A bunch of great games last night in Beijing. I only watched 3 of the 5 games but all featured great play. I wish I caught the Lithuania vs Argentina game. Anyways, this post is all about Spain vs Greece, probably the most anticipated matchup of the first night. For most of the game, Greece was actually pretty close and they made a great run in the final couple of minutes.
First off, after watching the whole game, it was evident that Spain is the better team. Spain's defense was terrific and their shooting was on as usual. Greece, despite their struggles shooting wise, I thought they played a good all-around game, just not enough to beat Spain on this night. On offense, the Greeks were great at turning Spanish TOs into fast break points, and their PNR offense was still working despite Spain's stifling defense, they just missed some easy lay ins.
I liked what Greece showed defensively. They are a very physical team. In the NBA, most of the stuff would get called as fouls, but in FIBA, you're allowed to bump and impede the offensive player. Pao Gasol, perhaps still used to NBA rules, got knocked out of rhythm a few times. Also, Greece showed they can full-court press anybody, trapping Spain on more than one occasion. And we're not talking about some ordinary guard, they did this against Jose Calderon, and we know that Calderon is one of the better point-guards in the world right now. Here are the full clips, offense in the beginning, defense at the end (apologize for the fuzzy ones at the end, bad satellite feed),
3:25 PST Update: Unfortunately, it seems like the Orwellian Olympic Committee (IOC) doesn't like me posting my usual clips, so you'll just have to take my word for it about Greece's offense and defense...
I watched that Road to Redemption series earlier in the week and they had a whole segment with Chris Bosh and Carlos Boozer talking about the big difference in FIBA allowing physicality. You can bump cutters, contact off the ball is generally not called, and in post defense you are allowed 2 hands in the back of the post-player. Here (fuzzy, I know), the Greek defender basically humps Gasol from behind so hard that it actually dislodges the ball,
Greece's Full-Court Press:
I'm actually very surprised more teams don't full-court press. I know Team USA has a soft 1-man press with Kobe. In FIBA rules, you only have 8 seconds to cross half-court, that 2 seconds less makes a huge difference. As you can see, even your traditional press break of the retreat dribble, reversing the ball and go, isn't enough time to cross in 8 seconds,
Now, having said that, after Greece cut the 20 point lead to 11, they called a timeout. After the timeout, Spain ran a give and go press break that cut right through the press. Still, I think the press is a tactic that can be used with great effectiveness in FIBA rules. We'll have to see how much more we'll see it used in later games.
Everyone is circling the USA vs Greece game as the first big test for Team USA. The key for Team USA is how they defend Greece's devastating PNR offense, hence Coach K stressed it in his press conference earlier in the week. Defensively, that is Team USA's biggest weakness. In watching their game against Australia who ran a lot of high PNRs (like Greece), Team USA did not have a unified strategy on how to defend the PNR. Lebron would hedge, Bosh stayed underneath and Carmelo switched. As for the physicality, expect to see a lot of Howard and Boozer down low against Greece.
For more full-court pressing info, take a look at 2008 NCAA Coach of the Year Keno Davis' DVD on his full court press. Coach Davis is the head coach at Providence College in the NCAA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.