Posts Tagged ‘EuroBasket 2011’

FIBA Power Rankings

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS (NEW JERSEY BUREAU) – The EuroBasket and FIBA Americas tournaments are in the books, but there’s still some basketball to be played before the 12-team field for next year’s Olympics is set.

The FIBA Asia championship, which wraps up on Sunday, will determine the ninth team to qualify for the Olympics, as well as the final two teams to qualify for the 12-team, last-chance qualifying tournament that will take place next July in a location to be determined. The top three finishers in that tournament will complete the Olympic field.

So once FIBA Asia is complete, there will be 21 teams with a chance at Olympic gold. We rank them below, taking a guess at Asia’s three representatives…

1. USA
In Olympic field – 2010 World Champion
Having qualified for the Olympics by winning last year’s World Championship, the U.S. was happy to take this summer off with a 28-game FIBA winning streak intact. Mike Krzyzewski will be back next summer, leading a new group. And Jerry Colangelo will have the opportunity to select a squad from two groups that have won championships, the 2008 team that won gold in Beijing, and the 2010 team that won in Istanbul.

2. Spain
In Olympic field – 2011 EuroBasket Champion
Spain took the U.S. to the wire in the gold medal game of the last Olympics, and there’s no reason to believe they can’t be right there with them again in London next year. Without their best player, they finished a disappointing sixth at last year’s World Championship, but they were dominant at EuroBasket over the last few weeks. They lost a pool-play game to Turkey (again without their best player), but outscored their opponents by almost 19 points per 100 possessions overall.

3. Argentina
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Americas Champion
Argentina’s golden core showed some signs of age in Mar del Plata and will be one year older in London. But as long as they’re healthy, no group will be more experienced or more cohesive in next year’s Olympics.

4. France
In Olympic field – 2011 EuroBasket 2nd place
After finishing 13th at last year’s World Championship, France brought a bigger group of NBA players to Lithuania. They took them all the way to the final, where they lost to Spain for the second time. This was an offensive group, but they were able to get to the final with defensive wins over Greece and Russia.

5. Russia
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket third place
Russia gave the U.S. it’s toughest challenge in elimination play at last year’s World Championship. And at EuroBasket, they were the only team other than Spain to win 10 games, doing it with a stifling defense that only allowed 95 points per 100 possessions. David Blatt‘s squad doesn’t have an offensive star, but they share the ball as well as any team in the world.

6. Lithuania
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket fifth place
A year ago, a young group of Lithuanians surprised everyone by capturing bronze at the World Championship, with their only loss coming to the U.S. in the semifinal. This year, with EuroBasket in their home country, they were a disappointment, losing to Spain, France, and then FYR Macedonia in the quarterfinals.

7. Brazil
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Americas 2nd place
In the last five years, no team has come closer to beating the U.S. than Brazil did in pool play at last year’s World Championship, coming a contested lay-up away from taking the Americans to overtime. They’ve also played three great games against Argentina in the last two summers. Brazil could have a full complement of NBA players next year in London, but point guard Marcelo Huertas will still be their engine.

8. Greece
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 EuroBasket sixth place
With Theo Papaloukas and Dimitris Diamantidis retired from the National Team, Greece’s strength is now on the interior. They proved at EuroBasket that they’re still a strong squad, and they’ve certainly got a shot to capture one of the last three spots at the Olympics. But they just don’t have the firepower to compete with the world’s top teams anymore.

9. Dominican Republic
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas third place
It took several games for John Calipari‘s squad to find some consistency, but they looked pretty strong in their last few games at Mar del Plata. At next year’s qualifying tournament, they’ll be playing for their first ever Olympic berth in men’s basketball and lacking the international experience of the other contenders for the top three spots.

10. Puerto Rico
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas fourth place
Puerto Rico was the stronger team for most of the FIBA Americas tournament, but they fell to the Dominican Republic in the bronze medal game. More disappointing was their performance at last year’s World Championship, losing to the Ivory Coast in their final pool-play game and failing to qualify for the 16-team knockout round.

