Yesterday, Spain played its second game in the EuroBasket FIBA 2013 Championships agains..."/> Yesterday, Spain played its second game in the EuroBasket FIBA 2013 Championships agains..."/>

Slovenia Rallys to Upset Spain, 78-69


Yesterday, Spain played its second game in the EuroBasket FIBA 2013 Championships against Slovenia and the Dragic brothers. Marc Gasol led Spain in scoring with 17 points on 6-11 shooting and a surprisingly poor 5-9 FTs. Gasol also had a game-high 7 rebounds. Goran Dragic, otherwise of the Pheonix Suns, led everyone in scoring with 18 points, and his brother Zoran scored 12.

This was a really, really awesome game of basketball. Seriously. Even the highlights are great. If you haven’t seen any of it, I absolutely implore you to watch this highlight video, because this was a fun game.

This game was interesting. It seemed like, to an extent, Spain was using the San Antonio Spurs policy of resting stars: neither Jose Calderon nor Ricky Rubio started the game. Marc Gasol did, though, record a game high 37 minutes in the loss.

In retrospect, though, it may make more sense why Calderon didn’t start the game: Calderon has been a well below average defender for most his tenure in the NBA, especially over the last few seasons, and matching Calderon up against Goran Dragic was a disaster for Spain. Dragic’s game-high 18 points on an outstanding 54% shooting was no coincidence: Jose Calderon was just not quick enough to stay in front of the hyper-athletic Dragic, not matter how hard he tried.

Rubio, though, is more of a mystery. Rubio was great in 18 minutes, and you have to wonder why his time was so limited. Perhaps, since he’s still coming off of an injury-ish, Spain is limiting his minutes until later.

At any rate, some starters weren’t actually starting, and Spain could not find the formula necessary to stop Slovenia’s offense in the last quarter of the game. Spain was ahead by at least 7 for most of the first 3 quarters, until Slovenia hit a buzzer beater at the end of the third quarter to put them up by one. For the entire fourth quarter, Spain couldn’t find the pieces necessary to do much damage, and Slovenia took advantage.

Gasol was wonderful, again, though. He took full advantage in the post, making beautiful passes from the high post, and actually doing more damage by himself, in the low post. When Gasol was back-to-the-basket, he couldn’t be stopped, and it was a wonder to lost.

Unlike in the first game, though, his defense slipped a little bit. He was still always in the right place at the right time — I don’t think Gasol knows how to not be in the right place — but he seemed lazier with his coverage, and it wasn’t that rare to see players slip by him. Look at Gasol’s body language before he sets to defend the pick and roll, here:

Gasol isn’t ready in any way to defend the play. He’s meandering up to the high post, arms akimbo and legs straight and unbent. He’s just not prepared. As a result, his rolling man slips by him easily, and Gasol scrambles to recover.

Even here, though, it’s clear that Gasol has given up on the play. He’s stopped his momentum and is watching the dunk, clearly with no intent of rising to try and stop it. Maybe choosing not to contesting the dunk was in Gasol’s best interest, if the dunk was a done deal, but it just seems so un-Gasol-like to not see him try.

I’m probably being a little bit unfair in my critique, however. Gasol played incredibly well, and his defense was still some of the best in the business last night…it just wasn’t as good as it normally is.

Ultimately, as exciting as these Spain games are, I’m just getting more and more ready to see Gasol back into a Grizzlies jersey.

Here’s the box score from the game, and we’ll be here next time!