Spain v Lithuania

The stadium was packed for the Eurobasket final. The Lithuanian fans were clearly in attendance with large groups of them visible in several parts of the stadium. There were fewer Spain fans and I felt sorry for them as they were not able to all sit together. They were also clearly outnumbered as the French were supporting Lithuania. 
Spain started strong and although Lithuania tried to keep the pressure on them they were not able to match them in q1. Defensively, both teams were strong in q1 which was not a high scoring quarter. There were also few fouls.

Q2 was better for Lithuania as they made a massive comeback and ended q2 only 8 points behind. This was even more impressive when you consider that they only scored into double digits 2 minutes into q2.

Lithuania had more shot clock violations this evening. This seemed to be because of the strength of the Spanish defence. It is something they need to be aware of as a team, as I have seen them have problems with this is more than one game this tournament.

During the second half there were times where Lithuania started to make a comeback and it looked like the game was going to be a lot closer. Then Spain would push ahead again.

Rudy Fernandez took a terrible knock during q3 that left him on the floor for a couple of minutes. He had to be helped off the court and he could be seen receiving treatment court side before being taken off to the locker rooms. It was not a nice way for him to end the Eurobasket final.

By the end of q3 Spain had a 17 point lead and it seemed safe to start calling it their game.

During the forth Lithuania did keep the pressure on and stopped the game from getting out of hand. With about 90 seconds to go it was clear that Spain were going to win.

Some of the French fans were leaving early as the result was not going their way. This was disappointing as it was disruptive for those of us who were trying to watch the game.

Eurobasket made a big deal out of the medal ceremonies, they even had the Lithuanian president and the King of Spain present to hand out the medals.

It was nice to see Rudy Fernandez able to collect his medal as I really wasn’t sure he would be able to make it out.
 The Lithuanian fans were cheering their team on right to the end and the players rewarded them by going over to them at the end of the game, and after they had received their medals.
 When I left the stadium it seemed that the Lithuanian fans had decided to party anyway. There was a great atmosphere in the area outside the venue.


France v Serbia

The stadium was pretty busy for the battle for third place between France and Serbia. The crowd was fairly one sided (not surprisingly).

It was a close game during q1, both teams were strong on defence and the quarter finished with both teams on 16 points. There were several periods during q1 where neither team scored, suggesting it was gong to be a defence focused game.

France were again struggling to make use of their possessions and found themselves forcing shots with only 1 or 2 seconds left on the clock. This lead to quite a few turnovers. Equally you could explain that as Serbia being strong on defence but I noticed the same thing in France’s game against Spain.

Despite a shaky start to Q2, France were able to take a lead and keep it for the remainder of the quarter. They finished q2 ahead by 5. It was clear that Serbia were not going to accept defeat lightly and they were doing what they could to fight back.

This became the theme of the second half. There were times when it did look as though Serbia could take over. However, France maintained their composure and were able to keep a comfortable distance in points.

In the end this game was not as close as I had anticipated.

It was a good win for France though I suspect it did little to ease the hurt of the defeat to Spain.


Friday 18 September

A slightly delayed report of the action from Friday 18 September at Eurobasket 2015.
The day started with the classification game between Latvia and Czech Republic. This was to determine 7th and 8th slots as there are a limited number of slots available for potential qualification for the Olympics.

On paper Latvia looked like the better team and I confidently predicted that they would win.

The stadium was practically empty at the start of the game and although it did fill up a bit as the game went on there were still a considerable number of empty seats. There seemed to be only small numbers of supporters of either team present so there was little in the way of atmosphere.

In the first few minutes of the game it was pretty even between the teams but the Czech Republic quickly showed themselves to be the better team and went in to the half leading 57-36.

The third period was a slow start, the first points were scored with 8.22 left on the clock and they were the result of free throws. It wasn’t a very exciting quarter but the Czech Republic did manage to increase their lead to 36 at the end of q3.

By this point most of the fans had stopped paying attention as the result was obvious and at times it really did seem that Latvia had forgotten that the aim was to win. At one point Kiss Cam was getting more attention than the game.

With a final score of Latvia 70 Czech Republic 97, the Czech Republic secured a chance to try to qualify for the Olympics.

The main event of the evening was Serbia v Lithuania in the second semi final. The stadium was much quieter than the previous evening and there were fewer people in attendance. The Lithuanian fans did their best to keep noise levels high (I think they had 5 drums). A large group had managed to arrange to be seated together and they brought massive flags.

There seemed to be fewer Serbian fans in attendance though as they were more spread out it is hard to be certain.

They definitely tried hard to bring a good atmosphere but it did not compare to the night before. This may have been in part due to the lower attendance and the fact that for the most part there were no fans or either team around where I was sitting.

It was a very close game the whole way through, in to the last minute it was difficult to predict a winner.

