SPAIN HANG ON TO CLINCH SEMI-FINAL SPOT
Spain clung on despite a late rally from Greece to triumph 73-71 in Lille on Tuesday and reach the EuroBasket 2015 semi-finals.
Turning Point: Spain trailed by two points entering the final stanza, but their intent was clear as they attacked the paint, drawing four fouls in the first 59 seconds to put Greece on the back foot. The Greeks only added three points during the opening 6:42 of the final stanza as the momentum changed hands. Fotis Katsikaris’ side hit back late on as Spain began to show signs of nervousness with sloppy turnovers before Pau Gasol missed a late free throw to give Giannis Antetokounmpo a half-court shot at the win, but he was off the mark.
Stats Don’t Lie: Yannis Bourousis was limited to just 9:13 of action before fouling out with more than three minutes remaining and his team trailing by four points. This increased the load on Kostas Koufos (30:41), Georgios Printezis (34:08) and Antetokounmpo (34:10) as they tried to content Spain’s aggressive frontline. Before this game Vassilis Spanoulis was the only Greek player averaging more than 26 minutes before this game.
Game Hero: All the talk before this contest was that the 35-year-old Pau Gasol needed more help from his team-mates if Spain’s run was to continue. Nikola Mirotic stepped up his scoring to 18 points while Victor Claver and Felipe Reyes were tireless in the paint, but again, the Spanish would surely have fallen short were it not for their leader. Gasol finished 27 points and nine rebounds in another assured display.
The Bottom Line: The Spanish advance to a ninth consecutive EuroBasket semi-final, just, and are guaranteed a place in next summer’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, at the very least. Greece’s unbeaten run comes to an end as their poor start to the fourth quarter ultimately cost them and they may wonder what may have been having still pushed Spain so close. They can still reach Rio 2016, however, with one more win in Lille securing their place in the qualification tournament.
The Said: “With so many of our great players out, [reaching the semi-finals] is a great, great accomplishment” – Spain coach Sergio Scariolo
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