It’s nearing the business end of the FIBA Europe U18 men’s championships and two teams stood out above all on Wednesday.
Serbia and Turkey were locked in a tight battle for most of their clash in Konya before the Serbs stepped up a gear in the second half to beat the hosts on a convincing 82-62 scoreline. That win secured top spot for Serbia in Group F, with Turkey having to settle for second. Spain and Greece booked their passages to the knockout stages with wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro.
Croatia however remain the team to beat in these championships. Italy gave them a good test in the battle for top spot in Group E but, as has been the case throughout this tournament, they had to lean too much on the Mussidori. Federico Mussini and Diego Flaccadori accounted for 38 of Italy’s 65 points with no other Italian player breaking double digits. Croatia’s greater depth proved telling in the second half, as even on a quiet (by his standards) day for Dragan Bender they were able to score at will. Marco Arapovic had his third 20 point game of the tournament as Croatia eventually coasted to victory 81-65. Continue Reading…
A stunning start for Serbia proved decisive as Dusan Ivkovic’s charges won the win or stay home World Cup decider with Italy 76-64.
It took Italy a full quarter to realise the importance of this game and they were left with too deep a hole to get out of. Serbia, who suffered horrible starts in their previous two games, came out hot. Leading by 13 with possession at the end of the first, Bogdan Bogdanovic hit a three at the buzzer to give Serbia a 27-11 lead. It was Serbia’s inside play that pushed them ahead. The Serbs utterly dominated on the boards, with Nemanja Bjelica grabbing 10 rebounds and Bogdanovic 9. With the loser joining the long, looooooong, queue for wild cards at next year’s FIBA World Cup, Serbia had struck a vital blow early.
Italy tried to counter but Marco Belinelli was still suffering from the horrid shooting stretch that plagued him against Ukraine. With Belinelli’s offensive impact limited, Gigi Datome and Alessandro Gentile carried the load as Italy tried to chip away at the deficit. By half-time the gap was down but by just 2 points to 41-27. The Italians were getting the better of Serbia but they weren’t able to put together an extended streak to pressure their less experienced adversaries.
Serbia, who had been shellacked in their last two games, were given the hairdryer treatment by Ivkovic throughout. Duda had to be gentle as his side struggled against Spain and Slovenia but now it was time to get his men hot. The third quarter saw the lead cut down again but once more Italy couldn’t make a significant dent. At 55-44, Serbia could manage the clock and play smart ball. Italy needed to take risks but the options simply weren’t there.
With his side holding a 64-54 lead and just over 3 minutes remaining, Nikola Kalinic landed a three. Stefan Markovic added another to push the lead to 16 points. The game was won and Serbia could look forward to Spain next year. Considering the way in which the previous two games had gone for the young Serbs, with 9 players making their first appearance at a major tournament, the character they showed on Saturday bodes well for the future. Whoever leads this side to Spain will have a battle-hardened and talented outfit at his disposal. Ivkovic isn’t confirmed for the trip but it’s hard to think of a more suitable man for the job.
In addition to missing out on next year’s World Cup, this defeat means Italy must now qualify for EuroBasket 2015.
After the disappointment of Wednesday night’s quarter final loss, the Dragic brothers had huge games for Slovenia to beat Serbia and book their tickets to Spain next year.
Listen to the good Vibrations! Do you hear the crazy Game? Do you smell the scent of Glory? Do you feel the hug of fame?
Slovenia booked their place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup with a comprehensive 92-74 victory over Serbia in Ljubljana on Thursday. The classification round will decide which of the four losing quarter finalists won’t make it to the World Cup next year. From the start Slovenia decided they weren’t going to wait around for the win or go home game. A 30-16 opening quarter set the tone and it was the Dragic brothers who drove the offence.
Come and feel Slovenian Fire, feel the passion of our Song! We enjoy the same Desire, don’t think twice, just sing along!
Goran Dragic of the Phoenix Suns scored 15 points, collected 4 boards, and dished a game-high 5 assists. Not to be outdone, Zoran Dragic led the game in scoring and rebound with 23 and 9 to go with his 4 assists. Barely 16 hours after their quarter final loss to France, the home side roared out the gate. By half time the lead had grown to 53-35. Much like the day before, Serbia had been shocked by the hot start of their opponents and were struggling just to stay competitive at the break.