11. Australia
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Oceania Champion
Australia only had to beat New Zealand in a three-game series to qualify for the Olympics. But that doesn’t mean that this isn’t a solid squad when healthy. They finished seventh at the ’08 Olympics and 10th at last year’s World Championship.

12. FYR Macedonia
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 Eurobasket fourth place
Behind a strong defense and the play of Bo McCalebb, FYR Macedonia was the Cinderella story of EuroBasket. They’re certainly a candidate for grabbing one of the last three Olympic berths at next year’s qualifying tournament, but you have to wonder if they can repeat what they did in Lithuania.

13. Great Britain
In Olympic field – Host
Great Britain lost its first three games at EuroBasket before recovering to beat Portugal and Poland. They should get a lift behind their home crowd next year, but they still might have a tough time making the quarterfinals.

14. Venezuela
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Americas fifth place
Venezuela took a step forward with their fifth-place finish in Mar del Plata, but it’s hard to imagine them fitting in the top three at next year’s qualifying tournament. Eric Musselman‘s offense was the most efficient (121 points scored per 100 possessions) at the FIBA Americas tournament, but his team’s defense was pretty awful.

15. New Zealand
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Oceania second place
New Zealand got swept by Australia, but this is a team that won three games at last year’s World Championship behind the scoring of Kirk Penney. That included a win over France.

16. Iran
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
Iran won a game at last year’s World Championship and is now looking like the early favorite to capture Asia’s spot at the Olympics, having won its last two games by a total of 179 points.

17. China
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
No longer is it clear that China is the best team in Asia. Wednesday’s game against Japan (also 4-0) will be an interesting test.

18. Tunisia
In Olympic field – 2011 FIBA Africa Champion
With a (relatively) strong defense, Tunisia is the best team in Africa. But this is still a team that went 0-5 at last year’s World Championship. That included a 13-point loss to Iran.

19. Angola
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Africa second place
Angola won two games (over Jordan and Germany) at last year’s World Championship before getting crushed by the U.S. in the round of 16. They lost by 11 to Tunisia in the FIBA Africa final.

20. Nigeria
In qualifying tournament field – 2011 FIBA Africa second place
Nigeria looked pretty strong until losing to Angola in the semifinals.

21. Korea
Currently 4-0 at FIBA Asia
With four easy wins, Korea is looking like the third best team in Asia. They’ll play Iran in their final pool-play game on Wednesday.

Field for 2012 Olympics
Team How
United States 2010 World Champion
Great Britain Host
Tunisia FIBA Africa Champion
Australia FIBA Oceania Champion
Argentina FIBA Americas Champion
Brazil FIBA Americas 2nd place
Spain EuroBasket Champion
France EuroBasket 2nd place
Team 9 FIBA Asia Champion
Team 10 2012 Qualifier
Team 11 2012 Qualifier
Team 12 2012 Qualifier
Field for 2012 Olympic Qualifying Tournament
Team How
Angola FIBA Africa 2nd place
Nigeria FIBA Africa 3rd place
New Zealand FIBA Oceania 2nd place
Dominican Republic FIBA Americas 3rd place
Puerto Rico FIBA Americas 4th place
Venezuela FIBA Americas 5th place
Russia EuroBasket 3rd place
FYR Macedonia EuroBasket 4th place
Lithuania EuroBasket 5th place
Greece EuroBasket 6th place
Team 11 FIBA Asia 2nd place
Team 12 FIBA Asia 3rd place

Spain Claims Repeat Gold

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – In a competition filled with exquisite guard play, Spain got the most consistently brilliant effort from one of the world’s best in Juan Carlos Navarro on its way to repeat gold at EuroBasket 2011.

Navarro’s 27 points lifted Spain past France Sunday in Lithuania, punctuating their tournament-long dominance with a 98-85 win over Tony Parker and his crew.

Navarro’s perimeter game was complemented perfectly by the inside presence of Pau Gasol and his younger brother Marc Gasol, who took turns carrying the load for Spain throughout the competition. But it was Navarro’s relentlessness that marked Spain’s run throughout this tournament and throughout Sunday’s title game.

