Hello world! It's the end of an epic Day 15 in the Eurobasket, and here comes my epic review of said day.
Spain 86 - 64 Slovenia
It was a quarterfinal of great interest - in the first half, where Slovenia held Spain at 16 points, playing some inspired defense, and scoring themselves 23. Spain wasn't much better in the second quarter, although better enough to ensure a 2 point lead heading into halftime. The third quarter, Spain entered Blitz mode, with the Slovenians failing to play the stalwart part - Spain went on a whopping 36 - 14 quarter, fueled by Navarro's 17-point performance. The rest of the game had ceremonial character, with the Spaniards having enough time to squabble a little, you know, just to show that character has nothing to do with whether you're up 2 or 20 (it was Navarro vs Dragic, and our boy was clearly provoked, they both received T's).
The first quarter was one to behold though. Slovenia scored 12 points off 6 turnovers, and youngster Edo Muric blocked the one Gasol and dunked on the other. Unfortunately Spain played tighter defense in the second, the bench eventually came into the game, and that's where the difference was first made clear.
FYROM 67 - 65 Lithuania
The other quarterfinal of the day was more of an exciting matchup. Lithuania started on a slightly better note than FYROM, and got their lead up to 9 points, near the end of the 2nd quarter. Midway through the third the score was tied, and the suspense growing. The hosts displayed team effort, getting scoring from all but one of their active players, while FYROM again relied on Bo McCalebb's brilliance. He had some unexpected help from V. Stojanovski, who went 5-5 from deep, finishing with 15 points. The FYROM bigs scored combined less points than McCalebb (17 in total), but that featured a big three-pointer by Antic in the waning seconds of the 4th quarter.
The game was lost in the fourth quarter by Lithuania, who obviously underestimated their opponents. I am not trying to understate the effort and determination of the FYROM side - they deserved to win, the way the game went, and did their best until the end. It was just that Lithuania are the hosts, a team that prayed to meet Spain again, a team with (too many...) veterans and (too few) talented youths. In the last 40 seconds they wasted everythinng they'd been building over the course of the tourament. First was their coach: with his side up 2 and 33'' to go, he let the opponent shoot without fouling, maybe feeling confidence because of having the home court advantage; I generally dislike fouling at the end of games, so I kinda approve of having confidence in your team. The grave mistake was (in my opinion) the fact that, despite having forced all of FYROM's bigs in foul trouble, they didn't attack the basket during the crucial last possessions, only getting (unimportant) Chekovski out, but leaving the others in.
Then come the players: Valanciunas' inexperience and talent both showed in the second-to-last possession: first he let Antic get the offensive rebound, then he blocked him emphatically. The ball went to Songaila (he is supposed to be experienced), and he, instead of waiting and securing the pass, tried to quickly pass to Jasikevicius. Stojanovski (who had drawn an offensive foul out of Valanciunas earlier, another great contribution to his team) intercepted the (bad) pass and gave the ball to Ilievski, who feverishly sank a 3. Then Lithuania had 11 seconds, but Songaila had the ball ripped out of his hands by <i-don't-exactly-remember> and thrown out of bounds. With 5 seconds to go, the hosts inbounded again. Fate chose Jasaitis to try the last shot. He missed and fouled Ilievsky with 0.5'' to go. Ilievsky made the first FT and missed the second intentionally. Jasikevicius' prayer was well short.
And with this, the most epic upset of the current Eurobasket was pulled. Kudos to FYROM. I wish them un-luck and horrendous shooting percentages at the next round and miserable failure in the bronze medal game. Apart from that, they get my respect. That was a great game by them.
I'll try to write a preview of tomorrow's quarter-finals tomorrow, but before the games are played. No promise, though.