HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Even without the services of Tony Parker, France remained unblemished in preliminary action at EuroBasket 2011.
Parker’s teammates ruled the roost in Lithuania, knocking off Italy on Day 5 with a dramatic come-from-behind win without their catalyst and best player healthy enough to contribute in the fourth quarter.
But that was far from the only action worthy of our attention …
Great Britain 85, Portugal 73 (Box Score)
Seeing Luol Deng operate as the No. 1 option for a team is quite interesting considering we haven’t seen him do it since his days at Duke. That said, the Bulls’ forward has been more than up to the task for a Great Britain team that needs every ounce of what he brings. Deng dominated Portugal, scoring 21 of his 31 points before halftime. Deng also grabbed 10 rebounds, had four assists, a block and a steal in a complete performance.
This was Great Britain’s first win in an international competition of this stature. And the magnitude of the moment was not lost on Deng, who said, “I will always remember this win as it is my first at a EuroBasket. I think we showed today that we have a great future ahead of us.”
Israel 91, Latvia 88 (Box Score)
Israel saved some face with this win but they still won’t advance out of group play. Lior Eliyahu had a team-high 26 points and Israel pounded Latvia inside, outscoring them 52-36 in the paint. That near-upset of Serbia a couple of days ago seems like more than just a momentary blip now, though.
After never so much as hearing of Latvia’s captain, Janis Blumis, before this competition, he can count us among his biggest fans going forward. He’s absolutely fearless and can shoot it from all over the floor, he scored a game-high 27 points and stroked four of his six shots from beyond the 3-point line, a trait that most of the standouts in international play possess.
Macedonia 72, Finland 70 (Box Score)
Our main man Bo McCalebb and his crew from Macedonia won their third in a row and locked down a spot in the competition’s next phase with this gritty win over Finland. McCalebb led the way with 18 points but it was the physical work done by captain Pero Antic (14 points and 19 rebounds) that made the biggest difference. It was his defensive rebounds in the final seconds that secured the win.
When you get outrebounded 44-27 it’s usually hard to keep the game as close as Finland did. Tuuki Kotti was the only player to log minutes for Finland and grab five or more rebounds. They had a chance to steal this game late but Antic came up with two crucial defensive rebounds in the last few seconds to seal the win Macedonia’s win.
Georgia 69, Ukraine 53 (Box Score)
The moment of truth for Georgia comes with Monday’s game against Bulgaria. With a 2-2 record, Zaza Pachulia and his teammates still have to handle that business first to move on to the next phase of the competition. One of the beautiful things about this team, per Pachulia, is that they are indeed just that — “a team.”
That depth showed in the win over Mike Fratello‘s team, when Georgia won without big days from either Pachulia or Viktor Sanikidze. “We’re a team and every day someone else is good,” Vladimer Boisa said. “We don’t depend just on one guy, so if someone isn’t having a great day other guys will come to cover for him.”
Poland 84, Turkey 83 (Box Score)
Turkey held a seven-point lead with 4:30 to play but couldn’t hold on to the lead and suffered a stunning defeat at the hands of Poland. In the quality-over-quantity department, Piotr Pamula played all of six minutes in this game, but he drained a critical 3-pointer from the left wing with 46 seconds to play that put Poland up 82-81. Dardan Berisha‘s step-back jumper with 12.1 seconds left capped a 21-point night and sealed the comeback win.
Enes Kanter had another strong showing for Turkey, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and a block. What was really strange is that Turkey didn’t go inside to Kanter on their last possession, settling instead for a Kerem Tunceri step-back 3-pointer that missed short as time expired.
France 91, Italy 84 (Box Score)
No Tony Parker? No problem for France. They managed to stay unbeaten even without Parker available (he suffered a thigh injury) in the fourth quarter of a tight contest with a game Italian squad. Boris Diaw (21 points) and Nicolas Batum (20) picked up the scoring slack for France, which got four points from Diaw in the final 76 seconds of this game to finish off Italy. It helps to have the competition’s top-rated offense (120.4 off. rating), per the advanced stats provided by my main man John Schuhmann.
Much like they have throughout this competition, Italy got plenty of scoring from the trio of Andrea Bargnani (22), Danilo Gallinari (18) and Marco Belinelli (19). They just needed more help against France.