I feel Power in my Soul. My Heart beats for Basketball. Hear the proud Slovenian call. Feel the heartbeat of us all.
Whatever hopes of a comeback Serbia held were quickly dashed. The Serbs delivered their most productive quarter of offence but Slovenia were canny enough to keep the margin wide. Dusan Ivkovic’s charges needed a big run to give the hosts doubts but Jaka Blazic, with 15 points and 5 rebounds, and Mirza Begic, with 10 points and 6 boards, meant Serbia had more than Goran and Zoran to worry about. There was only one way this was going.
We’re united in our Passion! We’re united in the Pride! We’re united in one Colour! Join us on the winning side!
So it wasn’t the medal Slovenia wanted but securing a place in Spain next year is a solid consolation prize. Serbia, who had impressed greatly before the knockout stages, now need to regroup. They have one more game, one final shot, at making it to Spain. With an ever-crowded field seeking wild cards, Ivkovic will want to take care of business and not leave anything to chance. Twice in two days his young side has suffered. A third straight defeat would mean more than just a bad end to this tournament.
Three more teams will book their place in the 2014 FIBA World Cup on Thursday as the quarter finals of EuroBasket 2013 conclude. Here’s are take and picks on both games as well as the classification game between Slovenia and Serbia where the winner books a ticket to Spain.
Croatia lost their first game in Slovenia and then rattled off seven straight wins to secure a favourable draw in the last eight. The Croats have power inside and will look to dominate on the glass, where they have averaged 43.1 rebounds per game. After beating Ukraine home and away in the qualification round last year, it’s hardly a surprise to see Croatia as favourites for this game. This is a team however which is almost addicted to making life difficult irrespective of the opponent. Only one of Croatia’s run of victories came in a manner that could remotely be described as comfortable. Every other game was a battle often of the Croats own doing. This will give hope to Ukraine which will rely heavily on three-point shooting to keep the game competitive and make the favourites nervous. Mike Fratello’s team lives and dies by how Pooh Jeter plays. What Croatia do to shut down the world’s biggest fan of borscht could prove decisive. The bookies have Croatia down as -8 favourites. That looks about right to me. Croatia to advance.
The second quarter final today sees Italy take on Lithuania. Raptors Republic is calling this tournament JonasBasket and while there’s an element of insular thinking there, for one evening they may have a point. Lithuania can bang hard with anybody and Jonas Valanciunas will have an important role to play in this game. Italy’s struggles inside hurt them in the second stage and they will need Alessandro Gentile to match his big display against Spain for this game to be competitive. There’s certainly talent on the Italian roster, with Marco Belinelli and Gigi Datome both impressing at this tournament. What the duo needs most is help. I expect a heavy emphasis on defence from Lithuania early to try and frustrate Italy before the favourites look to punch a big hole on the scoreboard in the second quarter. Lithuania are favoured by 5.5 points and again this looks about right. Power inside will make the difference. Lithuania to win.
Before today’s quarter finals take place, the first of the classification games will see Slovenia take on Serbia. The home side lost to France in a contest that took a while to get going last night while the Serbs were swept aside by Spain. The emotional energy spent by Slovenia is a big concern going into this game. While Serbia will have been shocked by the way they were manhandled by Spain, it’s easier to get back mentally after a laugher than the type of draining game Slovenia played. I’m going for the slight upset here and picking Serbia.
Spain brutalised Serbia early as they romped to victory in the first quarter final of EuroBasket 2013.
Spain started hot and rarely let off in a rout of Serbia. Everyone knew the Spanish had speed but Serbia weren’t ready for how hard Spain would start the game. A 21-5 first quarter set the tone for the contest. Spain’s guards created opportunities at will as Serbia’s battered back-court struggled to keep up. Nemanja Nedovic bravely tried to compete but the injured Golden State Warrior couldn’t handle the constant pressure being brought by Spain’s offence. The rough start rattled Serbia early and their shot was off, further hampering their cause.
Spain didn’t let up in the second quarter despite Dusan Ivkovic’s best efforts to calm his young charges. Marc Gasol utterly dominated Nenad Krstic, a match-up he was expected to win but one in which the Serbian looked lost throughout. Serbia finally got a dash of success on the other end but with Rudy Fernandez raining threes for fun, it was a case of damage limitation. With Spain 22 points up as half-time neared, Pablo Aguilar put up a three on the buzzer and lead was 48-23.
