How do you explain “they should swallow their whistles” to someone who knows nothing about sports? (And I mean really nothing; we’re talking live-six-years-in-Chicago-during-the-Jordan-Era-and-still-not-know-the-difference-between-Bulls-and-Bears nothing.) That was my situation during large portions of the second and third quarters of the France-Greece game last night as to the wife’s chagrin I yelled at the TV.
While the zebras only called four more personal fouls in this game than the crew in the equally-scored Russia-FYR Macedonia game, it felt like a whole lot more subjectively. While the Greek big men challenged France by constantly attacking inside, Sofoklis Schortsanitis was more often stopped by the black-and-white than by Les Bleus. Efstratios Perperoglou and Ioannis Kalampokis were victims of some ticky-tack calls, too.
On the other side, Rony Turiaf was whistled early and often, while Alain Koffi somehow managed to score some 14 points and nab six boards against his four PFs. (Fascinatingly, with Turiaf gone, Boris Diaw essentially disappeared from relevance as well; quite the symbiotic relationship that pair’s got going on.) Of course, with large quantities of the frontcourts gone, the shooting was pretty indeed: Welcome to the spotlight, Nando de Colo (who not only hit the amazing jumper over Nikos Zisis but also contributed the key offensive rebound with 38 seconds left)! Also Vassilis Spanoulis (and if *that* three-pointer doesn’t get onto ESPN Sports Center, well, there just ain’t no justice)!
Game of the week? Maybe not, but certainly an interesting one with tons o’ thrills. Here’s to hoping we get a different crew should these teams meet again in Eurobasket 2009.
Today’s slate of games with (slightly more confident but hardly perfectly) fearless predictions includes the following.
Lithuania v. Serbia. Lithuania is playing for pride, the clichémongers are today proclaiming, but they haven’t shown much pride or anything else in this tournament while Serbia is playing for their continued Eurobasket existence. It hindsight, it seems that Team Lithuania peaked too inconveniently soon, putting in their best game of 2009 against Spain in a friendly just before the tournament. So wouldn’t it be just like them to come together with the pressure off to beat up on Serbia…? BiE fearless prediction: …nah. Serbia wins, Lithuania gets to rebuilding.
Poland v. Spain. Meanwhile, the other lumbering beast in Eurobasket 2009, Spain, appears to have have awaken, though whether Gasols & Co. are in actuality sleepwalking or still groggily hungover from too much pre-tournament hype remains unknown. Spain’s sheer talent may be too much for Poland who, while having played admirably, really have peaked; I mean, they haven’t won since game two, folks. BiE fearless prediction: Spain wins, Poland takes pride in a fine showing.
Turkey v. Slovenia. Could Turkey be on a downswing after burning through the tournament to this point? True, Serbia did manage to take them to overtime. But consider the success of Serbia’s hack-an-Asik strategy (1-for-11 for the game? 5-for-freaking 24 for the tournament? What gives, Omir?) and that Hedo Turkoglu was a crazy 1-for-16 from the floor in what has to be Mr. Turkey’s worst single-game performance ever. And Serbia *still* couldn’t beat ‘em in regular time. And Turkey shut Serbia out in the OT, 5-0.
Expect Slovenia to employ some modification of the hack-an-Asik, both to put the big man at the line and to slow down the explosive, speedy Turkish attack. Of course, no one and no strategy is stopping Ersan Ilyasova right now. Not even himself. BiE fearless prediction: Turkey wins, Ilyasova puts in another double-double and becomes presumptive leader for Eurobasket MVP.