All of the Thunder players were out of action today, so here's a quick rundown of what happened in Groups C and D yesterday.
It was a strange first quarter, as France got off to a really bad start, missing layups and threes alike. This led to an early lead for Canada, but France started charging right back by utilizing Batum and Gelabale's athleticism inside. France would have led at the end of the quarter, but Canada found ways to score, whether it be hitting a tough three or nailing an insane teardrop layup.
The second quarter stayed was a see-saw affair, abut it's amazing that Canada managed to stay in the game. Most of their players (aside from Jermaine Anderson) were unremarkable on offense, but all of them managed to make at least one play that helped them keep pace with France. And on defense, Joel Anthony was the reason that France was unable to run up the score. On every play, whether the French scored was entirely dependent on him. If he was drawn out of the paint, the French made an easy layup. If he stayed in the paint, the French were usually stopped with ease. Again, the teams were deadlocked at the half.
The third quarter was one of some fluctuation, but in general, the see-saw affair continued. About halfway through the quarter, Joel Anthony came out of the game, and it opened up the lane for both teams' guards to come in and wreak havoc. Both teams scored both inside and outside while Anthony was out, but when Anthony came back in the game turned back into a half-court, defensive grind.
Below: The Fourth Quarter, Turkey Goes 3-0, Spain Falls Again, Other Games.
As the game entered the fourth quarter and began to wind down, Canada continued to stay in the game. But you never really got the sense that this was an underdog team, struggling to do everything it could to keep up with the superior French. You could see that the French thought they should be doing better, but by all intents and purposes, the Canadians were playing them as equals. How was this accomplished? Well, they managed to slow down France's main scorer in Gelabale, who couldn't get any penetration or open shots. This gave the peripheral French players opportunities to score, but it limited their offensive explosiveness, and always kept them within reach.
Eventually, it came down to about a minute and 20 seconds to go, with the Canadians down by 3 after a pair of Mickael Gelabale freethrows. Anderson proceeded to shoot the ball twice from the perimeter, missing both attempts, but keeping the ball in Canadian possession. Canada then called a time out. Out of the time out, Canada regrouped and gave the attempt to Kendall, who shot it wide open and straight on, courtesy of a pick. It bounced off of the front of the rim, but Odik rebounded it. They passed it back out to Kendall, who had a second shot, and missed that. France finally then got a rebound, and called a timeout.
France proceeded to waste time dribbling it around, and a wild three by Gelabale was missed. Anderson got the rebound, and he was immediately fouled by Nando de Colo with 19 seconds to go. This gave de Colo 5 fouls, and was sent off the floor. Anderson easily made the first free throw, making it a 2 point game. He decided to make the next one as well, making it a 1 point game. With the shot clock turned off, Canada quickly fouled Gelabale on the inbounds. Gelabale made them both, putting the game back at a 3 Point deficit. Denham Brown quickly brought the ball up the floor. Joel Anthony gave him a screen, and he flew into the paint. He attempted what looked like an easy layup, but it was blocked by Alain Koffi. Batum secured the rebound, got fouled, made his free throws, and that was the end of the game.
All in all, France slithered by with a win here. They gave the Canadians 5 attempts to ship away at their three point lead, and, with the exception of the last play, none of them were very well defended. The Canadians deserved to lose, obviously; they couldn't hit an open three. But I don't think this game bodes well for France's future, even though they lead the group at 3-0. Canada is now at 0-3, and will need to sweep in order to avoid elimination.
I was in class during this game, so I didn't get to see much. But here's a few notes.... Ilyasova was hot early, had 17 of Turkey's first 32 Points. Turkey had always had the advantage, but it ballooned towards the end of the third, with Greece hitting open threes and using their superior foot speed inside. Schortsanitis and Fotsis were not very effective. Fotsis had only 7 Points, and Schortsanitis fouled out with about 8 minutes to go in the 4th. Greece then utilized their strengths in guard play, after Schortsanitis fouled out but it was too little, too late by that point.
With the win, Turkey takes a commanding 3-0 lead of Group C. Greece drops to 2-1, tied with Russia for 2nd place in the division.
Lithuania Defeats Spain, 76-73
I haven't had time to watch the whole thing, but this was a game marked by great offensive play. Almost half of Spain's shots were from 3 Point Land, whereas Lithuania shot about a third of their shots from there. Both teams shot well, but Lithuania won out due to their superior rebounding.
Spain had a commanding 11 Point lead going into the fourth. But then, Spain started clanking three after three. Most of them were going short, so it must have been fatigue or something. Meanwhile, Lithuania was owning Spain on the inside, driving for easy layups. Then, Spain started committing some bad turnovers, and Lithuania was taking advantage of them. After a 10 Point run to begin the quarter, Spain finally scored on a Marc Gasol free throw. Lithuania immediately responded with a three, and what looked to be an easy win for Spain was suddenly an even game with 5 minutes to go, and Lithuania had all of the momentum. Eventually, Spain had a 71 to 68 lead courtesy of some bad Lithuanian turnovers. Then, things fell apart. Kalnietis hit a wide open three. Linas Kleiza hit a layup among 4 Spanish defenders. And Lithuania had the lead, 73-71. Gasol got to the line again, but he missed both free throws. Lithuania got the rebound, and went 1 of 1 at the line. Then they both traded free throws, and it came down to Spain having the ball, down by 3, with 6 seconds to go. They couldn't even get down the floor without getting it stolen. And that was the ballgame.
Now, the issue here isn't that Spain lost. Lithuania, despite being lackluster in recent years, is a respectable basketball team. The issue here is that Lithuania didn't have to do anything to get this win. They played some nice defense, but the points were virtually given to them. Spain might as well have stood out of the way and let Lithuania shoot open shots, because their defense was so poor. It was just a complete and total collapse by Spain. If was the Spanish coach, I'd try resting my starters as much as possible during the upcoming walkovers against Lebanon and Canada, because if they do this in the Knockout stage, Spain will be gone from the tournament very quickly.
Lithuania goes to 3-0 to tie for the lead of Group D, but they still have to face France and Lebanon. Spain goes to 1-2, and will need to get one more win in order to advance.
Russia defeats Cote d'Ivoire, 72-66
Nothing surprising here, except that the game was a bit closer than it should have been. Russia has secured advancement, while the Ivory Coast will need to sweep the rest of their games in order to advance.
New Zealand defeats Lebanon, 108-76
This is a rather surprising result, especially after Lebanon defeated Canada. Both teams now sit at 1-2, needing a win in order to advance.
Puerto Rico defeats China, 84-76
Puerto Rico held their lead for most of the game, and for once, did not choke late in the fourth quarter. Both teams now need one more win in order to advance.
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