Greece 71, Montenegro 55 (Box Score)
A 19-0 run after halftime turned this game into a rout for Greece. We haven’t talked much about Kostas Koufos much since the competition began. But he made sure we had to bring his name up this time, collecting 19 points and four blocks to lead the charge. It’s the sort of performance we’ve expected out him regularly in this event.
Greece was mentioned as a potential sleeper in this event by two people (a coach and a player) well-versed in the international game — people whose opinions we trust without hesitation. One stunning loss to Macedonia probably won’t change those opinions, so we won’t change ours, either.
Russia 89, Bulgaria 77 (Box Score)
Russia and Slovenia will get it on Monday for the top spot in Group D. Russia will be hard to beat if they continue to play as well defensively as they have so far. They lead the entire competition with a defensive rating of 90.7. And Andrei Kirilenko is making a strong case for being the best all-around player in the competition. His 25 points and four steals led the way against Bulgaria.
Another factor for Russia that could come into play more and more in the coming days is the emergence of Timofey Mozgov, who worked Bulgaria for 15 points, five rebounds and two blocks. Most all of our scout friends love him, and have for a while now. When you see him play extended minutes, as he did against Bulgaria, it’s easy to see why.
Spain 91, Lithuania 79 (Box Score)
The drama only lasted the first few minutes in this one. Lithuania went up early, but Spain responded with a 16-0 run and 22-7 lead seven minutes into the game and the rest, as they might say in Spain, was “historia.” Our man “The Stockbroker,” Juan Carlos Navarro (or La Bomba, as we’re told he is referred to back home) dropped 15 of his 22 points in the first quarter to propel the defending champs, who also got 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks from Serge Ibaka.
Jonas Valanciunas turned in one of his best offensive performances of the competition (13 points) but was not a factor on the boards, finishing with just two in his 16 minutes. He got off five more shots than he grabbed rebounds in that same stretch, which might have had more to do with the fact that Spain ran away with the game more than anything else.
Serbia 75, Germany 64 (Box Score)
If you have not taken the time to watch Milos Teodosic go to work on opposing defenses, you need to. His name doesn’t come up during our normal conversations about the best point guards out there, but I’d love to see how his game would translate in another environment. He flirted with a triple-double, shredding Germany for 12 points, nine rebounds and nine assists and looked fantastic doing so. He’s obviously not the only reason Serbia is undefeated, but he has been their driving force.
Even with Dirk Nowitzki doing his usual (25 points and six rebounds) and a solid double-double (10 and 11) from Chris Kaman, Germany still couldn’t stay with Serbia. Not after that sluggish start. “I just thought that the way we came out was not acceptable,” Germany coach Dirk Bauermann said. “If you fall behind against such a great team, it’s very difficult to win the game, almost impossible because they just know how to control the game. “They just have so many weapons that play together well that it makes it extremely difficult, once you fall behind nine, 10, 11 points, to come back.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina 92, Croatia 80 (Box Score)
With this win Bosnia and Herzegovina has officially set up a wild Group C finish on the final day of preliminary action. Four of the six teams in the group still have a chance to claw their way into the next phase. Another performance like the one they turned in against Croatia (it will have to come against Macedonia today), and Bosnia and Herzegovina might end up being the team everyone is talking about.
The 13 makes from beyond the 3-point line and huge games from Mirza Teletovic (26 points and nine rebounds) and Henry Domercant (23 and seven) proved to be the difference for Bosnia and Herzegovina. They’ll need them to step up again if they want to deal a similar blow against Macedonia.
Slovenia 70, Belgium 61 (Box Score)
One of the most anticipated games of the final day of preliminary play comes when Slovenia and Russia lay their perfect records on the line to battle it out for top honors in Group D. Goran Dragic certainly seemed to be warming up to the challenge with his big game against Belgium. He scored eight of his 18 points in the final five minutes of a tight game and also added five steals for the winners.
If you are asking yourself how a team that shoots just 17 percent from beyond the 3-point line outlast one that shoots 46 percent, Slovenia provided an answer in this one. Slovenia shot a robust 57 percent on their other shots from the floor and also grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to bolster their cause.