Sep
5

EuroBasket Power Rankings: And then there were eight

Where once there was 12 now stand 8. The quarter finals are set so it’s time to update our Power Rankings.

There are some radical changes but I still expect plenty of you will be upset. Take aim in the comments.

1. Croatia (4-1). It was really tough to decide between first and second here. Three straight wins in the second round, including that unreal 2OT win over Greece on Monday, were just enough for them to get top slot. 

2. Serbia (4-1). So that ranking of 9 was harsh. Serbia still clearly have a lot of work to do but their win over France was particularly impressive.

3. Slovenia (3-2). The home team is really getting the crowd involved in their games. Their win over Italy exposed some of the latter’s failings. Following that up with a heart-stopper over Greece was enough to take third here. We’re not counting what was clearly a nothing game against Finland against them.
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Sep
0

EuroBasket: Early drama decides Group E

Latvia’s defeat at the hands of Belgium meant the rest of Sunday’s action was all about seeding for the EuroBasket 2013 quarter finals.

By the time Lithuania and Ukraine took to the court in Llubjana, both sides knew they were safely through to the quarter finals. Unsurprisingly much of this game had a feel of two teams going through the motions. There are bigger prizes ahead, not least potential spots in next year’s FIBA World Cup. Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas had his quietest game of the second phase but his former Toronto Raptors team mate Linas Kleiza came up big with 15 points and 5 boards in 23 minutes of play. Pooh Jeter was once again the main creative force for Ukraine, with 8 assists, but inconsistency from the field cost the underdogs. A 70-63 win means Lithuania finish the stage with a 4-1 record, Ukraine take the last quarter final spot with a 2-3 finish.

That game could have had a really different tone were it not for the heart of the Belgian Lions. Belgium, already eliminated from the reckoning for the quarter finals, finally got rewarded for their hard work with a win over Latvia. It was an awful day from beyond the arc for Latvia, going 5/29. With three-pointers crucial to their game, Latvia found themselves in a big hole late but put on a great surge to cut the deficit to the minimum. The Belgians held their nerve however and came through to win 60-56. The tournament has to go down as a success for a Belgium team which has been on the fringes of European basketball for three decades. The Lions roared on Sunday and ended Latvia’s involvement in the process.

The quiet spell recently endured by Nemanja Nedovic and whether he’d break out of it was the biggest question entering Serbia’s game with France. The Golden State Warrior had been hot through the early part of the tournament but had cooled off in the second phase. Nedmania came back with a vengeance against France. Nedovic had a huge game with 17 points and 3 rebounds, and he was arguably only the third best Serb on the floor. Nenad Krstic had his way inside for most of the evening and finished with 19 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists. Bogdan Bogdanovic was also on top form as he delivered 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists. The stats don’t tell the full story of just how good Serbia looked. France, for all their talent, didn’t look capable of competing with Serbia for most of the game. They rallied a few times to reel in the Serbs but even with impressive displays by Nicolas Batum and Alexis Ajinca on offence, their inability to curb the young guns for Serbia was a concern. Ajinca has really impressed for France in this tournament and the more I see of him, the more I want to see. Still, this was certainly an evening for Serbia to celebrate. They win 77-65 and look well placed to challenge in the knockout stages.

Sep
0

Belgium Spoils Latvia’s party, Ukraine advance

It was set to be a dramatic day in the final round of action of Group E but Belgium played the spoiler with a heroic display against Latvia.

Somebody in the Ukraine camp should buy a round for the Belgian team. The Lions were only playing for pride on Sunday against Latvia but treated it like their lives depended on it. After an uninspiring first half, the game came to life with a surge by Belgium. Leading by 9 points with 5 minutes to go in the final frame, the result looked in the bag but Latvia came to life down the stretch.

Latvia managed to cut the deficit to a single point in the final minute and looked set to sneak out with a win. When a misplayed pass by Belgium gave Latvia possession with 38.5 seconds left, the stage was set for the favourites to escape. Belgium’s defence stood firm however and Latvia opted to let them play it out rather than fouling quickly. Sacha Massot made them pay with a dunk to stretch the lead to 59-56 with just 8 seconds left. Dairis Bertans went for a three to tie it up but he missed and the upset was in the books. Belgium win 60-56.

For Latvia it was a dire example of live by the three die by the three ball. Having shot 15/29 to rout Ukraine on Wednesday, they went just 5/29 from long range. This compounded their overall issues from the field where they finished with just 29.4 per cent shooting.

The result means Sunday’s other two games in Group E, Ukraine vs Lithuania and Serbia vs France, will only decide seedings for the next round. Had Latvia won then Ukraine would have needed to beat Lithuania to progress. Instead Pooh Jeter and company progress to the quarter finals for the first time in their history, quite a feat for a nation whose previous best was 13th back in 1997.

