First round thoughts of EuroBasket 2015 from the armchair

The group stages are now over and the tournament moves to one city and a single country. Montpellier, Berlin, Zagreb and Riga were wonderful hosts that gave us some thrilling contests, but it is destination Lille, as the second round is due to commence.

But what were the main talking points of the first round of action. Three of the four hosts are safely through but for the one host nation that didn’t make it, Germany, it was a tearful farewell for one the game’s greats.

Or was it?

DANKE HERR DIRK????

Germany legend Dirk Nowitzki could only stand and watch as Dennis Schroder missed the potential game-tying free throw that would have sent their final game against Spain into overtime.

Instead of playing an extra session, the 37-year-old Nowitzki had the Mercedes Benz Arena floor to himself, as he stood at centre court and waved goodbye to the 13,600 German faithful.

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But did the crowd’s sheer emotion get the better of Nowitzki?

“Well, I thought so,” he told FIBA Europe

“But now, I’ve heard that there is a chance [for Germany] to get a wild card to host a pre-Olympic tournament. So we’ll just have to wait to see, or come back together next summer and talk about it. But for me, in my head, at the end, that was it. That’s why I got emotional.”

Maybe the 2005 Eurobasket MVP has more in the tank.

DON’T BE FOOLED BY SPAIN

At Eurobasket 2009, Spain struggled through the group stages. losing to Serbia, narrowly avoiding an embarrassing loss to then debutants Great Britain and getting the better of Slovenia in overtime.

From there, they romped to Eurobasket gold in Katowice.

They did the same at the London Olympics, going 3-2 before winning the silver medal.

And now, Spain have squeaked through the group phase in Berlin. It was dubbed the “group of death”, but the Spanish were still expected to glide through, but instead, relied on a missed free throw by Germany’s Dennis Schroder to qualify.

They had deservedly lost to Serbia and Italy in the German capital and through their five games, were less than convincing.

Lille though is a new ball game. Don’t be fooled by Spain’s sub-par performances.

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ARE WE SLEEPING ON GREECE?

A lot of the general Eurobasket conversation seems to be about the seemingly unstoppable Serbians and the tournament favourites, France. But are we not paying enough attention to Greece, who coasted Group C in Zagreb with an unblemished 5-0 record.

Vassilis Spanoulis has been their leader, seemingly their go-to guy, running the high pick-and-roll and finding extra options with ease. But the Greeks also have other players who can be called upon. They’re running effective plays, sometimes the simple ones that you’re first taught when you pick up a basketball and it’s still leaving the opposition trailing. Kostas Sloukas has had the freedom of Croatia thus far in the corner, and it’s a bonus to have the NBA duo of Kostas Koufos and Giannis Antetokounmpo within their grasp.

They play Belgium in Lille tomorrow in the second game.

PROUD DEBUTANTS

They might have lost all five of their games, but Iceland belonged in the international arena, after years of struggling in the old Division B.

The fresh-faced Icelanders were competitive in all five games, but were only truly blown away by Serbia. They pushed Germany, Italy and Turkey to the limit, with the latter game going to overtime, and ran out of steam in the third period to lose by double-digits to Spain.

But we hope that this is not the last that we have heard from the vikings of Iceland.

Iceland’s first Eurobasket game, pushing Germany to the limit.

Taking Turkey to OT

SECOND ROUND PREDICTIONS 

Latvia vs Slovenia:

Slovenia have too much quickness in their roster and should emerge victorious here. Latvia certainly will not back down and make it easy though. Should be a good opening game.

Slovenia.

Greece vs Belgium:

Belgium upset Lithuania, but Greece have been outstanding so far and have quietly gone about their business. The Greeks should take this.

Greece

Spain vs Poland:

Spain will see this as a new tournament now that the group phase is over. I think we’ll see the real Spain in Lille.

Spain

France vs Turkey:

France should take this, but Turkey have played very attractive basketball. Cedi Osman is having an excellent Eurobasket, averaging 14.2 points and only 0.2 turnovers a game, showing his maturity and talent on the big stage. France’s fantastic four of Tony Parker, Nicholas Batum, Boris Diaw and Rudy Gobert should have the talent plus they will have 25-27,000 French fanatics by their side, France to pull away late.

France

Croatia vs Czech Republic:

Jan Vesely has thrilled us all with his dominating presence inside, but he’ll be up against Ante Tomic and Dario Saric, who are both having sublime Eurobaskets.

Croatia

Serbia vs Finland:

I predicted Serbia to just about get through round one and crash out in the second round. I can honestly tell you that I was wrong and I see them blowing Finland away here.

Serbia

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Israel vs Italy:

Israel have been an unexpected joy to watch. Omri Casspi and Gal Mekel have been the catalysts for this run and I truly believe they will push Italy close. But the Azzurri should have enough late on to pull away.

Italy

Lithuania vs Georgia

The Georgians are peaking at the right time, having lost their first three games, but winning their final two in Zagreb, including one against co-hosts Croatia. They will push Lithuania, but the Baltic giants, who haven’t been entirely convincing so far will pull out the win.

Lithuania