In a matchup with another one of the world’s most dynamic scoring guards in Parker, Navarro proved up to the task, as did his stellar ensemble cast. Pau Gasol had 17 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three blocks. Marc Gasol added 11 points, six rebounds, two blocks and two assists. Navarro’s backcourt mate Jose Calderon finished with 17 points of his own. Serge Ibaka blocked five shots in his 21 minutes, showing during a five-minute stretch of the second quarter as Spain built a 10-point advantage that would not be surrendered.

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Spain, France Set To Battle In EuroBasket Finals

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The stage is set. Spain and France will battle it out for the crown of the best team in Europe at EuroBasket 2011, their invitations to next summer’s Olympic games in London are set now.

How’d they get here?

That’s what we (my main man and NBA.com‘s John Schuhmann kicks things off today) are here for …

Spain 92, FYR Macedonia 80 (Boxscore)

From the start of this tournament, we all expected Spain to make the final and earn one of Europe’s two guaranteed spots in next year’s Olympics. But none of us expected FYR Macedonia to be the last team standing between the defending European champs and that Olympic berth.

Getting through this semifinal was no walk in the park for Spain. The defending champs didn’t take control of the game until late in the third quarter when Juan Carlos Navarro caught fire. Navarro scored 19 of his 35 points in the third, at one point hitting a ridiculous running three at the shot clock buzzer, to give Spain a nine-point edge heading into the fourth.

The Macedonia offense, which had struggled all tournament but scored 45 points in the first half, couldn’t keep up with Navarro’s onslaught. And with the Gasol brothers almost outrebounding Macedonia by themselves, Spain was just too much for the underdogs.

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France, Russia Reach EuroBasket Semis

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Hometown and host-nation favorite Lithuania saved its Olympic qualifying bacon with a win over Slovenia in early action Thursday at EuroBasket 2011.

The crowd faves were just the warm up act, however, as France (as noted by my main man and NBA.com’s John Schuhmann) and Russia played their way into the semifinals with wins …

Russia 77, Serbia 67 (Box Score)

There is only one team still playing in EuroBasket that hasn’t tasted defeat in this competition. Russia has won nine straight games and will take that unblemished mark into a semifinal showdown against France. When you have the most versatile player in the competition, do-it-all swingman Andrei Kirilenko, leading the charge every night, it makes sense that Russia continues to wear down the competition. Kirilenko finished with 14 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks.

“Two years ago we played in the same phase against the same group of great players and the same great coach and we lost, as I said then, by a better team,” said Russia coach David Blatt. “We moved forward from there. We provided our players with the kind of teaching and culture it takes to build a successful national team. We got back two of our main players – Kirilenko and [Viktor] Khryapa, who didn’t play in 2009, and you saw tonight how important they are. But the story is the other players who matured and are now a higher level basketball players. It’s a sweet win, but the joy is short, because we play tomorrow in the semifinals. We’ve had a great run so far.”

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Slovenia Snags Final Quarterfinal Spot

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Six teams put the finishing touches on second round play at EuroBasket 2011 Monday in Lithuania.

But there was only one quarterfinal spot remaining in Group F play …

Slovenia 67, Finland 60 (Box Score)

The directive was simple for the Slovenia, win or go home. They did exactly what had to be done against Finland, aesthetics be darned. Sure, it wasn’t one of the prettier games played in this competition. But it was a win. And those have been tough to come by for Slovenia lately. Uros Slokar turned in a near-flawless effort off the bench with 13 points, eight rebounds and no turnovers in 22 minutes to spark Slovenia. Erazem Lorbek (14 points and six rebounds) and Zoran Dragic (10 points and four rebounds) delivered as well.

