Dear readers, I just watched a game of epic proportions. More on this later; first, I'd like to excuse myself for not posting a preview, but I was afk all day long (I swear). Today saw the conclusion of Group E, featuring a battle to the death between Serbia and Turkey, a meaningless squabble between Spain and France as well as Germany's last stand against hosts Lithuania. Which makes three interesting games - or at least three projected-as-interesting games.
France 69 - 96 Spain:
That's what one calls "unconditional surrender", "tanking", "being a chicken", "resting", "strategical withdrawal" and/or "lame", all depending on which side you're on. France was expected to at least put up a fight against Spain (remember, they are supposed to dethrone them). Instead France opted to rest Parker and Noah, leaving the rest to fend for themselves. I call that slaughter. Spain took mercy in France and only ended this one at 27 points - everybody on the spanish side scored (which gives you achievement points in EA Sports NBA) apart from usual suspect Ricky Rubio (dude shot more 3s than 2s, and missed everything...) and -surprisingly- Jose Calderon. The rest of the team, even those sitting on the deep end of the bench, saw enough court time to claim they had an impact on the final score. The only French to save face was Kevin Serafin, who scored a game-high 18 points on 73% shooting.
That was unconditional surrender, lame and chickening out on France's behalf. -galicae
Serbia 68 - 67 Turkey:
This game was brutal. Both teams stood on the verge of elimination, and I still feel Serbia was robbed of a semi-finals win back in Turkey during the Worlds - no doubt some Serbians share the feeling. Still, the game was ugly (Turkey missed 13 of 29 free throws - how ugly is that?). Serbia had a comfortable lead (14 points) but allowed the Turks to come back. Who led the way? Overpaid Hedo Turkoglu? Much-heralded Enes Kanter? Established NBA forward Ersan Ilyasova? Or maybe the latest NBAer from Turkey Omer Asik? None of them - it was relatively unknown Ömer Onan, a PG of 33 years of age, a player who always has a begging-for-a-foul look on his face. Turkey's stars again failed to deliver when the team needed them, and it was a fitting end to a disappointing Eurobasket campaign (although beating an uninterested Spain should count as a highlight) that they got within one and then lost with a missed shot near the buzzer. Turkey fell short in this tournament. Serbia doesn't deserve much praise either - they aren't living up to their potential either. Their victory today was a lucky one, or rather not as deserved as their head coach claimed, but well, they deserved it a bit more than Turkey.
Lithuania 84 - 75 Germany:
This game was beautiful to watch. Germany played with a sense of urgency I only saw against Italy, but, rather sadly, Dirk Nowitzki had a terrible night, and doomed Germany, who needed a 11-point victory to advance, to a defeat at the hands of the hosts. The difference between the two teams was not as big as the 9 points; Germany followed doggedly for much of the game, and still gave it all when they were down 9 with half a minute to go. The hosts appeared to have scouted their opponents rather well: other than committing half of their fouls on Nowitzki, they forced shots out of him, made him flop for his life and demanded of Germany to find another way to the hoop. As often before, three usual suspects appeared; Chris Kaman, Robin Benzing (18 points on 100%) and Heiko Schaffartzik provided support, scoring in double figures. The rest of the team combined for 3 points, courtesy of Philipp Schwethelm's second three-point attempt. Nowitzki underachieved in this game, but he had the whole team defense of Lithuania adjusted on him. Judging from the part of the game I catched on TV, Lithuania had little plan of how to stop Kaman while the game still had a way to go (on the closing seconds they blocked him, and double-teamed often), while Benzing was sensational and Schaffartzik a blessing from the bench - he only shot 5-13, but his energy and determination were evident, and inspired the team, and he hit two clutch threes in the last quarter.
Lithuania, on the other hand, played a really mature game, something expected out of the oldest team in the tournament. In the fourth quarter, when Germany was finally getting warm and threatened to reclaim the lead, it was Sarunas Jasikevicius who came up with two magnificent off-balance twos and an alley-oop pass to Valanciunas, who dunked the wind out of Germany's sails. Jasikevicius lobbed an even higher pass to Valanciunas later in the game, to put an emphatic gravestone on Germany's bid to at least win the game. Great game by Saras, who was cold-blooded at the free-throw line as well. All in all, maybe the best game I've watched so far in this Euribasket.
That's all for today - thanks to Tom Martin for the reclame, and thanks to anybody reading the posts. Tomorrow is the conclusion of the second stage, and we're moving on to the knockout. Oh, and France tanked, did I say that? Anyway, everybody root for Finland tomorrow, I want them to play Spain.