The Semi-Finals projected some big individual displays but most of all a classic between Serbia and Slovenia that will be labeled in the archives as a "classic EuroBasket match".
It's all part of the good news and the bad news from the second to last day of EuroBasket 2009.
The Good News
No more "Milos who?"
Domen Lorbek stepped up for Slovenia in the Semi-Finals.
Israel's Lior Eliyahu scored 31 points on opening night, which remained the best scoring performance in EuroBasket 2009 until yesterday. Then came Milos Teodosic, who scored 32 points in a shooting display that will go down in the history books of EuroBasket. The 22-year-old guard, who won every possible youth championship gold medal before joining the senior team, stepped up on a stage much bigger players and names than him have faded on. From this day on every European basketball fan will know who Milos Teodosic is.
Supreme overtime tempo
Serbia entered the history books after not scoring a single point in the overtime against Turkey earlier in the competition, but in their second overtime here, against Slovenia, they have shown the exact opposite side of the coin by scoring no less than 17 points. Slovenia replied with 13 to make it a supreme tempo game. A total of 30 points in five minutes is worth 240 points per game.
Five of the six three-pointers scored in the game by Teodosic came in the last quarter and overtime. To that you must add three shots he made from the line after being fouled on a three-point attempt. Add another crucial lay up he scored near the buzzer and you get a total of 20 points for a 22-year-old in the biggest crunch time of the competition.
Meet the Lorbeks
45 points out of Slovenia's 79, more than half, were scored by members of the Lorbek family. Erazem got some more rest after the marathon he experienced in the Quarter-Finals, but still produced a huge game that justified the "M.V.P." chants from the Slovenian fans. 25 points and ten rebounds, a perfect ten hits from the line and over 63% from the field were his share. If in Erazem's case we got used to such performance throughout the tournament his younger brother stepped up and played like a big time veteran player. Coming to the semis he didn't have a single game in double-digits and combined for only 25 points. Last night he had 22 including four downtown bombs in five attempts. The last of them, deep inside the fourth quarter, was almost enough to decide the game. Two years ago, when Slovenia dropped a big lead in the final minutes to lose the Quarter-Finals to Greece the young Lorbek missed a key shot in the last minute that was very crucial. His ability and confidence to take that shot back then was the foundation of his great step up in the semis, as not many players have the guts to take these shots.
A rain of three balls
Eight three-pointers landed in the nets of both sides in the last three minutes of the closing quarter and overtime. That's an average of a three-pointer per minute. Only six shots from long range missed. This is great accuracy at any point of any game. To see that happen in the closing minutes and overtime of the Semi-Finals is another aspect of what made this game unforgettable.
Very necessary roughness
A numerical example just how much both teams wanted this game can be seen by how aggressive they played. A total number of 71 personal fouls were called, and marched Slovenia to the line no less than 49 times, tying a tournament high set by Russia earlier. Serbia went to the line 39 times to turn the Semi-Finals into the game with the most free throw attempts in EuroBasket 2009. Three players for Slovenia fouled out while three more had four fouls. For Serbia only two fouled out but four were one less than finish the game. The fact both teams - a young one at one corner and a tired one at the other- were accurate at more than 80% is another example just how big this
|Ioannis Bourousis and Greece dominated the pain, but it was not enough.|
Defensive team effort
Spain had six players who scored eight points or more, and it's tough to talk about one specific player who made the difference when so many play well. Spain won the Semi-Finals first and foremost on defense by limiting Vasilis Spanoulis to his worst performance in the championship. For the first time here Spanoulis didn't score in double-digits, had only 37.5% from the field and most outstanding, didn't go a single time to the line, also a first in EuroBasket 2009. Add on that six turnovers and you could see why Greece had trouble. Why is this here and not in the bad news part? Because it wasn't a bad day by Greek guard. It was a great team defensive job by the Spanish back court - from Carlos Cabezas who came off the bench to turn Spanoulis' life to misery, as well as making life difficult for Ricky Rubio, Sergio Llull and Rudy Fernandez. If Spanoulis, surely one of the best players in the competition here, can't handle Spain's defensive pressure, what chance do other players have?
The Bad News
An almost sequel
In 2004 Erazem and Domen Lorbek played the U20 European Championship finals with Slovenia. It was a tough close game before Erazem, the eventual MVP of the championship, fouled out midway through the last quarter and things seemed grey for his team. Nevertheless his team-mates stepped up and won the gold. When Erazem fouled out yesterday mid-way in the fourth quarter in a close tough game, and his team continued to push for the win, with Domen playing a key role, it seemed like history would repeat itself five years later on a bigger stage, but Serbia ruined the moment.
Jaka's streak is on
Jaka Lakovic didn't enjoy a great Semi-Final, and it showed just how tired he was, especially in the closing minutes of the game. In the last seconds of the overtime he was still looking for his first field goal after missing the first nine shots of the night, including the last attempt with the buzzer to try and win the game before overtime. Lakovic scored a big three that kept Slovenia's hopes alive for a few more seconds, and continued his streak of more made shots behind the arc than inside, although not in the most successful way.
Second chance isn't enough
34 out of the 64 total points in the game for Greece came from second chances. It says something about the huge job of the Greek bigs who dominated the paints with 24 offensive rebounds against a total of 29 rebounds in favor of Spain, but the fact so many second chance points were enough only to lose by 18, shows how far Greece were from a spot in the finals.