By Yarone Arbel
By tomorrow you won’t need me to tell you what the good news and the bad news is.
One team will have received some very good news along with gold medals and a trophy while the other will have to settle for silver.
So here it is the last bit of good news and bad news from EuroBasket 2007.
The Good News
Spanish execution: The Spanish team started the semi's with a blitz. They missed only four shots in the first quarter, including four hits from downtown, and seemed unstoppable, but still they held just a six point lead. It's close to impossible to shoot that good for 40 minutes in such an intense game, and when those balls went for a walk around the rim, Greece was ready to take advantage. So Spain didn't shoot that well for four quarters, but still finished the game with a more than impressive shooting percentage. In a semi-final game against the world champs, in front of their home fans, in what should be a big pressure situation, they missed only one out of 28 free-throws. Blame Pau Gasol for preventing a perfect night from the line by the way. If somebody out there thought Spain can't handle the pressure, they were dead wrong.
Russia's second half: Russia won the quarter-finals despite a bad day for Andrei Kirilenko, and proved they are more than just a one man team, but that proof continued in the first half against Lithuania. After 20 minutes Russia held a seven point lead and seemed much, much better than their rivals. Kirilenko had just six points and two rebounds, most of them in the first minutes run. In the second half we saw how a team with such a big star should play. Kirilenko took over the game, but didn't force it. He scored exactly when needed, but didn't play by himself.
|Linas Kleiza and the rest of the Lithuanian big men were held in check by Russia.|
Team play wins: Two semi-finals with four teams showed us two ways to share the load, and which one will end with a win. Spain and Russia had three guys each in double-digits who combined for 64 points (Spain) and 62 points (Russia) for their team. So much for the winning side. On the other side of the fence we saw two teams, Lithuania and Greece, who had one player shooting the lights out that tried to carry his team on the offensive side and got very little help from the rest of the gang. Vasillis Spanoulis hit 24 for Greece with only four missed shots, but following him was the young Panagiotis Vassilopoulos with only 10. In Lithuania Ramunas Siskauskas was on fire with 30 points and Rimas Kaukenas followed him with only 14.
The Bad News
Out of the system: One of the ways Russia managed to shock Lithuania was by changing their game style. In the seven games until the semi's Lithuania averaged 39.4 shots inside the arc and 19.4 from behind it. Blatt and Russia didn't allow them in the paint. Any Lithuanian who dared to step inside the paint was hammed left and right. The result was Lithuania took 31 shots inside the arc and 27 outside about the same total, but a very different distribution. In the minutes Lithuania hit those three pointers, they were back in the game, when they didn’t Russia easily dominated.
Big guys disappeared: Another aspect of that very aggressive defense of Russia in the paint was eliminating the most impressive front court in the competition. Darius Songaila, Darius Lavrinovic, Linas Kleiza, Ksystof Lavrinovic and Robertas Javtokas averaged a total of 40.2 points in the eight games so far, and that includes also yesterday's game, where their total was just 18 points. Those 22 points are the difference between a 12 point loss and a 10 point win.
When the champs went down: Theo Papaloukas was the big hero of the amazing Greek comeback in the quarters, but in the game against Spain he wasn't the dominating player we are used to seeing in the last few years. He played less than 18 minutes, scored only three points and was a disappointing one out of seven from the field, had only two assists and stole no more than a single ball. That's nothing but numbers. The real story was told in Greece's last chance possession. Down by four, with 18 seconds on the clock, he took the ball to the rim to make another amazing comeback, but between eight Spanish hands lost control over the ball, and Spain secured the win. The Greek national team always says that they don't stop believing until the very last second, but after this move it was clear to them too the game was decided.