By Yarone Arbel
Turning point: Following a series of missed shots by the Greeks, Rudy Fernandez hit a transition catch-and-shoot three-pointer that set the gap at 16, 58-42. That shot put Spain out of reach.
Hero: Carlos Cabezas didn't enjoy big playing time in the Championship. In two crucial games - against Turkey and the quarters versus France - he didn't even step on the floor. When he did all he delivered was two points in the entire competition. Today he came off the bench already in the first quarter to help with the aggressive defense on Vassilis Spanoulis and Nikos Zisis, but added a great job on the offensive end as well. He wrote eight points, without missing a shot, and added four assists. Both are his best numbers in the championship, right at the right time, and all played a key role in the Spanish run.
Stats: Greece earned 34 second-chance points, more than half of their total, against only eight by Spain, yet still lost by 18
One finalist is already set at EuroBasket 2009 after Spain dominated Greece 82-64 in a one sided Semi-Final on Saturday in Katowice.
This is the first time in history the Spanish team reach the finals twice in a row, and it bestows on them a chance, once again, to bring the first ever European gold medal to Spain.
They will face in the trophy match the winner between Slovenia and Serbia - two teams that have already played them in the Preliminary Round.
|Ioannis Bourousis was the top scorer for Greece with 11 points.|
"We are one step closer to our goal, but now we have to rest for tomorrow so we'll have enough energy to achieve our goal," said Marc Gasol who scored six points tonight.
Greece will face the loser of the second semi-finals in the bronze medal game.
This is the same scenario for the Greeks as well after losing to Spain two years ago in the exact same stage.
One thing was different this time - the ease of the Spanish win.
While in 2007 Spain edged Greece by five points, today it was clear early in the game which team was better.
The gang of Coach Sergio Scariolo took a 13 point lead in the second quarter and never looked back.
Greece fought back but never put that margin in danger.
When Rudy Fernandez hit a three-pointer mid-way in the third to set the gap on 16, it marked a new phase in the game, in which Spain displayed their dominance.
The gap reached a high point of 23 in the last quarter, when both teams knew already their destiny for Sunday night.
More than half of the Greek points tonight were written thanks to second chance points.
A EuroBasket high of 24 offensive rebounds were worth 34 second shots in favor of Greece, against only eight of Spain.
Despite that Spain's dominance wasn't questioned.
"Spain are probably the best team in the tournament," said Ioannis Kalampokis of Greece.
"In the first half we allowed them too many easy baskets, and it cost us later on in the game," he added.
Pau Gasol was the top scorer for Spain with 18 points on 75% shooting, half of them in the first quarter.
He enjoyed the help of Rudy Fernandez with 14.
Both of them were resting the entire fourth quarter.
Greece saw big guy Ioannis Bourousis collect 11 points and seven rebounds, though he only shot 33% from the field.
Young Nick Calathes added ten points off the bench.
Nikos Zisis and Vasilis Spanoulis were limited under the big pressure of the Spanish guards and combined only 13 points.
"We put pressure on Greece and we got a lot of steals that allowed us to take a comfortable margin," said Jorge Garbajosa of Spain referring to the 11-20 difference in favor of Spain in the turnovers.
"The defense on Spanoulis was really important," said Coach Scariolo, after forcing the Greek guard to commit six turnovers tonight.
"It was Cabezas who helped Ricky Rubio in that task," he complimented the back up point guard who came off the bench to deliver not only a great defensive job but two tournament highs in eight points without a miss and four assists.
The first minutes marked the difference between the stars and the rest on both ends.
Juan Carlos Navarro, Rudy and Pau Gasol scored for Spain while on the Greek side it was a star trio of Spanoulis,
Zisis and Bourousis to make it a 12-11 Spain advantage.
|Carlos Cabezas has not had a big tournament, but he played some key minutes for Spain on Saturday night.|
The Spanish were the first to make a run deep in the first half after Pau Gasol scored in transition.
Cabezas hit his first three-pointer at this EuroBasket, but Spanoulis saved his team with a steal right before the buzzer to write easy points and be just five points behind, 26-21, after ten minutes.
Greece missed open shots and Navarro showed how to get it done to set the gap on ten after Spain scored five in row.
Spain gathered points from the bench to maintain a safe double-digit lead and got a boost when the Greek big got in foul trouble.
Bourousis earned his third personal foul with a technical, but Fotsis stepped up under the offensive glass and added a three-pointer, to force a Spanish time-out just eight points away, 40-32 after 17 minutes.
Schortsanitis, with power moves in the paint, exposed Spain's problem on the defensive boards to keep the gap at seven, 47-40, before Rudy with another big lay up set the half time difference on nine.
Greece grabbed 13 offensive boards in the first half, which matched the exact same amount of total rebounds for Spain.
The outcome was an 18-6 lead in second chance points, which still was enough only to be nine points behind.
Navarro's three ball went in and out to leave the gap on 13, but when Greece missed chance after chance to cut the gap, Rudy took over with a transition catch and shoot three-pointer to make it 58-42 inside the 25th minute.
From that point on it was a one-sided Spanish fiesta.
"Our defense once again has been the one that we have been working on getting to," concluded Coach Scariolo.
"It's has been the main key that we are in the position to win the gold."
40 more minutes of such defense will make it very difficult for either Serbia or Slovenia to hold Spain from winning a historical gold medal.