Probably one of the most exciting Eurobasket group stages has come to a close as the tournament moves to one city with all eyes being on the Sinan Erdem Dome on the European side of Istanbul for the round of 16, which starts on Saturday.
There were some surprises as unfancied Ukraine and Montenegro answered their critics and advanced to the second round and despite finishing Eurobasket winless from their five games, Great Britain impressed many with their free-flowing offensive skill-set and the breakout of Gabe Olaseni, who averaged 16.8 points, 11.2 rebounds, shooting 70 percent from the field for an efficiency rating of +26; which so far is a Eurobasket-high, although Slovenia’s Goran Dragic might overtake him after the second phase concludes.
So with the four arenas in Helsinki, Tel Aviv, Cluj-Napoca and Istanbul’s Ulker Sports Arena shutting its doors on Eurobasket 2017, here are five key notes from the opening week of action.
Traditionally Spain under Sergio Scariolo have needed a little time to warm-up before showcasing their potential with the stars that they have at their disposal. In the two spells that the Italian has been in charge, Spain have rather surprisingly struggled in the group phases, often needing victories on the final day to book their place in the final rounds.
Eurobasket 2009 saw them needing to beat Slovenia on the final day of group action and they needed overtime to do it. Once through, they romped to their first European title. And while 2011 wasn’t exactly the same story, their performances were a cause for concern until they repeated their triumph from two years previous. At the last Eurobasket, they needed a missed free throw from Germany’s Dennis Schroder to qualify for the second phase. Once through, the results, like in 2009 and 2011 were the same.
This year though has been different. Sure, Spain have had the easier of other three groups but the performances have been clinical, the team chemistry has been a sight to behold and the victories have been a bold statement that Spain are definitely the team to beat in Istanbul. The hosts Turkey though will provide stiff opposition.
HEART OF THE WOLFPACK
Watching Finland in Group A was always exciting. Maybe more so if you were a neutral and not an actual Finland fan as your fingernails ceased to exist. But the energy that the supporters and the players brought to the table was simply astonishing.
This is what basketball is all about. Fans of 🇫🇮 and 🇮🇸 come together pic.twitter.com/9HtTGqOfGA
— TalkBasket (@TalkBasket) September 7, 2017
In close games, the team, led by NBA rookie Lauri Markkanen have dug deep and found ways to not only win games but to make the loyal band of WolfPack followers believe that they can go far this year.
RUSSIA GET OUT OF THE GROUP STAGE EMPHATICALLY
A loaded Group D was favoured to be a two-way battle between Serbia and Latvia for top spot. What wasn’t expected was the re-emergence of Russia. They had definitely improved since their miserable showings at the previous two Eurobaskets in 2013 and 2015 but the performances in Istanbul have made under coach Sergei Bazarevich now make them a potential dark horse as they move across from Asia to Istanbul.
Alexey Shved has been scoring for fun in his five group games, Timofey Mozgov has been quietly consistent at both ends and the team is playing terrific basketball, which shows that regardless of what happens now, Russia are out of this funk that plagued them since the London 2012 Olympics and they are ready for the big stage again.
GERMANY BACK IN THE ROUND OF 16
Germany have made the round of 16 for the first time since Dirk Nowitzki, coming off his NBA Finals MVP award sunk away from the court following a defeat to Lithuania, notably fatigued. There were questions about the German team and whether they would ever contend in the post-Nowitzki era?
Enter Dennis Schroder, the super quick Atlanta Hawks guard who has reserected Germany and led them to the second round where they lock horns with France, who themselves have been less than convincing so far. No doubt, they will fancy their chances of progressing further.
NEW FIBA WINDOW STILL HOT TOPIC
Much to FIBA’s dismay, the press conference and news outlets have plugged the new international window heavily during Eurobasket with Italy coach Ettore Messina slamming the governing body’s new international season during a press conference in Tel Aviv, in which the mediator Mark Clark tried desperately to cut short.
— Sportando (@Sportando) September 3, 2017
The majority of the players and coaches are very much against the idea, preferring to represent the national side but being unable to do so. However, there are players for the idea, like Greece’s Kostas Sloukas and outgoing Great Britain coach Joe Prunty, who has had to resign due to the new international window clashing with his commitments with the Milwaukee Bucks has seen it as a new opportunity for GB to improve further.