“Before the game we just told ourselves to relax and think how we can enjoy the game again,” Slokar said. “Go on the floor and try to be more relaxed. I think that’s something we managed to do. Finland played good but we kept them on a low score and that’s the key for our wins. Spain is favorite against any team in this tournament, but our goals are different than theirs. We will try to win and give 100 percent to win. If that would be enough it’s great, and if not we’re still going to be happy with the result because we gave 100 percent.”

With the win Slovenia earned a date against defending champion Spain, winners of Group E. So the challenge for Slovenia remains. And they’ll have to stay focused the entire way to have a chance against Spain, something they struggled to do against Finland. It took six straight points from Lorbek to hold off a Finland rally in the fourth quarter.

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Serbia In, Germany Out At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Spain claimed the top spot in Group E with an easy win over France in what should have been a clash of the titans on Day 11 at EuroBasket 2011.

(More on that shortly!)

The day belonged to the crew from Serbia, though, as they claimed something even more important; a spot in the quarterfinals …

Serbia 68, Turkey 67 (Box Score)

Serbia needed this win to secure their ticket to the quarterfinals and to keep their Olympic hopes alive. They also needed an Ersan Ilyasova miss in the final seconds to escape Turkey in a thriller that went down the final tense moments for both teams. It helped that Milos Tedosic finally returned to form, finishing with a game-high 20 points, eight rebounds and five assists.

This loss is a wicked blow for Turkey, the runner-up (to the U.S. team) at last summer’s World Championships on their home soil. “We are very sad,” said Turkey coach Orhun Ene. “We were second at the last World Championship and we had big expectations for this tournament. We didn’t show our potential throughout the tournament. We promised the Turkish people that we would try to qualify for the Olympics for the first time, but we lost too many games. This was our last chance and we lost the game in only one possession.”

They won’t have to search hard to find reasons why didn’t succeed. Making just 55 percent (16-for-29) of your free throws in a game decided by the thinnest of margins is certainly a recipe for disaster. Remember, they made a paltry 45 percent (10-for-22) of their free throws Friday in a six-point loss to Germany. Serbia shot an impressive 81 percent (13-for-16) from the free throw line and also grabbed three more rebounds (38-35) than Turkey.

“This was very tough. Everybody was under pressure as the winner would go to the quarterfinals,” said Serbia’s coach, Dusan Ivkovic. “We controlled the game in the first half but our concentration went down in the second half. We led the game for almost 40 minutes only to allow Turkey to have the last shot. We deserved this victory because we were better on the night.”

Spain 96, France 69 (Box Score)

The top spot in Group E belongs to the defending champions, courtesy of their win over a France team that played without both Tony Parker and Joakim Noah (both given a day of rest). Without two of their biggest stars, France struggled to keep the game close after halftime. Spain used a 27-4 run in the third quarter to blow the game open and then cruised to the finish. The loss ended France’s seven-game win streak.

The difference in approach to this game was interesting, with France easing up and Spain going all out. “It was a weird game but we wanted to respect our opponent as well as other teams who are playing in this tournament to define the final positions and especially for ourselves, we believe there is nothing better than a good game to improve and get better,” said Spain coach Sergio Scariolo. “This was our motivation. Everybody gave something. We get to the point with the do-or-die competition starts. We know we start from zero but it’s better to get there in the right way.”

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Gasols Lead Spain Into Quarterfinals

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. ***

Macedonia Does It Again At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Macedonia’s magical run in Lithuania continued during Day 2 of the second round at EuroBasket 2011, one of three games on the schedule in Group F action.

We’ve been talking up Bo McCalebb and his boys for a while now and they’re making it hard to stop talking about them …

Macedonia 65, Georgia 63 (Box Score)

While he is far from a one-man show, McCalebb did everything humanly possible to secure victory for Macedonia in this matchup. The final two of his game-high 27 points came with :00.2 to play in a nail-biter. McCalebb has become every bit the force for his team that Tony Parker has been for France in this competition, proving virtually unstoppable at times throughout the past nine days. McCalebb, the only player on the Macedonia roster to score more than eight points in this game, also finished with four assists and four steals.

