and forth affair. Nuggets big man Kostas Koufous chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds off the bench for the winners. Calathes was selected 45th overall by the Timberwolves in the 2009 Draft and was traded to the Mavericks.
Slovenia 67, Bulgaria 59 (Box Score)
The Gasols aren’t the only brother act on display in this competition. Goran Dragic and Zoran Dragic helped Slovenia past Bulgaria in the opener. Goran scored 13 points while dishing out six assists and grabbing six rebounds, while Zoran added 12 points and seven rebounds. Erazem Lorbek led the winners with 18 points and nine rebounds.
Croatia 84, Finland 79 (Box Score)
Bojan Bogdanovich had one of the most impressive displays we saw all day, draining six 3-pointers and finishing with a game-high 27 points and grabbing seven rebounds to help Croatia fend off Finland. This is the 6-foot-8 swingman the Heat selected with the 31st pick on draft night — they wound up sending him to New Jersey for Norris Cole.
Germany 91, Israel 64 (Box Score)
Nowitzki is working his first European competition as the true alpha dog of the tournament. No one is going to step aside for him just because he’s got a Larry O’Brien trophy and a Finals MVP on his resume now. Besides, he’s been lighting it up on this stage for over a decade. Israel certainly no answer for him in the opener.
- Between Nowitzki (25 points) and Chris Kaman (18 points and 10 rebounds), Germany got all the of the offensive production necessary out of its starting big men. They combined for 25 of Germany’s first 40 points in a game that was all but decided by halftime, when Germany held a 40-26 lead.
- Germany coach Dirk Bauermann: “We have two of the best players in the world, Dirk and Chris who did a very good job. The young players played hard and with courage. The first game is always difficult especially against the team which is strong. We are happy we won and now we are looking forward for a game against Italy tomorrow.”
- While Germany had its biggest stars healthy and ready to go, Israel was obviously missing the presence of Omri Casspi, who hurt his knee during his team’s pre-tournament work and did not make the trip. He wouldn’t have changed the outcome of this game but he’d have given Israel at least one player of somewhat similar ability to throw at Nowitzki and Germany.
Lithuania 80, Great Britain 69 (Box Score)
There’s no denying it, we were eager to see Luol Deng‘s EuroBasket debut. He played superstar minutes (every single one of them) and posted the sort of numbers (game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds) you might expect of a player his caliber. But it didn’t keep Great Britain from losing team a deeper and much more experienced team from the host nation.
- This was also a great opportunity to see Jonas Valanciunas in action. But the young big man — drafted No. 5 overall in the 2011 Draft — didn’t even get off the bench until there was just over five minutes to play in the third quarter. He barely made a mark on this game, playing just four minutes before giving way to much more experienced teammates in a close game.
- Lithuania’s Rimantas Kaukenas poured in 10 of his team-high 16 points in the final quarter. He sparked a 13-2 run in the quarter that helped fuel the raucous home crowd and helped Lithuania put the game away.
- We probably shouldn’t be surprised to see Sarunas Jasikevicius still doing his thing on this stage. The former Pacers and Warriors guard has been a mainstay on the Lithuanian team for years. He was effective in his role off the bench in the opener, making four of his five shots from the floor and finishing with 13 points and four assists.
Russia 73, Ukraine 64 (Box Score)
This was an excellent game to finish up the first day with in Lithuania. Andrei Kirilenko looked like the AK-47 of old in helping Russia fend off a serious challenge from Mike Fratello‘s Ukraine team. Fratello warned us over the weekend that we might be overlooking the fact that just because a guy plays one role in the NBA it doesn’t mean he’s not a very different player for his national team. Veterans like Kirilenko are still definitive game changers in international competitions.
- Kirilenko’s 20 points, 11 rebounds and four steals were critical on a day when Russia struggled to make shots as they did against Fratello’s defensive scheme, which limited them to just 38 percent shooting in the game, thanks to a towering frontline that includes Oleksiy Pecherov.
- Admit it, you’d forgotten all about Viktor Krhyapa, the 22nd pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and former Trail Blazers swingman. But there he was for Russia at crunch time, nailing a jumper to push a three-point lead back to five and providing his team with a little breathing room down the stretch. He was solid on both ends and also led the team with four assists.
- Fratello had to be frustrated with his team’s inability to keep a handle on the ball, particularly with the game on the line late. They finished with 19 turnovers, seven in the fourth quarter. That’s the difference in a close game, be it a youth league or at the highest levels.
The matchups are just as interesting on Day 2. Be sure t dive in and check out as much of the action as you can, via ESPN3.com, and you can stay updated on the entire tournament with a quick click on the official site for EuroBasket 2011.