It’s a glass half empty situation for Latvia. Prior to the tournament they wouldn’t have been fancied to make the quarter finals but having seemingly done all the hard work, they let the chance slip through their fingers on Sunday. Few would have blamed Belgium if they eased off in this game having already been eliminated but they showed tremendous respect for the tournament with their display. Having fought hard against Lithuania and Serbia, the Lions finally got some reward for their efforts. This was Belgium’s first time in the second round since 1977 and there have been some dark days in between. On Sunday they made good on the development they have shown and spoiled Latvia’s party in the process.

Sep
0

Eurobasket: Ukrainian resurrection. Wins for Lithuania and France.

Where did that come from? Ukraine pulled off the shock of the second round so far while France and Lithuania rolled to easy victories in Group E.

Ukraine took a one point lead into half-time against Serbia but with issues on the boards, the upset looked far from assured. Then along came a 14-2 run to give the underdogs a lead they would never surrender. Any fears that Pooh Jeter was in a hole after being shut down by Latvia were put to rest in a commanding performance, with 20 points and 4 assists. Serbia did a lot of things right but their free throw shooting was ugly, going 12 of 24, which took away from their success at picking up offensive rebounds. It took something remarkable for Ukraine to pull out this 82-75 win but by doing so they still have a shot at making the quarter finals.

The same can’t be said for Belgium who ran into Jonas Valanciunas in a bad mood. Hurting him in the first quarter turned out to be a terrible idea as the Toronto Raptor took over on the inside to leave Lithuania well in front at half time. Mindaugas Kuzminskas also contributed well from the bench as Lithuania’s size proved too much for the Belgians. While a rout through three quarters, the Belgians salvaged some pride with a spirited final frame. The result was never in doubt but a 32-17 run in the final frame meant the score was respectable. Lithuania’s 86-67 win should be enough for them to make the next stage but anything could happen on Sunday.

Finally a big hi to Nicolas Batum. After disappearing against Lithuania the Portland Trail Blazer made his presence felt early and often in France’s rout of Latvia. The first half was all about France’s inside play as they pounded it, kept pounding it, and pounding some more. With just 4 of their 34 shots coming from beyond the arc, there was no mistaking France’s intent from the off. Latvia needed to match their ridiculous success from long-range that they had against Ukraine. That was always going to be a tall order but they rallied well in the second half to keep the game close. Eventually Batum’s 19 point 10 rebound and 6 assist performance coupled with a big night for Alexis Ajinca, 25 points 5 boards 3 blocks, was enough to get France over the line. This game also marked the first century of the tournament as France were forced to keep pushing hard on offence in the second half. A 102-91 win moves France to 3-1 with a game to go. Latvia know a win over Belgium should still be enough to make the quarter finals.

Sep
0

Valanciunas hitting form at the right time

After a first round of extremes, Jonas Valanciunas has stepped up big time for Lithuania in his last two outings.

When Jonas Valanciunas can stay on the court, Lithuania win. That’s been the story for the Toronto Raptors big man so far. In Lithuania’s two losses so far, to Serbia and Bosnia, Valanciunas totalled just 18 minutes of action. While the decision to start with him on the bench against France could be put down to a questionable coaching call, Valanciunas dug the hole on his own. In his last two games, the young big has shown he can climb out too.

Foul trouble, a recurrent issue for him in his young career, hindered Valanciunas in those defeats. When Valanciunas was on in the first round, he was really on. A pair of double-doubles saw him play a big part in wins over Latvia and Montenegro. When the games really started to count, Valanciunas stepped up and dominated.

The stat line of 13 points and 6 boards in 16 minutes against France, impressive as it was, barely scratches the surface of how beastly he looked in that game. Against a French team with no shortage of stars, Valanciunas looked like a monster. A win today over Belgium would almost certainly put Lithuania into the quarter finals and one win away from the FIBA World Cup next year. The Belgian’s didn’t know what was about to hit them.

An early hard foul on the Lithuanian, which required minor treatment, only made him angry. Valanciunas dominated inside in the second quarter as he finished the half with 12 points and closed out hard on defence. The wild strength he possesses was there to see but, just like in the NBA Summer League, that growing sense of control was too.

The fouls weren’t coming as quick. Valanciunas could impose his will without getting in trouble. This is what Lithuania and Toronto need. They know they’ve got an amazing talent in this big but they need him to become a smarter player. The progress was visible against France and moreso against the, admittedly weaker, Belgians. The double-double secured early in the fourth quarter, Valanciunas sat again. This time it wasn’t because of any mistake he’d made. Valanciunas had earned the rest. The job was done and the blowout complete. With that a spot in the quarter finals pretty much in the bag. If the Raptor can maintain this new found composure, Lithuania will be a tough out for anyone. That’s not as big an if as it was a year ago.

Sep
0

Open thread: Group E could be pretty much decided today

After the Group B teams made their presence felt on Wednesday, Friday could effectively see Group E’s quarter finallists decided.

Here’s the slate.

Belgium (0-3) vs Lithuania (2-1) – 14.30

Serbia (3-0) vs Ukraine (1-2) – 17.45

Latvia (1-2) vs France (2-1) – 21.00

All times CET.

