When is a game-winning shot not a game-winning shot? When you’re playing in a FIBA tournament! Just ask Nando de Colo.
In Eurobasket 2009, Team France took its undefeated streak into the final game of pool play with Greece. In a hard-fought contest, de Colo burned Nikos Zisis for an outside two with 0.2 seconds remaining: The victory and the group’s top seed was Les Bleus’.
Unfortunately, it took far less than 0.2 seconds for the French to realize what de Colo’s pyrrhic jumper meant: Thanks to a pair of early losses, the heating-up Team Spain finished Group F in fourth place, meaning the first-round knockout game would pit them against France.
The rest, as they say, is history. And if you don’t think de Colo’s teammates – playing the entire fourth quarter without Tony Parker, not that they were trying to lose or anything, mind you – realized what the 22-year-old had done, check out the clip below for the most muted tournament win celebration of all-time.
Such games with implications running throughout the tournament are rife in a competition such as the 2010 FIBA World Championship in which a handful of teams (USA, Spain, Greece, possibly Argentina and Serbia) appear to be head-and-shoulders above a wide-open field. What are the key games in this year’s tournament, should we choose to not “take these games one at the time” in deference to the old sports cliché? Read on!
August 28, Russia vs. Puerto Rico. Team USA opens the knockout round against the fourth seed from Group A. Assuming Greece and Turkey finish 1-2 in either order, this opening day match between the seemingly slow-starting Russians against the giant-killing Puerto Ricans could determine the group’s nos. 3 and 4 real quick.
August 29, Germany vs. Serbia. With Milos Teodosic and Nenad Krstic out for this game, the upset-minded dark horses of Deutschland could surprise here. Should Germany finish either second or third in their group, they’ll presumably face a manageable team in the second round in Brazil, Slovenia or Croatia.
August 30, Germany vs. Australia. Should Serbia survive Germany in game two, game three with the Germans against the Aussies should determine the Group A seeds no. 3 and 4 – and that no. 4, again, is assumed to be drawing Team USA in the first game of the knockout stage.
August 31, Turkey vs. Greece. One can’t say that Turkey isn’t getting every opportunity to please the hometown fans with a nice showing in this tournament. After homecourt advantage and a group they can handle, Turkey faces Greece in game three, just in time for Sofoklis Schortsanitis and Antonis Fotsis to return. Win here or face demoralization, Turkey!
September 2, Argentina vs. Serbia. In what could be the final battle to determine the no. 1 seed in Group A … depending on Germany, of course.
September 2, France vs. Lebanon, Lithuania vs. New Zealand, Spain vs. Canada. Say what you will about the Lebanons and New Zealands of this tournament, but some team always surprises and BiE is looking toward Group D for his weirdness in this tournament. By game five, reckon that Spain will have clinched the top spot in the group and the remainder to be higgledy-piggledy. Though one has to believe Lithuania has the inside track for the 2 spot, they may yet need a win in this final game; and if Lithuania upsets Spain in game three, Canada may not get to cruise on September 2.
September 11, the semifinals. Obviously no encouragement is needed to watch these games, but do you realize we could get a Greece-Serbia rematch on one side and Spain-USA on the other? You want to talk pressure? Imagine the undefeated mostly-newbies of the Red-White-and-Blues facing the toughest competition they’ll see in this tournament … on 9/11. Crazy.
Anyone else excited…?