Without Zaza Pachulia (calf injury) in uniform to man the middle, Georgia seemed completely out of sync for most of this game. Nikoloz Tskitishvili picked up the slack, finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Viktor Sanikidze added 15 points and seven rebounds but also committed seven of Georgia’s whopping 20 turnovers.

They haven’t officially sealed the deal yet, but the quarterfinals look like a very realistic expectation for Macedonia at this point. Staying completely in the moment and handling the opponent at hand while not thinking about trying to make history has worked for Macedonia to this point, so there is no reason for them to look beyond Saturday’s game against Slovenia.

Russia 79, Finland 60 (Box Score)

Not every game in this competition is going to be a fair fight. And this certainly was one of those games that appeared unfair from very early on. Russia was simply better than Finland in virtually every aspect. The two-headed monster of Andrei Kirilenko (14 points, four rebounds and four steals) and Viktor Kryhapa (11 assists) led the way for powerful Russia.

Russia’s dominance inside was evident early on and executed by the likes of Timofey Mozgov, who finished with 11 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Russia outscored Finland a staggering 52-18 in the paint. Russia’s lead reached 20 points after halftime and they cruised down the stretch.

If you need an illustration of just how powerful this Russia team can be, they won going away while making just one of their 10 three-pointers. They were also careless with the ball (19 turnovers), yet they still managed 22 assists to Finland’s nine.

Greece 69, Slovenia 60 (Box Score)

Greece showed some serious finishing kick, outscoring Slovenia 25-14 in the fourth quarter to seal this extremely important win and move a step closer to making their way to the quarterfinals. Nikolaos Zisis had the big game for Greece, draining two huge 3-pointers down the stretch to help the winners finish this one off. Zisis scored a game-high 19 points and was the only player from Greece to finish in double figures. But he received plenty of help from a deep bench, including seven points and a team-high nine rebounds from Kostas Koufos.

This game wasn’t the prettiest one played in this competition, particularly for Slovenia. They never did find the right shooting touch. they made just 38 percent of their shots from the floor, and that includes a dismal 24 percent (6-for-25) effort from beyond the 3-point line. Erazem Lorbek and Goran Dragic were a combined 6-for-17 from the floor and just 1-for-8 from distance.

Long-distance shooting is essentially what won this game for Greece. They made nine of their 17 shots from long-range and nailed them down the stretch, those two from Zisis and another dagger from Antonios Fotsis to put the game away late. The very best teams in this competition have shown an ability to win games when they are clicking from deep and by going inside if they are not. Greece has the ability to do both.

*** Friday’s slate of games in Group E should be as explosive as any we’ve seen so far in this competition. Spain and Serbia, Germany and Turkey, and Lithuania and France get after each other to finish the work week. ***

Spain, France, Lithuania Win At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The second round is under way at EuroBasket 2011 in Lithuania with some familiar faces in action and some familiar teams claiming wins …

Spain 77, Germany 68 (Box Score)

You probably know the words to this song by now. Spain wins with huge efforts from both Pau Gasol and Marc Gasol. The defending champions have been doing it like this for a while now and certainly since this EuroBasket competition began. Marc scored a game-high 24 points and grabbed five rebounds while Pau rang up 19 and seven against Dirk Nowitzki and Chris Kaman. Nowitzki matched Pau’s 19 and 7 and Kaman chipped in with 15 and 12.

  • The difference? Spain has the “Stockbroker”HT‘s main man Juan Carlos Navarro — on its side. Navarro came up with 14 huge points and helped keep Spain in front from start to finish in this second-round opener for both teams.
  • That said, a three-point game (68-65) late was decided by the Gasols, who combined for Spain’s final nine points. Ricky Rubio added a clutch steal late to end the threat from a Germany team that hung tough the entire game. Spain never could blow this game open, the way they had several others during the preliminary round.
  • Rubio finished with five rebounds and four steals in 21 turnover free minutes. His ability to wreak havoc in the passing lanes on the defensive end is impressive. And he rebounds well enough for a player his size. He’s just not a serious scoring threat at this stage of his career, not against foes of the ilk he will find in competitions such as this one and most certainly against the superstar point guards he will see in his rookie season in the NBA.

