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
|Yannis Bourousis will attempt to do what few others have managed successfully thus far at EuroBasket 2015: isolate Pau Gasol|
The EuroBasket 2015 quarter-finals begin on Tuesday when 2011 champions Spain front up against a Greek side sporting a perfect record.
Record: Spain LWLWWW v Greece WWWWWW
Greece and Spain are no strangers and the two basketball powers will renew their rivalry in the EuroBasket 2015 quarter-finals. Prior to beating Spain in the EuroBasket 2013 Second Round, Greece had lost their previous six games to Spain, including the 2006 FIBA Basketball World Cup final and the 2007 and 2009 EuroBasket semi-finals. After losing two of their first three games at EuroBasket 2015, Spain have won three games in a row. Greece enter the quarters as one of three undefeated teams (France and Serbia the others) but they have not reached the semi-finals since 2009. Still the Greeks are playing well, winning games by an average of 13 points.
|"We really like our chances" - Greece head coach Fotis Katsikaris|
Key Match-Up: Pau Gasol v Yannis Bourousis
With stars not here and others battling injuries, Gasol has been Spain's main weapon - even taking his game outside with six three-pointers against Poland in the Round of 16. The NBA big man leads the competition in scoring and Bourousis will be called upon to make things more difficult for Gasol while also making him work on defence.
Key Stat: Spain are the number one scoring team at EuroBasket 2015 with 88.0 points per game. Greece counter that with the second-best defence as they give up just 65.7 points per game. Spain offer the fifth-worst defence, allowing 79.5 points per game while Greece score 77.0 points a contest.
|Rudy Fernandez is expected to be back for Spain|
"We knew we will get all the big fish in this bracket. I think we have the team and the character, and we really like our chances" - Greece head coach Fotis Katsikaris.
"Greece are playing very well, very balanced. They are very talented. It will be a very difficult game. We have to get ready and get after it. They have great players at every position" - Gasol.
Greece come into the game injury free with just one player averaging more than 23 minutes per game (Vassilis Spanoulis, 26 minutes per game). Spain have five players who are averaging more than 23 minutes a contest. It is appears Spain's Rudy Fernandez will be able to play again after back issues saw him sit out his side's Round of 16 clash against Poland. Spain have a guaranteed top eight finish in Europe for the 24th time in the last 25 EuroBasket editions and will be shooting for their ninth straight semi-finals.