By Yarone Arbel
Slovenia’s big guys - After four games, Slovenia are still undefeated. Not many expected to see it happen but, for the second EuroBasket in a row, they have achieved that feat. In their last game, they beat Turkey 66-51 thanks to a 21-1 during in the second half. The interesting part is who was the instigator behind that run. It took team play obviously, but mainly Radoslav Nesterovic and Uros Slokas were responsible for that spurt which sent Slovenia from trailing 39-36 at the break to lead 57-40. Of those 21 points, Nesterovic accounted for eight - half of them in dunks while substitute Uros Slokas came off the bench to chip in with nine points - all of them from long range and without a miss. So the pair combined for 17 of the 21 points in that decisive run that sent Turkey a step closer to bowing out of the competition.
France switch back to team play - In their last two games of the preliminary round, France ditched the team play a bit. After getting 14 assists in their 74-66 win over Poland on opening night, Tony Parker took over in the other two games. He was unstoppable in Les Bleus’ 69-62 defeat of Italy, going for a career-high 36 points but the team had a grand total of only five assists. In their group finale, a one-point loss to Slovenia, France sank even lower, getting just three assists with Parker getting none. However, in their 78-66 win over Germany in their first game of the qualifying round, Claude Bergeaud’s men were back to being a team. Parker still led the way with a team-high 23 points but he had three team-mates score in double-digits and they had a total of 14 assists once again. Maybe that's why the final score was very similar to the one from their opening day.
|Florent Pietrus stepped up big and helped Tony |
Parker as France got an easy win over Germany
Lithuania's three – This is actually a case of bad news which are in fact very good news, but let's go through it step by step. Lithuania entered their qualifying round as the best three-point shooting team here, but last night hit only four of 16 from long range. Eventually they won a game that could have been much easier if they had made several open three-point shots in the first half. So what is the good news? Well there are a few actually. First, Lithuania showed they can win also when things don't go as planned. Second, After shooting an average of 20 times from long range until then, once Lithuania realized it's not their best shooting day, they took only 16 of those, forcing very few of them, and that says a lot about the team's mentality and smart play. Third, they still managed to reach around 80 points, which means their offense isn't one-dimensional.
"Luck" of the Italians - Not sure how comforting it is when your record shows three losses but Italy might be the unluckiest team here. They lost their opening game of this tournament against Slovenia in the final seconds to a big buzzer-beater. Then they went up against Tony Parker who had the hot hand on the day, but the Azzurri still had a chance to win, and last night they came close to upsetting Lithuania. If, on a day when Massimo Bulleri, Marco Belinelli, Andrea Bargnani and Gianluca Basile are all lacking accuracy from three-point range, you get only seven assists and lose the rebounding battle 44-29, and you're still close to beat as big a team as Lithuania, you deserve some good words, even if the chances to make it to the next round are smaller. Italy fought till the end, but came too short.
Turk drought - Turkey are displaying one of their worse performances in EuroBasket history so far. Against Germany they lost by 30 points and scored only 49 points. Last night, they were on the wrong end of a 15-points loss to Slovenia, 66-51, and again the "Dev Adam" failed to put many points on the scoreboard. It had a lot to do with the fact that they were a poor four for 25 from long-range, and shot a very mediocre 56.3% from the free-throw line. Obviously getting outscored 21-1 was the main reason for the loss. During that Slovenian run, Turkey missed 12 shots, with Mehmet Okur accounting for a third of those misses, and also hitting just one of three attempts from the line while also committing two turnovers. Ersan Ilyasova? Still struggling going one for five from the field last night.
Germany's lack of toughness - The game between Germany and France could be the one with the fewest fouls called in this championship. Les Bleus committed only 14 while their opponents finished with only 12. To put in the right context, both Turkey and Italy committed just one foul less than the combined amount of France and Germany (25). As long as you're on the winning side, as France were in this case, that’s somehow acceptable, but in such an important game, an experienced team like Germany can't show such softness on defense.