France 68, Turkey 64 (Box Score)

We didn’t hear much bellyaching about Tony Parker being HT’s MVP of group play and his performance against Turkey today is a perfect example of why. Parker simply changes games in his team’s favor in this competition. And he does over and over again. He got hot hat after halftime, scoring 10 of his 20 points in the third quarter, to crank up his crew. Parker’s free throws in the final seconds, after a crucial five-second call on Turkey on an inbounds play, provided the winning margin.

  • Not all the news was good for France. They’ll have to work without Mickael Gelabale in Friday’s tilt with Lithuania, per coach Vincent Collet. Gelabale sprained an ankle and was lost for the game. That’s a huge blow for France. Gelabale has been one of their most consistent perimeter players in the competition.
  • When Turkey turned to their 2-3 zone late in the third quarter to try to slow Parker and France down, it worked to perfection. That defensive tweak allowed Turkey to get back into the game. They battled back from a 13-point deficit to within a point in the final seconds. Without a consistent 3-point shooting threat on the floor, France struggles to operate. That 4-for-17 shooting from beyond the 3-point line accentuated an ugly shooting performance (35 percent) overall.  “We relaxed a little bit and they put the zone and we couldn’t make a shots,” Collet said. “We were scared as the game continued after we missed seven or eight open shots.”
  • Nicolas Batum continued his steady offensive showing in this game, scoring 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting. With Gelabale out Friday his role should expand. They’ll need him to be much more active on the glass as things progress.

Lithuania 100, Serbia 90 (Box Score)

The host nation team worked Serbia from both sides, the old and the new, in a rousing win to cap Wednesday’s action. Sarunas Jasikevicius, 35, showed off his playmaking skills, finishing with 14 points and seven assists, while 19-year-old big man Jonas Valanciunas was dominant, making eight of his nine shots from the floor and finishing with 18 points. Valanciunas has been a revelation for us here at the hideout. Aside from his pre-Draft hype, the Raptors’ pick was pretty much a mystery around here. But he’s shown himself to be much more prospect than project and Raptors fans have to like what they’ve seen out of the young big man.

  • Lithuania’s bench production was the key to this game. Valanciunas and Jasikevicius were the keys to the attack as the Lithuania reserves outscored Serbia’s subs 47-19. Valanciunas was particularly effective battling down low with the 3-point shots falling early (Lithuania nailed seven of their 10 attempts from distance before halftime).
  • There is no question the energy provided by the home crowd makes a difference. While Serbia tried to keep pace, it was clear that Lithuania played with an extra energy boost their competitors struggled to match. “I think the game was hard,” Valanciunas said. “We played hard for all four quarters. I thank the fans because they put on a great atmosphere. It felt as though we were playing with six players. We shot very well from three-point range, especially in the first half.”
  • It’s hard to believe it took this long for it to happen, but Lithuania is the first team to reach the 100-point barrier in this competition, starting point guard Mantas Kalnietis led the way with 19 points. But with the firepower this team possesses, maybe it shouldn’t be such a surprise. Valanciunas was the MVP of this summer’s 19-under World Championships while Jasikevicius was the MVP of 2003.

On To The Next Phase At EuroBasket

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – With the initial phase of EuroBasket 2011 in the books it’s time to cast an eye toward the start of the second round, which kicks off Wednesday, and take a quick look back at some of the highlights and highlight-makers from preliminary play.

We’ve gone from four groups of six to two groups of six for the second round:

Group E

  • France, 2-0
  • Serbia, 1-1
  • Spain, 1-1
  • Turkey, 1-1
  • Lithuania, 1-1
  • Germany, 0-2

Group F

  • Macedonia, 2-0
  • Russia, 2-0
  • Slovenia, 1-1
  • Greece, 1-1
  • Georgia, 0-2
  • Finland, 0-2

A couple of serious contenders are going to be sent packing in Group E, since only the top four teams advance to the quarterfinals. There are a couple of surprise teams in Group F, so there is still a chance that a Macedonia or Finland crashes the championship round.

