Russia Shocks Spain for Euro Supremacy
Eurobasket '07 Final: Russia 60, Spain 59
- Lenin, Stalin, Putin... Holden? Who would've thunk it when Ronald Reagan labeled the USSR the "Evil Empire" back in the '80s: Russia wins the Eurobasket led by an American coach, on a last-second shot by a guy from Pittsburgh, J.R. Holden (see above).
- Holden did not really have the greatest game today, forcing up some rushed shots thru-out the game, but he came up huge in the last :30 secs. Made a great read to double down on Pau and stripped him on the post with :25 secs. Then after a possession where Russia had trouble getting organized, Holden took it upon himself to create an opportunity with the shot clock winding down. He drove to his right, pump-faked Calderon off his feet, and stepped thru into a mid-range jumper that bounced high off the rim, a la Allan Houston, then found its way thru the net, giving Russia a 60-59 lead with :02 secs. Then Spain got one last chance to win, and Gasol got off a jumper that just rimmed out, and the upset was complete.
Watch the final 30 seconds here, as JR channels MJ, circa 1998:
- Stunning upset that Russia could knock off such a superior talented team at home. I have to imagine Pau & Spain will have a mighty hard time getting over this one. This thing was set up perfectly for them: the best team in the tourney, fully stocked with their best possible players, playing at home, & not having to play arguably the 2nd best team in Lithuania.
- It was a strange game, in that Spain seemed to be in command for most of it, and one really wondered how Russia was staying in the game because they were having so much trouble generating offense. But they fought back from a 12-point deficit in the 2nd quarter to trail just 34-31 at the half.
Then, the Russians appeared to be in huge trouble when AK picked up his 4th foul (players foul out with 5 in FIBA) with 2:32 left in the 3rd Q, trailing 49-41. But they fought back and actually made up ground, down just 52-51 when Kirilenko returned with 7:42 in the 4th.
Still, it looked like it was over when Gasol put Spain up 59-54 with 1:48 left, but the Russkies kept coming--before Holden hit his game-winner with :02 left, Russia led for just 1:00 total in the entire game.
- The big reason that Spain lost was that they had a terrible time converting good opportunities--they were a dreadful 7/35 (20%) on 2-pt. FGs on the night and made just 15/26 FT (58%). After such a tremendous Eurobasket for two weeks, Pau Gasol had a nightmare of a final--he just couldn't connect on his interior shots. Some of that has to be credited to the Russian defense, but Pau just could not get shots to fall.
Then he had a 4th quarter he would soon like to have wiped from the records. Pau was 3/8 on FTs and combined that with 3 TOs, including the costly TO with :25 left. All these miscues would have been forgotten if Pau could have knocked down a desperation jumper with :02 left, but his shot just rimmed out. Overall on the night, the Spanish go-to guy was just 4/13 from the floor and 5/12 at the line (14 pts, 14 reb, 3 ast, 3 blk, 5 TO).
- The Russian defense was stout as usual, especially in the interior, and shut down Spain's vaunted attack of multiple weapons. 2nd game where they did great job defending in the interior and did not allow Spain to get clean looks inside of 12 feet. Russia actually held their opponents to 41.3% on 2pt attempts for the tourney, held Spain to 10 pts in the 4th quarter & forced 6 Spanish TOs in the 4th. Russia led the tourney in steals (8.4 per) and forced 15.8 TOpg--Spain had 15 TOs. And they gave Spain a dose of their own medicine by constantly switching up their defensive looks, and mixing some more weird hybrid alignments that Blatt used successfully all tourney.
- Kirilenko pretty much got his offense either by dunks or free throws. But his biggest play came, as you might expect, at the defensive end, where he made a big steal with a minute remaining which led to Morganuv cutting the game to 59-58. AK47 was a force inside and out on defense as usual and was deservedly named the tournament MVP. He had 17 points, 5 rebs, a block and a steal in the final.
- Not sure the public realizes what a great tourney Vik Khryapa of the Bulls had. He was basically a poor man's AK47, doing a little bit of everything, and teamed with Andrei to form a potent defensive duo. What was great about Khryapa was his great versatility on defense--Blatt had him inside & out, freelancing like AK47. His passing is underrated as well--he moved the ball great all tourney long, and he is an adept passer off the move as well. He crashed the glass every game, and today was no different, 12 rebs to go with 4 assts & 3 stls.
- Big man Alexei Savrasenko did a nice job slipping free in the paint for some easy looks (10 pts). But maybe more important was his interior defensive presence, and his individual defense on Pau was commendable.
- One positive that Spain (and the Raptors) can take away from Euro '07 is that Jose Calderon might have solved his main weakness: outside shooting. Calderon has been stroking the longball great (50% for the tourney) and he was once again sharp from the perimeter, scoring all of his 15 pts off of 3pts (5/7). Curiously, Caledron was on the bench from about 6:30 to the 3:00 mark in the fourth quarter, even though he only had 3 fouls.
- Despite the great point-guard play, Spain could not get the kind of production they expected & needed from their 2 talented shooting guards. After a 23-point outing vs. Greece, Navarro was nowhere to be found, forcing some looks to end with 0 pts on 0/5 from the field. Meanwhile, Rudy Fernandez contributed just 5 points.
- Can't say enough about the job Russian coach David Blatt did in Spain the last two weeks. Knew he was one of the finest coaches in Europe and he would help Team Russia overachieve & finds ways to mask their lack of offensive firepower. But I figured just getting into the quarters would be about Russia's ceiling, maybe the semis at best, but that's it. Blatt's name has been bandied about before in reference to a NBA gig, at least at the assistant level to begin. And I'm sure some NBA clubs' interest might be piqued after this Eurobasket. I know my partner probably would not mind at all if the Celtics "forgot" Doc Rivers at the airport one road trip, and replaced him with Blatt.
- This game should be a reminder to Americans who have already gotten way ahead of themselves in comparing the current Team USA to the Dream Team: medal rounds of FIBA competitions are NCAA Tournament-style one-and-done knockouts. Spain is a better team than Russia, hands down, but on this day, the Russians fought like hell and the bounces went their way, and now they are the champions of Europe. Anything can happen in a single game of basketball.
(Note: If you're coming in on Monday to catch up on the weekend, please make sure to check out our post on the epic semi between Spain and Greece, which includes highlights from that classic, and look back at Greece's incredible comeback vs. Slovenia in the quarters on Friday.)