As predicted two days ago after Spain beat Finland, Spain is still moving on to the third round of the EuroBasket 2013 tournament. However, after a tough, close loss to Italy in overtime, Spain is now moving on as the 3rd place of their group, and will have to face the current #1 seed for the entire tournament, Serbia, as the first game of the next round.
Italy played a phenomenal game, led mostly by the efforts of PF Alessandro Gentile who had 25 points and 7 rebounds on 55% shooting and 11 free throws. Guard Pietro Aradori, too, was instrumental in Italy coming back in the fourth quarter with 17 points on 50% shooting. NBA journeyman Marco Belinelli was huge for the Italians in the final minutes of the 4th as well, and he had 16 points in the game.
On the other side, Marc Gasol was trying to do it all for Spain. Gasol was absolutely incredible, and he had 32 points and 10 rebounds, on 58% shooting from the floor. Gasol was instrumental in not only bringing Spain back from an early 12-point deficit, but he was the force responsible for giving Spain a massive double digit advantage for most of the 3rd quarter.
It turns out, though, that Gasol couldn’t do it all by himself. Italy had a huge surge in the 4th quarter that extended for the entire quarter. They trailed for most of the 4th, until, with 2.8 seconds left, Luigi Datome split a Marc Gasol-Jose Calderon double team on an inbounds play for an easy layup to tie the game and send it to overtime.
For most of overtime, Italy dominated. Spanish go-to perimeter players Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio looked totally impotent. Rubio couldn’t get inside well, his jumpshot was off, and Italy’s perimeter defense was such that Rubio’s kick-outs from the inside were more risky than valuable. For Calderon, he had a hard time handling Italy’s ball pressure. On his usual go-to pick and roll hand-off from Gasol, Calderon was finding himself too well guarded for good shots or drives.
Rubio only had 1 assist, and Calderon was 1-4 on threes, and 2-10 for the game.
Instead, Spain relied heavily on Rudy Fernandez and — in particular — Sergio Rodriguez. Other than Gasol, Rodriguez was the only player putting up a real fight during Italy’s prolonged comeback. Rodriguez managed to hit some really impossible shots, and finished with an impressive 18 points on 58% shooting, and going 2-4 from 3.
What ultimately killed Spain was their poor defense when Gasol was out (and sometimes poor perimeter D in general), and more importantly, Italy’s impressive perimeter D coupled with Spain’s amateurish spacing.
Gasol often looks lazy on D in EuroBasket games, but in the context of Spain’s zone defense, his footwork and placement is impeccable. Watching Italian guards run off of screens only to find themselves face-to-face with Gasol in the paint was hilarious.
Without Gasol, though, Spain’s interior D suffered.
Gasol was out for the end of the 3rd, beginning of the 4th when Italy began their run. I don’t believe that it was a coincidence that they found a scoring rhythm while Gasol was out of the game.
Even with Gasol in the game, though, Spain had difficulty scoring a lot of the time. Some credit certainly needs to be given to Italy’s impressive perimeter defense, who did a great job moving in and out of the paint just enough to bother, and not so much as to leave players open.
On the other hand, Spain’s spacing was often atrocious, and it lent itself to Italy’s stifling defense.
Ultimately, even considering Italy’s really impressive run, this game came down to a really small difference between the two teams. Had Spain’s defense not collapsed without Gasol, and had they managed to run a smarter offense, Spain might have taken this game easily.
Of course, if only Calderon had hit a few more of his shots, or if only Rubio was more effective, and so on and so forth.
In the end, Spain lost to the team who played better basketball.
Spain will be playing against #1 Serbia soon, so stay tuned!