Sunday, September 18, 2011

Spain Wins Eurobasket!

Spain put away France earlier this afternoon, 98-85, and are the Eurobasket 2011 champs! Another great performance for this group, what can you say? This game reminded me of the France-Russia game, except France was Spain and Russia was France (here's the post I'm referring back to). France was trailing for basically the whole game and Spain just piled on the offense. France had no consistent rebuttal.

Juan Carlos Navarro propelled the Spanish offense. Navarro had 27 points on 14 shots, which is pretty efficient. His triples were timely, he can just pull up and knock them down. Navarro can just save a possession because of his scoring ability. He also hit also 12 of his FT's and was +2 in assist to turnover ratio. Navarro knows his role, plays it well and that's why he was named the MVP.

Serge Ibaka was huge off of the bench for Spain. In the second quarter, Ibaka had four blocks in three minutes and four seconds (from the 9:26 mark to the 6:22 mark). That's incredible! He tried to carry that energy that he expelled on defense over to the offense, but he didn't make much of an impact scoring-wise. Ibaka's intensity and plays that put his team in transition are what makes him valuable. Five blocks doesn't just mean he's playing good D, it means that there are potentially five additional fastbreak opportunities for Spain, which is tremendous. The more Ibaka can make the play on defense, then finish it off on offense, the more imposing he'll be.

On the French side, Tony Parker's game was OK at best, Joakhim Noah seemed to be frustrated throughout the entire game, Nicolas Batum didn't score enough and the x-factors for France in Ali Traore and Nando De Colo had no true imprint on this game.

Monsieur Parker played decently, but where his game lacks is efficiency. As the main scorer for France, Parker had 26 points on 20 shots. Reminds me of those Laker games where Kobe had a lot of points, due to a lot of shots and LAL loses. I understand Parker wants to get his, he is a central part of the French offense, but he needs to increase his effectiveness. Move the ball around when shots aren't falling, because continuing to do what doesn't work simply doesn't make sense! It'd be nice if France had a more true PG they could bring off of the bench, that would really take a load off of Parker's shoulders. Maybe a young prospect will fill this sort of role in the future?

Joakhim Noah needed the kind of uplifting performance Serge Ibaka had. Instead, all that can be remembered of his game today is the looks of confusion after he got called for fouls. Oh, and let's not forget his emotions and clapping to the crowd when he fouled out. Noah just needed to be more imposing and obviously, foul less. If Tony Parker was a more pass first PG, that would greatly help Noah too. There just wasn't enough pick and roll and action for him to move and create an opening for himself.

Ali Traore and Nando De Colo had no valuable minutes in the game. They combined for six points, on eight shots. Traore is someone who will impact the game on defense mostly and he didn't do that. De Colo is a streaky shooter and he didn't even make a shot today. Nothing more to say about them, except they didn't step in and do much anything. Too bad!

This was a decent game, kind of hoped for better, but alas, it was basketball!? But, the problem is, what basketball can I watch now (or come late October)? END THE LOCKOUT!

Photo and stats courtesy of Eurobasket

Friday, September 16, 2011

France Beats Russia!

France defeated Russia 79-71 in a closely contested game. Russia hung around just enough to give themselves an opportunity, but France was too much for them. Russia tried all kinds of things, zone defenses, a little bit of traps and presses, but France withstood all of the runs. How'd France do that?

Nicolas Batum was a big catalyst for France. He played great defense, hit semi-transition triples and used his athleticism all over the floor. Usually Joakhim Noah sets the defensive tone for France, but today it was Batum. He used his versatility to block shots, guard tall and short players and then make acrobatic plays on offense. A big intangible of Batum is being able to make strong moves on both ends without picking up a ton of fouls. He played all but six minutes of the game and only picked up three fouls. For someone with his activity level, that's a tremendous number.

Tony Parker had a tough overall game statistically, but he showed up late. He made his late three shots, two of them being key to putting Russia out. It's funny how it seems like Parker can generally struggle to make jumpers off the dribble throughout most of the game, then he seemed as if he had something to prove and he nailed them. He played well when it was necessary.

Ali Traore also played a solid game. Considering he played only 10 minutes, his eight points are great. Traore is great because he'll set up in the post early in the shot clock and execute his move quickly. With whatever minutes he gets, France should look for him early, because his offense is typically early offense. Traore is an x-factor kinda player (along with De Colo).

So where did Russia slip up? They played crisply only at times, when they needed a near perfect performance. The ball would move, an opening would be found and they'd score. That wasn't the problem. The problem was when the movement stopped, the turnovers compiled and the French got out in transition, or semi-transition. At times it felt like Russia was determined to comeback, but when they finally equalized, or almost tied the game, they played loosely afterward.

Andrei Kirilenko played amazingly. With him you throw away the stats, unless you look at, "Percentage He Played With Heart (or PPH)," in which case he'd be at 100%. Russia's coach, David Blatt said it best, "He’s best when he’s running around the court and he’s free. Most of his best plays come from instinct." Kirilenko just puts it all out there and knows what is needed to win. Truly, there's nothing else serious I can say about him, except reemphasizing what was said previously. I'm a BIG Kirilenko fan!