When it’s going your way, it’s going your way. With 3.38 left in the third quarter Gasol heaved a full court pass to Sergio Llull for an easy lay-up, releasing the ball before he even knew where the Real Madrid man was, and the lead grew to 69-29. There wasn’t an aspect of play where Spain didn’t look in control. On the inside they battered Serbia. Their outside shooting was downright scary. Serbia’s Eagles looked like rabbits in the headlights. The question for Ivkovic was no longer what he needed to win this game. It was what he must do to get his young side refocused on the games ahead that will decided whether they play in the FIBA World Cup next year.
Serbia showed some fight in the final frame but in truth it was as much Spain easing off as the Serbs finally finding their confidence. The Spanish now await the winner of tonight’s second quarter final between the hosts Slovenia, who beat Spain in the first round, and France. The French are hungry for revenge after losing the 2011 final to Spain and then dropping a chippy Olympic quarter final to them last year. Whoever progresses, they will face a formidable opponent in Spain. After taking it easy at times in the early rounds, Spain look hungry for the three-peat.
Arguably the two best matched quarter finals of EuroBasket 2013 talk place on Wednesday. Serbia take on Spain in a re-match of the 2009 final while hosts Slovenia take on France.
Serbia vs Spain – 17.30 CET
The young and improving Serbs take on the winners of the last two EuroBaskets. The key match-ups here will come with the guards. Spain has a deep rotation to work with, Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon, Sergio Rodriguez, and Sergio Llull may all prefer playing the 1 but they have the versatility to make for solid pairings. Serbia’s big question is over the health of their guards. Nemanja Nedovic and Stefan Markovic are each nursing injuries, which will put pressure on Bogdan Bogdanovic to deliver big. On the inside Nenad Krstic is going to go to war with Marc Gasol. There’s no question the Spaniard holds the edge here but Krstic has the ability to at least make a fight of it. My big concern here has been Spain’s inconsistency. Countering that however is their defence which remains stout. The bookies say Spain -6.5, I’m going to go a bit closer than that but still a two-possession game at the death. Spain to advance.
Slovenia vs France – 21.00 CET
First things first. Do you feel basketball?
Good stuff. The hosts have benefited greatly from some big time performances from Goran Dragic. With 15.4 points and 4.4 assists per game, the Phoenix Sun has impressed throughout the tournament. Slovenia opted to rest him for much of their game against Finland, with a view to this match-up. On paper it’s hard to see anything but a French win. They have talent, they have depth, and in Alexis Ajinca they have a non-star who is a joy to watch. Believing in this French team is another matter entirely. The eyeball test is dangerous but I’ve watched a lot of France in this tournament and they just look like a team hoping to get everything together by the knockout stages. For all their talent, they are far from refined. Slovenia’s depth can certainly be questioned but in terms of sheer organisation, they look a step ahead of the French. Throw in a partisan home crowd and you’ve got the recipe for an upset. Time to be fearless. Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Nicolas Batum, y’all are great but I think you’re going to the classification games. Slovenia to win.
Who do you think comes out on top today? Tell us in the comments.
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. Continue Reading…
The last game in stage two has yet to start but the four quarter final pairings for EuroBasket 2013 are set. Here’ are the pairings.
Serbia vs Spain
Lithuania vs Italy
Croatia vs Ukraine
Slovenia vs France
The first two games on Monday set the slate in stone. Greece lost any hope at making the quarter finals with their double overtime 92-88 loss to Croatia. Italy and Spain were left to decide the order of the top two quarter finals, with the loser getting Group E winner Serbia. Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies led the game in stats with 32 points and 10 rebounds but Alessandro Gentile made up for his lacklustre display against Croatia with 25 points and 7 boards. New San Antonio Spur Marco Belinelli had another good outing for Italy, with 16 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out while Marco Cusin, who also fouled out, put up 4 points and 11 boards. It took overtime to decide it but Italy took the win 86-81. Now all they have to do is repeat that success on the inside to lock up a place in the FIBA World Cup next year. Against a Lithuanian team that can bang hard, that’s no easy ask.
We’ll have previews up for the quarter finals later this week but bear in mind that the placement games in this tournament also matter. With Spain already having their place in the World Cup secure, all but one of the other quarter finalists will be making the trip next year. Tell us who you think misses out in the comments.