Three point shots were not the strong point of either team, though Serbia did not stop trying. They made only 6 of the 28 attempted three point shots, while Lithuania made 2 of 14.

Watching the game it did feel that the fouling was uneven but the final total for the evening was 23 for Serbia and 25 for Lithuania, I am sure this is in part due to the number of fouls Serbia committed towards the end of the game as early in the game the fouls were mainly on Lithuania.

They also had a problem with shot selection that resulted in frequent shot clock violations. At several points in the game I thought that Serbia were going to do it but it just was not to be.

In the last two minutes
the tension increased as it really did seem that it could go either way, a theme of the semi finals. A foul, one that I cannot believe was planned, resulted in free throws for Lithuania and the game was over for Serbia.

Thursday 17 September

Thursday 17 September, Lille

Today’s saw Lille play host to two classification games and one of the semi final games.

I missed the first half of the first of the classification games (this game was not originally on the schedule but a change in the way FIBA will determine qualification for the Olympics added an extra game to the schedule.

The first game was Greece v Latvia. The stadium was very quiet for this game, I think this is likely to be related to the schedule change, and the fact that tip was at 1600 – a little early if you were working.

Greece were behind going in to the half time break and at the start of the third they seemed to have forgotten that they were trying to win. Then, they finally remembered. This definitely made for a more entertaining game.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was the leading scorer for Greece in the first half, and avoided foul trouble but within 3 minutes he managed to pick up three fouls in the second half, and fouled out in the forth quarter. This is something he needs to work on, he is clearly an offensive asset for Greece but he is not much use to them if he is sitting on the bench.

The leading scorer for Latvia , Kristaps Janicenoks, scored 22 points and picked up four foul. His fouls were not as concentrated in to such a small space of time so it did not seem like such a big thing from him.

A win for Greece means that Latvia will play again on Friday against the loser of the next classification game.

The second classification game was Czech Republic v Italy. By this time the stadium was starting to fill up but it was clear that it was mainly fans for the semi-final. It did produce very little atmosphere for what should have been an exciting game.

Despite being present for the whole game very little stuck in my mind.

It was very close at the half and it did look as though it could go either way. Then during the third Czech Republic were simply outplayed and Italy took a comfortable lead.

Something I found interesting was that the Czech Republic relied heavily on one man, Jan Vesely, to score their points. He was their leading scorer with 26 points. The man with the second highest number of points was Thomas Satoransky with 12. This is something that Latvia should be looking out for, and planning for, for Friday’s game.

Italy had 4 players scoring in double figures with their lead scorer being Andrea Bargnani with 22. This contributed to them being more difficult to defend.
The final game of the day was here. The stadium had filled almost completely, with 26,922 in attendance. This seemed to be about 95% French fans. The atmosphere was amazing and the noise levels were intense. There may have been drums or other noise making equipment present but all I could hear was screaming French fans. They kept the noise levels high all game and were behind the team until the end.

It was incredible to be part of it.

A special mention has to be made of the fans. They were loud, they were passionate and they were courteous – every fan that walked past me in the seating area apologised for making me move and thanked me for doing so. A simple act but one I don’t witness everywhere so I always appreciate it when I do.

This was a close game and it was difficult to be confident in who would win, though I really did think France were going to do it. It really all came to to the last few minutes of overtime.

France were taking a long time to take shots, several times in the game they wasted a lot of time only to miss out on the shot – either because the time ran out or they forced themselves into a poor shot selection that Spain could easily defend. Had a few more of those possessions resulted in points for France it could have been a very different game.

Overall the French foul count was high and they allowed Pau Gasol to get to the line far too many times.

I did see, on Twitter, a French player complaining that the referees were favouring Gasol. I have to say that the referees made a few interesting decisions for both teams and it didn’t really feel as though they were allowing Gasol special treatment, most often it was just sloppy fouls.

France had some amazing blocks and steals and a lot of the time they simply looked more in control. They certainly had more moments that inspired awe. Or that may just be that while sat surrounded by Frenchmen and women I wasn’t allowing myself to be too impressed by Spain (it seemed the safer option).

Spain kept it close and were able to produce a few steals and dunks. They kept their energy up and by overtime they were the team picking better shots and playing better defence.

It was a thrilling game but I do feel that France have some learning to do from that game.

Spain will play in the final on Sunday and on Friday night we will learn who their opponent will be.

En route

Its Thursday lunchtime and I am sat on the Eurostar heading to Lille. In a couple of hours I will be watching the classification matches and one of the semi final matches at Eurobasket 2015.

I’ve never been to Eurobasket before so I’m not sure what to expect. I watched the qualifying rounds (admittedly not every game) and while some seemed to have packed stadiums and loud fans others did not. This is the final stages, and I believe that tickets sold out, so the venue should be packed and loud.
Update:Iit is now past midnight but I have only just managed to get Wi-fi access. Will post an update on today’s games later.