WBC Elimination Round, Day 1
Fantastic finish and an “upset.”
The second game was a rematch of the 2006 World Basketball Championship as Spain faced off against Greece, this time in the first round of the elimination bracket. Both teams started out hot early, as Juan Carlos Navarro (22 points) hit his signature runner in the lane and Jorge Garbajosa (5 points) knocked down a three for Spain off of a quick ball reversal by Ricky Rubio (6 points, 6 assists). Unfortunately for them, Greek guards Dimitris Diamantidis(16 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 2 blocks) and Vasileios Spanoulis (12 points, 3 assists, 2 boards, 4 turnovers) were playing excellent basketball themselves, creating for themselves and others to help the Greeks get out to an early 17-11 lead before Alex Mumbru (3 points), Sergio Llull (9 points, 2 assists) and Raul Lopez (5 points, 3 assists) knocked in three’s for Spain, sparking the former World Champions to a 22-19 lead after one.
Fran Vasquez (6 points, 7 rebounds, steals) activity around the rim on both ends helped to keep Spain in front midway through the second quarter. He hit a short corner shot, had a putback dunk and was aggressive on defense to help Spain push their lead up to 28-21. Nikos Zisis (16 points, 4 rebounds) helped get the Greeks stay in the game with two midrange jumpers to make it 28-25 with 4:30 to go in the half. Big man Sofoklis Schortsanitis (13 point, 4 rebounds) got involved next with an easy bucket in the pick and roll and a great duck-in for an easy bucket to cut Spain’s hard earned lead to a tender point at 30-29, but Navarro hit a deep three to re-extend the Spanish lead to four. After a Greek miscue, Ricky Rubio had a fantastic no-look pass to Marc Gasol (4 points, 2 rebounds) in the middle of the court, which extended the lead back up to six. The Spanish held on to their healthy advantage 37-31 going into halftime and scored and extra advantage when Spanoulis picked up his third foul with 15 seconds remaining in the first half.
Greece came out extremely aggressive in the second half as Zisis hit a short jumper, Diamantidis hit a shot in traffic and Antonis Fotsis (12 points, 7 boards, 2 steals) hit the Greek’s first three pointer to cap a quick 7-0 run and a one point lead just 2:40 into the second half, clearly turning the momentum in their favor until Navarro hit another patented runner and Rudy Fernandez finished a layup in traffic to finally ignite the Spanish team. Greece finally started to get in rhythm from the perimeter as Diamantidis hit one off the bounce, Fotsis hit one off of a Diamantidis swing and Diamantidis hit another from deep late in the shot clock to turn the tide in Greece’ favor 49-45 with 3 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Zisis kept his hot hand by finishing layups and hitting midrange jumpers but Spain wouldn’t back down as Rudy Fernandez finally started to assert himself, hitting a three of his own to bring Spain back within three at 51-48. Raul Lopez checked in, cut the Greek’s lead to one and after a turnover by Greece the Spanish reclaimed the lead 52-51 going into the final quarter of action.
Diamantidis picked up where he left off in the third quarter, nailing a trey to start the quarter but Spain came right back with an alley-oop of their own, Vasquez on the receiving end to tie the score at 54-54. Spain’s Vasquez battled inside for a second chance opportunity and on the next possession deflected a ball that led to a steal and easy layup for Spain, making the score 58-54 going into a timeout with 8 minutes to play. Spain switched to a 2-3 zone but Sofoklis Schortsanitis still found a seam to work with, cutting the lead to two. After a free throw by Sofoklis Schortsanitis Rudy Fernandez converted a three pointer after a methodical pump fake to create space, pushing the lead back up to four 61-57 with 5 minutes to play. After a timeout Fernandez made another intelligent pump fake, forcing his man into the air and drawing a three shot foul, of which he made two to push the lead up to 63-57. On the ensuing Greek possession, Zisis made a crucial turnover which Navarro took advantage of on the other end, helping to push the Spanish lead back up to their largest margin of the game at 8. After another Spanish bucket, Greece finally responded with a three of their own but it was too late, as Navarro put his own finishing touch on the Greeks with a deep three from the left side with about 1:30 to go, which put Spain in front 70-60. The Greeks fought valiantly down the stretch to keep the game within reach, but there simply wasn’t enough time for them to get the job done. After a rough start in pool play the former FIBA World Champion Spanish team prevailed in the end by the score of 80-72, advancing forward to the Quarterfinals.
Diamantidis was all over the place on both ends. He made impossible steals look simple and had a few incredible blocks, one where he used his length perfectly to reject Ricky Rubio and another to snub Sergio Llull on the break. All in all, the point forward is a pleasure to watch thanks to his amazingly well-rounded game.
The Spanish were 5-13 from deep while Greece was just 0-3 in the first half, a major reason Spain held the advantage.
The Spanish bench flat out killed the Greek bench. I do not have the exact numbers but midway through the fourth quarter they had a 25-2 advantage.
Nick Calathes defense was clearly not up to par with the rest of his Greek team. He had trouble staying in front of his man, contesting shot and getting through high ball screens.