Sergio Scariolo had plenty to be annoyed about through the first 27 minutes, with only Pau Gasol showing up for Spain before Chacho and Marc finally got it together. This was far from vintage Spain but it was enough to take dwon Germany. Emmet Ryan says they will need to be a lot better next time out
Spain were coming into this one off easily their worst night of the tournament. They eventually dispatched Turkey with some comfort but it was far from the all-conquering monster everyone had been trying to avoid all tournament. Today they were looking to put things right. Germany, by all rights, didn’t belong on the same floor as them. Sergio Scariolo wanted a performance that reflected that.
It wasn’t exactly the start Scariolo was looking for. Spain looked leaden-legged through the first few minutes as a Germany side, that was hardly pushing the pace, comfortably scored the game’s first 7 points. Schroeder was jogging and the rest of his side was far from crisp but in the early going they didn’t need to be. Spain were flat and predictable at both ends. Johannes Voigtmann dunk brought the lead to 9 and Scariolo frustratedly called in the troops before the midpoint of the first.
Chris Fleming went to his double-big option out of the break, bringing in Daniel Theis alongside Voigtmann to match up with the Gasols. Pau however was in veteran foul drawing mode and both of the bigs had to ease off him a tad. With Sergio Rodriguez coming in for Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio had another ball handler to work with on the floor. It was a marked improvement from the start but still not, well, Spain. Offensively Germany were still finding spots without looking for another gear. The lack of spark was getting to Scariolo, getting T-ed up before the end of the quarter. As the quarter wound down Spain were giving up fouls awfully casually and just didn’t look where they needed to be for this game. The Deutschland lead had dropped but Fleming’s men still led 19-16.
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Nothing was clicking for Spain. An alley-oop from Chacho to Juancho Hernangomez looked fine until Juancho got nowhere near dunking. Maodo Lo was getting his choice of open looks or easily drawn fouls and, still, Germany, weren’t under any real pressure.
If the superstars weren’t getting it done then the other guys figured they’d best go to work. Willy Hernangomez gave Spain some interior D that wasn’t an insta-foul while Joan Sastre made what he could from the attention being drawn by the bigger name players on offence.
Pau got the message and started playing the ‘I got this’ ball he had needed throughout Spain’s road to the title two years ago. This was supposed to be the lighter run for Pau, with far more support on the floor. Not so much this time but he was happy to bring it. Marc airballed a three attempt, Pau caught it under the rim and found Chacho whose deep ball gave Spain their first lead of the game. Then he blocked Theis at the rim. If in doubt, just trust Pau. Geramny essentially stopped defending him inside through to the end of the half, so easily was he drawing fouls. At the half Spain were ahead, just about, 34-33.
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Just when Spain thought they had some rhythm, Schroeder put his foot down and started asking questions. A pair of threes and a couple of penetrating, if unsuccessful, drives inside saw Germany move up a gear. Defensively however Germany were being tested a lot more now with Spain moving the ball at a far more threatening pace. The scores however just weren’t coming for Spanish players not called Pau. Germany were adapting to the increase in pace fine.
Spain dropped again and Germany eased up too. Fleming’s lads knew that staying fresh was an opportunity for them to stay in this one just as much as what they were doing on the scoreboard. No need to run if Spain are letting you jog. Johannes Thiemann looked bemused as he got his second trip to the line of the frame. He didn’t expect penetrating to be this easy.
Chacho had finally had enough and went for it. Driving, scoring, recovering, creating, all at a hotter tempo than either side had delivered in the game so far. It was enough to push Spain into a 6 point lead late in the quarter, their largest of the game up to then. Fleming called the charges in but Chacho wasn’t done. He kept the hammer down and Marc got the message. Out of nowhere Spain had blown this one open. A three on the buzzer from Marc made it 65-53 to Spain with 10 minutes to go. The champions could finally breathe easy.
Chacho wanted the ball from the off in the fourth. He did not want to have to wait around to finish off Germany. Dennis kept fighting inside however, determined to give his side a lifeline. By now however it just wasn’t enough. Spain had options and Chacho was finding them.
Germany’s play turned scrappy as they played more like a side trying to not let this one get out of hand than one with a plan to get back in the game. What sort of plan could they have at this stage? Spain had made their move, Germany stood still, and the champions had all the depth and talent to keep them from making any sort of a threatening comeback.
Spain had their win but this wasn’t the statement victory they wanted heading into the medal rounds. Spain showed they can step up a gear when needed to but they haven’t looked like a side that can get on an opponent from the off since getting to Istanbul. Relying on such late runs against Thursday’s opponent would be foolhardy at best. The predictable assignments are done. On Thursday, Spain need to be Spain.
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