Man, when Spain wins, they win by a lot.
Spain handled Finland easily in today’s EuroBasket 2013 match, a must-win for last years’ champions. Before the game started, Spain was ranked 4th in their group in the tournament, meaning that Spain was in position to advance to the next round of the tournament…but just barely. Were Spain to lose to Finland, they probably would have dropped to 5th place and out of qualifying status.
As it happened, though, Spain manhandled Finland and won by such a large margin that they rose a rank (now marked 3rd) and forced Finland to drop all the way to last place.
Spain won 82-56, led by Jose Calderon’s 23 points on 80% shooting from the floor and 5-7 from 3, with 5 assists. Victor Claver, too, who’s been Spain’s breakout defensive PF over the last few games, did very well for himself with 12 points on 57% shooting and 2-3 from 3. He was very good against Greece, as well, before fouling out.
On the other side, Finnish star Petteri Koponen performed to his high expectations, scoring 17 points on 54% shooting with 5 rebounds and 4 assists, including some pretty astounding plays (Durant-esque pull up from outside the NBA three point line in transition, anybody?). The rest of the Finnish team was pretty defunct, though: only one other player shot better than 50%, and the team as a whole shot 32% for the game.
The story of the game, though, remains Jose Calderon. Calderon was 5-7 on three pointers, several of which were tough contested shots. For the last many years, Calderon has been quietly only of the best shooters in the NBA, if not in NBA history. He’s one of only 11 players to finish a season shooting 50% from the floor, 40% from three, and 90% from the free throw line, and he’s consistently led the NBA in 3-point and Free-Throw percentage.
After Spain’s loss to Greece in which Calderon shot a very weak three-point percentage, he was bound to rebound into form — especially shooting from Europe’s shorter 3-point line. Tonight was that rebound, hitting 5-7 on several contested or pull-up threes.
In the same way that Ricky Rubio’s improved offense spaced the floor during his hot-jumpshooting streak a few days ago, Calderon’s shooting brought more defensive attention to him carrying the ball up the floor to set up the offense, which resulted in some really nice in-then-out play through Gasol and Claver and Rubio.
It’s an interesting trend to note that when Spain loses, they look lackluster and effortless and lose in a close match. When Spain wins, though, they look dominant, and they typically win by a large margin.
This trend is reflected in their overall point differential for the tournament. Other than Lithuania, there’s no other team with a point differential as overwhelmingly positive as Spain’s, meaning that for the tournament Spain has scored significantly more points than it’s opponents. Even though Spain has lost more times than other teams, that point differential is extremely encouraging: point differential has statistically proven a better measure of future success than just wins/losses.
The other nice thing about the point differential is that Spain is going to need to get SQUASHED by Italy to be taken out of the tournament, so it’s likely now that Spain is going to the third round! See everyone there!
Here’s the box score, and the highlights for the game.