Eurobasket: Day 1

An exciting first day is finished, with no surprising results, but rather results coming in surprising matter. 12 games, three times as many sentences. I'll try, at least.

Group A:

  • Spain 83 - 78 Poland: without their go-to men Gortat and Lampe Poland had big gaps in both ends of the floor. They did a good job of hanging on, though, and were 2 points down with 17'' to go. Navarro then made a pair of free throws and Spain could manage the lead. Observation: Spain relied heavily - far too heavily, imho - to the Gasol brothers and Navarro for scoring (68 out of 83 points). Spain's challenge will be to show a versatility in scoring, if and when an opponent manages to lock any of the aforementioned down. Oh, and why did Spain shoot 43 freaking free throws when Poland only got 21?
  • Turkey 79 - 56 Portugal: Absolutely expected. Nice official debut for Enes Kanter, who had 14/7 in his first tournament appearance.
  • Lithuania 80 - 69 Great Britain: The hosts prevailed, but needed a strong fourth quarter to make a clear win out of a contest. Down 61-60 with seven minutes to go they tightened their defense and went on in a 13-2 run that eventually put the game out of reach, since the British (led by a valiant effort from Luol Deng, 25/10) ran out of steam.
Group B:
  • Serbia 80 - 68 Italy: After a dream-like first quarter, where they led 18-10, Italy fell behind. The Azzuri then managed to almost climb out of an 18-point deficit. Then Gallinari fouled Keselj (flagrant one) and Serbia went on an 11-0 run that put the game out of reach. Observation: I told you so - there's that gaping hole in the guards. Italy didn't get scoring from Belinelli, and so they were defeated by a team with higher overall talent.
  • France 89 - 78 Latvia: The score might seem decent, it is deceptive though. The Latvians had a hell of a game, going 11-23 from downtown behind a 6-9 effort from leader Janis Blums. Besides Blums, however, there was no other serious offensive threat. The game was on the verge of going to the underdog, especially after a four-point-play by Blums got the Latvians within two. Then France made a trey of their own, and that's where the game was over. Observation: A hell of a game, fast-paced, and that Blums guy, you got the impression he could score from ANYWHERE behind the three-point-line.
  • Germany 91 - 64 Israel: Until the middle of the second quarter Israel was pretty close. Then Germany closed the half with a 13-point cushion. Nowitzki had 25 points without shooting a single three and Kaman recorded a double-double. The quality difference was way too obvious, since Israel could not control the tempo.
Group C:
  • Montenegro 70 - 65 FYROM: It was a strong third quarter that gave Montenegro the lead back, but with the game on the line Nikola Pekovic missed the inside shot. In extra time Montenegro was superior, and secured its first ever win in a Eurobasket tournament. Power Forward Vladimir Dasic had a 20/16 night, and essentially won the game in overtime with a layup in traffic. Good showing by McCalebb, he was not enough.
  • Greece 87 - 78 Bosnia and Herzegobina: Greece got their act together after a nervous first half in which the inexperience of the team clearly showed. After picking it up in the defensive end of the floor the Greeks started being more patient and creative in offense, and hitting a couple of big threes got themselves a nice cushion, which they took all the way to the end. Teletovic was a miserable 0-9 from downtown, and while both teams shot an abysmal 22% from three-point land, Greece held a decisive rebounding edge, which eventually gave them victory.
  • Croatia 84 - 79 Finland: Until near the end Finland was on the verge of a surprise win. The Finnish seemed to know what they wanted of the game and how to get it, bypassing their height disadvantage woth quick double-teams and traps in the post, and shooting astonishingly well from deep. Croatia finally responded just before the end of the first half, playing enough offense to get closer and letting the tired Finnish live and die by the three. Non-existent inside game was another limiting factor for Finland, which yielded after fighting through the whole game.
Group D:
  • Belgium 59 - 81 Georgia: Frontcourt was the difference in this game as well: the Georgians had it, the Belgians didn't. Georgia held absolute domination in boards, had second chances in offense and banked on the big bodies in the paint. The Belgians never stood a chance, and never threatened to close the gap.
  • Slovenia 67 - 59 Bulgaria: This seemed to be an intense game during the middle, where I last paid attention to it. Slovenia finally went on a 14-0 run with 2 minutes to go and got the win. It was anything but easy, and Bulgaria played convincingly up to that point. Ultimately it was the experience that made the difference, with veterans like Lorbek propelling Slovenia to the final push.
  • Russia 73 - 64 Ukraine: Kirilenko seemed to be the player his team needed him to be: He turned in a 20/11 night with 4 steals to go, and didn't hesitate to pull the trigger late in the game, where Russia needed some breathing room. He had some help from guards Fridzon and Shved, and Alexander Khryapa also stepped up with important offensive and defensive plays to stop Bulgaria, who tried their best for an upset.
No upsets - but favorites do not seem as frightening as they did the day before. Croatia seems to be in grave danger though; a team that can play inside like Montenegro, or a team that likes frenzied rythms (like FYROM) could very well pull off what Finland almost did. Spain is Spain, and their roster is so deep, they can afford almost anything, and France is definitely gonna need more time. Russia showed some character, and enough determination to close out a game that wa son the verge of becoming a contest. It's a long tournament, and it has just started. Stay tuned!

No cursing in title. No pirated material, such as links to online game streams. Do not cut/paste entire sections of content from other websites. Thanks.

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