EuroBasket: Greece Shocks Spain, 79-75


Yesterday, I wrote about Spain’s position in the EuroBasket 2013 tournament, and Spain’s likelihood to beat Greece to start the second round of the tournament. I said that, despite Greece’s smarts and shooting talent, Spain could easily have the upper hand in the game.

Nonetheless, Spain lost what ended up being a very tightly contested game, 79-75. Vasileios Spanoulis led the Greeks with 20 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists on 38.5% shooting. Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez led the Spanish with 20 points each. Gasol had 5 rebounds and 2 assists on 66.7% shooting, and Rudy Fernandez had 4 assists on 58% shooting.

Now, Spain has one loss for the 2nd round. In order to advance to the next round, Spain has to be ranked in the top 4 of their “group” by the end of the round (after their match against Italy). At the moment, Spain is holding on to qualifying by a thread: after the loss to Greece, Spain is ranked precisely fourth, making tomorrow’s match against Finland an absolute must win.

Here are the highlights, for reference:

In many ways, Spain was their own worst enemy in this particular game. Spain shot 45% from the floor, 40% from the three point-line, and both Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez were on fire, and hyper-efficient. Ricky Rubio, however, had difficulty re-finding the scoring touch he’d had for the last two games, and Jose Calderon’s typically amazing three-point touch was nowhere to be found.

When thinking about Rubio and Calderon’s lack of pure production, perhaps we can just say bad luck. Rubio was taking a lot of the same shots (mostly around the rim, a few jumpshots) and he was just off. Calderon was open for at least 3 of his 5 threes, and he only made 1, where normally he might make, well, all of the open ones. Luck of the draw.

On the other hand, Spain was their own worst enemy yesterday. The final point differential was only 4, and yet, Spain turned the ball over 11 more times than the Greeks. Sadly, Memphis’ own Marc Gasol was the primary culprit. Gasol turned the ball over 5 out of the 17 total times. Ricky Rubio had 3 turnovers.

The turnovers themselves account for basically the entire disparity in the final score. In fact, had Spain been able to hold onto the ball more effectively (or force more turnovers from Greece) the game would have probably had a vastly different outcome.

What was interesting about the Greek defense was that is wasn’t really good in the normal sense. They made a lot of fundamental and fatal errors regularly: poor communications on switches often left the ball handler open and screens tore the defense apart. Where Greece excelled, though, was compensating for those fatal errors by gambling for steals. Greece seemed to thrive in the chaos created by their own defensive ineptitude, using the confusion to send out-of-position players for wayward balls. The result was 9 steals for Greece to Spain’s 4, and 17 Spanish turnovers.

There’s a reason the score was so high (for a 40 minute EuroBasket game): Greece wasn’t defending well, but their offense was blistering. The Greek point guard, Nikos Zizis, is not a particular scoring threat, but he is one of the better inside-out point guards in the tournament. The combination of Zizis-3 deadly shooters-Bourousis, is incredibly effective. Greece was fond of running Rubio and Calderon off of screens, since both are so bad at defending pick and rolls, and then having Zizis run in to collapse Spain’s helter-skelter defense. From there, Greece could do basically whatever they wanted.

Aside from Spain’s bad luck with Calderon and Rubio’s scoring, the Spanish offense looked very good. Gasol dominated the Greek front court, and Rudy Fernandez was on fire. Part of the problem, though, is that Spain continued to run their offense through Gasol on the high post. While this often works, it was much more difficult when the Greek backcourt was looking for steals so actively.

The high post is a clever way to initiate plays mostly because it offers a few of the whole floor. The problem with running the offense from that position is that the angles for those passes are often advantageous for steals, which Greece took full advantage of.

This was a game of luck. It was also a game in which Spain should have changed up their plan a bit. Probably, Greece was just the better team.

Here’s the box score.

Spain plays Finland tomorrow!