The Russian group as a whole is fantastic. Coach Blatt has great schemes and the more Russia gets guys that can execute his game-plan, the scarier they'll become. They just need to stick to the plan of moving the ball, and looking for the openings. I know it sounds like I'm speaking about basketball in general, but really, that's what worked the best for Russia. The less the ball touches the floor, the better the Russian offensive attack was. If that was fiercely adhered to, their defense would also have more time to set up and stop any French transition. The room for improvement for Russian is definitely open, but luckily they've got the right people to make sure it happens. I wish them the best in the future.

France now moves on to play Spain in the final on Sunday and they've also qualified for the 2012 Olympics in London. Who else is excited for this final?!

Photo and Stats from Eurobasket

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Carlos Delfino Loves Brazil!

Tonight at 8:15 Eastern time, Brazil and Argentina are going to battle for the FIBA America's title. If that wasn't exciting enough, Carlos Delfino decided to throw some more heat into the fire. In an interview with Olé, Delfino said this, "Le vamos a romper el culo a Brasil." If you're unsure of what that means, like I was, it means, "we're going to rip Brazil's ass."

This game should be intense. First of all it's for the top prize and Delfino makes it sound like there's some animosity between the two. Sounds like a great ball game to me! We'll see if Delfino will put up or shut up.

Other NBA'ers (or former NBA'ers) who will be playing include Luis Scola, Manu Ginobili, Fabricio Oberto, Andres Nocioni, and Tiago Splitter. This should be a hard fought game. All of the guys I just mentioned are scrappy players. They each provide intangibles that bring value to the game. Just because it's unquantified, doesn't mean it's meaningless. That's a big part of why this game should be great.

Argentina has got more NBA talent than Brazil. I've got them winning simply based on familiarity with their roster. The game will be slow paced, physical and the teams won't like each other. To boil it down and reiterate: this game will be fun! Catch it online (check out! Also, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play at 6 PM ET!

Friday, September 09, 2011

Win NBA 2K12!

NBAtipoff is holding a contest and the prize is a copy of NBA 2K12! You can get the game in the format of your choice! This contest is open to everyone, all countries, ages, etc. Please only enter once though!

So how do I enter?

Leave a comment on this post with your name and email. Tell me why these two things should happen: you should win the game and the NBA lockout should end! Comments will be ranked from one to three. You must answer the question to be entered into the contest.

The rankings of the comments will determine how many times your name is thrown into the hat. Put some time into your comment, make them memorable. That will give you a better shot at winning this game!

The contest will run until October 10th, but enter now! This is going to be another amazing game and there's no better price than free, is there? Enter now! UPDATE: Contest is no longer open! Thanks for entering!

Monday, September 05, 2011

Turkey Beats Spain!

Eurobasket 2011 is in full force and Turkey knocked off Spain today in round two of preliminary play, 65-57. A great game it was, and Spain looked to be in the drivers seat with an eight point lead and eight minutes to play. Turkey proceeded to go on a 16-0 run and steal the game.

How'd Turkey do it? They executed at a superior level on both ends. On defense especially, they raddled Spain, clearly reading the attempts to feed Marc Gasol in the paint and instead forcing a bad outside shot or drive to be made. Offensively, they were able to grind it out late. The game was slow paced in crunch time, and Turkey was able to really attack on the interior.

Ömer Aşık was a catalyst of the interior play for Turkey. Aşık's presence was monumental. He changed the way Spain played offensively, drew fouls on Spain's bigs and simply played a man's game. I thought Serge Ibaka was a big boy, then I saw Aşık put him in his place with a put-back dunk (I still love Serge though)! Aşık doesn't look like much of an intimidating player, but he really plays with strong persistence and he's unafraid to use his body. In case you Chicago Bull fans weren't excited about this Turkish force, get excited! Barring injury, this guy is an amazing piece to a championship puzzle.

So how did Spain lose their lead? They didn't have offensive sets that couldn't be read by Turkey (i.e. trying to throw to Gasol in the post), couldn't stop the onslaught of points from Turkey and overall executed poorly. Every possession down the stretch, it seemed like Spain would try to get Gasol the ball down low and then when that didn't work someone chucked up a forced shot. Whether it was Navarro, Rubio, or whoever, the shots Spain was getting were not centered around ball movement. This was their mindset: dribble, dribble, dribble, and let's see if we get lucky this time. Unless you've got a truly special player and/or luck, this strategy usually fails. This time was no different!

On defense, Spain just couldn't stop the inside invasion, which broke their whole defense. They would even make Turkey use a majority of the clock, then they'd either get a foul inside, or an outside look.

The way Spain finishes games is confusing. It's usually never crisp on either end and that's why they get the results that they do. When they start running a few more set plays and intensifying their D, they will finish games brilliantly. With the guys they've got, there's really no excuse for things like this!

Congrats again to Turkey, nice win! Spain, you know what you need to do, so get it done!