As you can probably tell, group play results actually matter in this tournament (the results of games against teams that have made it this far are reflected in the records above).

Germany-Spain, Turkey-France and Serbia-Lithuania highlight Wednesday’s action while Georgia-Macedonia, Finland-Russia and Slovenia-Greece will be on center stage Thursday.

In order to make it this far, though, these 12 remaining teams had to grind through a rugged field of 24 to get here. And we’ve got a few awards (team and individual, you know how we do it here at the hideout) that need to be handed out before we move on:

Group Play MVP: Tony Parker, France. A point guard was walking away with this award. It was either Parker or Serbia’s Milos Teodosic, who has quickly earned HT fave status for his magnificent play in this competition. Parker has been the driving force behind the team playing the best, to this point, in the competition. And he’s showing off his all-around game, the one he rarely gets credit for while working his regular job. For those of us who have watched Parker mature over the years, from the young teenage point guard project the San Antonio Spurs drafted years ago to the Finals MVP and dynamic floor general he has become, his performance here should not be a revelation. Still, we will give him his just due. He’s performed better than anyone else in this tournament.

Most Surprising Team Headed Into The Next Round: Macedonia. We’ve been talking about Bo McCalebb, Pero Antic and F.D.R. Macedonia since before they got on that roll and reeled off three straight wins to secure their spot in this round (they finished it off with a fourth straight win Sunday over Bosnia and Herzegovina). Before the competition began we quizzed a coach and player from another team before the competition to find out the players and teams we should be aware of and no one from Macedonia was so much as mentioned. We’re going to expand our interview list next time around.

Most Surprising Not Headed Into The Next Round: Croatia. Needing a win over Greece Sunday to get through to the next round, Croatia simply couldn’t dial-up the right performance when they needed it most. More was expected out of this crew with Bojan Bogdanovich and Ante Tomic leading the way, a team with rich tradition and top six finishes in EuroBasket 2009 and 2007. Instead, they finished play in Group C with a 2-3 record and are now left to watch the London Olympics from the crowd like the rest of us.

Hate To See You Leave: Luol Deng and Great Britain won’t be sticking around for this next phase. And that’s too bad, because Deng made a strong case of his own for Group Play MVP honors. His 28 points, 14 rebounds and six assists in Sunday’s win over Poland turned out to be a fitting going away present. The good thing is we’ll see him in London next summer anyway, since the host nation team already has its bid for the Olympics locked up.

Moving On By The Skin Of Their Teeth: Turkey. They needed a win from Great Britain over Poland Sunday to secure their ticket to the second round. It’s not like they didn’t help themselves with that huge win over previously unbeaten and defending champion Spain earlier today. They obviously needed that win as well to make it here. But with Great Britain’s up and down performances in this competition, there was no guarantee that they’d provide the assist Turkey needed.

Best Game Of the Competition, So Far: France’s overtime win over Serbia from earlier today is the winner, with unblemished Russia’s win over a previously unbeaten Slovenia (on Sergey Monya‘s jumper with :00.2 to play for the top spot in Group D) finishing a close second.

France-Serbia had a buzzer-beating flair to it as well, although with a decidedly different outcome.

Parker had a chance to end this one in regulation but missed an 18-foot fadeaway at the buzzer. Serbia went up 96-95 on Marko Keselj 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in overtime. But instead of playing straight defense to try to finish the game, Serbia fouled Parker (to make sure they got the ball back). He drained both free throws with 19 seconds left for a 97-96 lead. The plan worked to perfection until Dusko Savanovic, wide open on the left block with four seconds to play, missed an easy bank shot that would have won the game.

As my main man John Schuhmann reminded me tonight, five of Serbia’s nine games in last year’s World Championship in Turkey were decided by three points or less. You’re almost guaranteed a thriller when they hit the floor in a competition like this.

The best part, we’ll see Serbia (and 11 other quality teams) again in the second round.