Wins for Lithuania, Serbia, and Latvia would eliminate Belgium and all but end Ukraine’s involvement in the tournament as all the tie-breakers are going against them. The bookies say Lithuania (-13.5), Serbia (-10.5), and France (-8). I like Serbia to cover, Lithuania to win but by less than double-digits, and France to win. In terms of margin, it’s a push.

Tell us how you guys seeing today’s games going in the comments.

Sep
0

Eurobasket: Latvia stomps Ukraine. Wins for Serbia and Lithuania.

The three Group B teams made their presence felt big time as stage two of Eurobasket 2013 got under way on Wednesday.

The first day of stage two began with a bang. Latvia decided to leave nothing in doubt against Ukraine. This was nothing short of total dominance and a 15/29 display from beyond the arc helped them to an 85-51 win. The victory immediately moves the underdogs into contention for the quarter-finals, with a 1-2 record and two games to go. Given this site was one of many that picked Ukraine for the upset, it’s only fair to pay tribute to Latvia in video form.
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Jun
11

Eurobasket 2013: Which NBA players are in, which are out?

Because it’s never too early to start looking ahead to Eurobasket 2013 – wait a minute, there’s only 11 weeks left until tipoff? Definitely not too early, then, to take a look at the formative rosters for the big Continental tournament.

While only a few national teams (Croatia and Lithuania among them) have released preliminary rosters at this point and a few major leagues still playing (Spain, Greece, Germany, Italy, etc.), we can at least deduce which NBA players will or won’t be playing. After all, the rosters of 93.3% of NBA teams have finished their 2012-13 season – and the Miami Heat have no Europeans!

Below is a rundown of each team and the status of their potential NBA players. A few high-profile draft choices and rights-owned guys expected to jump over soon are also peppered in, along with links to appropriate sources. If you find/hear of anything relevant to the list, please comment below.
And we’ll do this group by group…

Group A
Belgium –
no current NBA players

France – Kevin Seraphin (Washington Wizards) is out for ’13 but hints he’ll be back in the future.

Ten days ago, based on a L’Equipe report, website Catch-and-Shoot described Joakim Noah (Chicago Bulls)’ Eurobasket status as *très incertain*, and after another punishing NBA season seems unlikely.

No official word on Nicolas Batum (Portland), though the Trail Blazers reportedly be “watching Batum’s injury” this offseason. Perhaps some discouragement is forthcoming…?

France-based media outlet Figaro reported back in May that Ian Mahinmi (Indiana Pacers) and Ronny Turiaf (Los Angeles Clippers) would play; this may have been speculation based on prior results, but Turiaf’s presence on Les Blues for this tournament has been on coach Collet’s mind for a while.

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May
8

Euroleague 2012-13: An attempt to deduce the composition (plus Official Fearless Prediction™)

At least this much is clear...

Yesterday, the basketball-centered bit of the Twitter universe was centered in two real-life locales: New York City and Barcelona. Topics in play were the falling of ping-pong balls in New York City and Euroleague’s incipient decision on the construction of Euroleague 2012-13. Hopefully, BallinEurope will get something together on the former later, but for now, BiE’ll attempts a quick look at the roster of teams for the upcoming season.

The three-year A-licenses are currently under review, but you gotta figure Caja Laboral Baskonia, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, Anadolu Efes, Fenerbahçe Ülker, CSKA Moscow, Maccabi Tel Aviv, Montepaschi Siena and Žalgiris Kaunas are in. Asseco Prokom Gdynia is in the second year of its license, making them the 12th of the 24 teams.

Also up for review is Unicaja Malaga. While Spain is still even officially considered *the* best domestic or regional league in Europe (more on this momentarily), the big league could certainly defend a yanking of the license based on the team’s bottom-half finish in the Liga Endesa and consistently better recent performance by Valencia BC.

Virtus Roma is the only original A-license team to have been removed from the EL roll call, getting its placement in Euroleague ball “suspended for having finished in the bottom half of its national competition.” Unicaja might easily find itself on the Eurocup level for 2012-13; let’s just say a *lot* of things would have to happen to even get the team into the EL qualifiers.

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Jun
4

CSKA Moscow takes Russian championship; J.R. Holden announces retirement

The 2010-11 champion has been named in Russia and for the ninth consecutive season, it is CSKA Moscow. Along with the exultation of the Red Army’s 74-63 victory over BC Khimki, however, came the sad (if inevitable) news that longtime Muscovite J.R. Holden would be retiring from professional basketball.

Playing nearly the entire game, Holden’s 25-point, four-steal swansong led his team to the series capper. Series MVP Viktor Khryapa contributed 12 points and four rebounds in the win.

But then, the announcement. Russia-based RIA Novosti today reports that after the game, Holden told his teammates that “This was probably my last basketball match. I’ve decided to end my career.” As for whether the naturalized citizen will play for Team Russia in FIBA Eurobasket 2011, Holden stated to the media that he’d promised coach David Blatt to participate and “I plan to keep my word, [but] so far I can’t say exactly if I’ll play in the European championship or not. I still have a week to think about it.”

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