Spain won their first game of EuroBasket 2013 against Croatia handily, 68-40. Rudy Fernandez led Spain in scoring with 15 points, followed by Marc Gasol’s 14 on 3-8 shooting (with a game-high 8 FTs on 11 attempts, and a game-high 11 rebounds). Croatia’s leading scorer was Bojan Bogdanovic, who scored 12 points on 4-15 shooting.
The first thing that’s really clear is that EuroBasket is…not high scoring basketball. Part of that is that we’re just not dealing with NBA-level talent, for the most part. The other thing, though, is that almost every team plays with a Grizzlies-esque pace and defensive diligence. So, as opposed to college basketball, it’s not stacked with the 200 best players in the world, and it’s not excessively fast, either. It is really creative, though.
The defense, on both ends, was really deliberate, which is interesting, given that the Spanish were starting both Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio for their backcourt. The Spanish team, though, shot a respectable — if not astounding — 42%, to the Croatians’ really horrific 25%. The Spanish defense was amazing.
The Croatians only scored 3 points in the entire final quarter. That’s not just the result of bad shooting. Spain played fantastic defense.
Who do you credit that defense to, if not to Marc Gasol? Gasol’s defense is, and continues to be, amazingly good. The Croatians spent a decent amount of time dumping the ball into the post for Luka Zoric, who’s a respectable post presence in his own right for EuroBasket. Next to Gasol on defense, though, he looked silly. Zoric ended with an efficient 4-7 shooting performance, but he was 1-4 on post possessions. Every time Zoric got the ball in low, he was stifled and confused. It was a man versus a boy.
Similarly, it seemed like every time the Croatians scored up close, it was on transition baskets. Very rarely did someone come to the hoop and not find Gasol waiting for them. It was like one of those horror movies where every time you open a door, the serial killer is somehow behind it. In this scenario, Gasol is the serial killer, and you’re a basketball player who just wants to get far, far away.
On offense Marc’s 3-8 shooting doesn’t tell the whole story: Gasol took 11 shots at the foul line, almost double the amount of foul shots that anyone else got in the game, and more than the entire rest of the Spanish team combined.
Croatia’s defense was almost entirely centered on locking down Marc Gasol. Any time he got the ball in the post, he drew double teams, and the whole Croatian team would inch towards the paint. Gasol totally bent Croatia’s defense to the extent that the rest of the team got open — or easier — looks. Croatia was playing a 3-2 zone for a lot of the game, for reference.
Let’s look at the Gasol effect:
In that last picture, too, Fernandez has two really appealing choices: he has plenty of space to take a basically wide open wing three, or he can pass it to the corner. The risk, of course, is that Croatia’s defense will be able to figure itself out by the time he gets the pass off, but you may have noticed that the corner defender isn’t even looking at the corner, anymore. The corner shooter makes the 3.
Spain outclassed Croatia in basically every way, and a lot of it stemmed from Marc Gasol’s influence and the fact that Spain had enough talent to punish teams for backing off of the perimeter players.
Here’s the box score, if you’re interested, and here’s some highlights from the game. We’ll see you next game for the recap!