HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The three matchups in Group E action Friday at EuroBasket 2011 did not disappoint. Defending champion Spain flexed its muscle yet again, Germany bowed up to the challenge against Turkey and France and Lithuania delivered on the promise of an absolute thriller.
On top of that, spots in the quarterfinals were clinched in the process …
Spain 84, Serbia 59 (Box Score)
Any questions about Pau Gasol‘s complete recovery from his struggles during the NBA playoffs should be clear to anyone watching him in this competition. He joined his younger brother Marc Gasol in punishing Serbia from start to finish as Spain secured its ticket to the quarterfinals in a runaway. Pau finished with 26 points, 15 in the first half, while Marc countered with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
While this wasn’t necessarily a rematch of the 2009 gold medal game, won going away by Spain, it was a reminder for Serbia and every other team in this competition just how powerful Spain can be when they have two healthy Gasols and our main man “The Stockbroker,” Juan Carlos Navarro, clicking along with the rest of a deep and talented roster. Navarro finished with 14 points.
Serbia knocked off Spain in the quarterfinals at last year’s World Championships in Turkey, when Pau Gasol was out injured. It wasn’t even close this time around. “We played a great game for 40 minutes,” Spain point guard Jose Calderon said. “We were concentrated from the start. Everybody was ready to help each other. “We all wanted to stop (Serbia point guard Milos) Teodosic and we did that. It was a great victory. We have to be proud of holding a great team like Serbia to 59 points, but we have to continue to work hard because we have more games to play.”
Two of Spain’s other NBA players, Calderon and Rudy Fernandez, joined the Gasols and Navarro in the starting lineup. Calderon played a turnover-free 20 minutes and finished with eight points, five rebounds and three assists. Fernandez showed off his versatility, with five rebounds, three assists two steals and the play of the game, a wicked first-quarter block of a Milan Macvan layup.
Germany 73, Turkey 67 (Score)
The hero’s cape is usually reserved for Dirk Nowitzki and he did his part, draining four straight free throws to seal this huge, stay-alive win for Germany. But he had company in the fourth quarter of this one. Philipp Schwethelm did his damage from distance, scoring 11 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter, including three huge 3-pointers.
The win sends Germany into Sunday’s showdown with Lithuania with a chance to advance to the elite eight of this competition, with another gutsy, comeback effort like this one. “We played our worst first half of the summer but we only trailed by a few points at the break,” Schwethelm said. “In the second half we made big shots and we won.”
Chris Kaman had 20 points and seven rebounds to power Germany inside against a formidable group of big men at work for Turkey. Nowitzki dealt with foul trouble throughout the game but still managed to score 19 points.
Omer Asik and Enes Kanter are the two big men from Turkey we were talking about. And they were rugged in this game. Asik finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds while managed 11 points and three rebounds. They still have a showdown with Serbia on tap this weekend, a game they’ll need their bigs to dominate if they want to win. And Sunday’s game against Serbia is a must-win if Turkey wants into the quarterfinals (they also need Germany to lose
France 73, Lithuania 67 (Box Score)
The best way to avoid the drama of the complex tiebreaker system to advance to the quarterfinals is to stay perfect, which is exactly what France did by outlasting Lithuania before a hostile, host-nation crowd at Vilnius Arena. We haven’t mentioned him before now, but Nando De Colo (you’ve got to love that name) was spectacular. He led France with 21 points, five steals and four rebounds. He scored 13 of his points in the fourth quarter to help seal the deal.
Tony Parker came through with another solid effort, scoring 19 points. Joakim Noah‘s work on the glass (game-high 13, six offensive), though, was particularly crucial in such a hostile environment. Noah will have his hands full Sunday when France takes on Spain and the Gasol brothers, so it’s probably a good thing that he is cranking it up now.
With their quarterfinals slot already locked down, Friday’s game was yet another opportunity for France to prove their mettle. “For us, this is our biggest performance in Lithuania,” France coach Vincent Collet said. “To do it in Vilnius, in front of this crowd means that we are a real team. Nando made very big shots that helped us get back in front.”
After riding a red-hot 3-point shooting performance to victory over Serbia in their last game, when they shot 11-for-20 from distance, Lithuania’s shooters came back to earth against France. They made just seven of their 23 attempts from that range Friday. If not for solid outings from Simas Jasaitis (13 points) and Jonas Valanciunas (12 points), this one might not have stayed as tight as it did down the stretch.
*** The six teams in Group F will back on the court Saturday, starting with Georgia-Finald, F.Y.R. Macedonia-Slovenia and finishing up with Greece-Russia. ***