The EuroBasket 2011 semifinals are set. Russia will face France and FYR of Macedonia will battle Spain in Friday’s matchups with an eye on a spot in the Sunday final and ticket to the 2012 Olympic Games. Russia was the fourth team to advance from the quarterfinals after ousting Serbia, the runner-up two years ago, 77-67 in Kaunas. Andrei Kirilenko posted a double-double and the CSKA Moscow trio of Andrey Vorontsevich, Viktor Khryapa and Alexey Shved all scored in double figures for Russia. Earlier Les Mans forward Nicolas Batum scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to help France to a come-from-behind 64-56 victory over Greece. Les Bleus did not take their first lead until the fourth quarter, but then sweet shooting from Batum and Tony Parker put France in the drivers’ seat. The day began with a bittersweet victory for host Lithuania, which cannot vie for a medal on its home turf in Kaunas, but at least reached the 2012 FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament with a tight 77-80 victory over Slovenia
France 64-56 Greece
SLUC Nancy forward Nicolas Batum scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to help France to a come-from-behind 64-56 victory over Greece in the EuroBasket 2011 quarterfinals on Thursday. Greece did not trail until the fourth quarter, when Batum and Tony Parker heated up from the outside to carry les Bleus back. Greece did not fold and remained close until the final minute, but came up short in the end and Valencia Basket scorer Nando De Colo made clutch free throws to ice the game. Parker led France with 18 points and De Colo netted 16 in addition to Batum’s 15. Emporio Armani Milano big man Ioannis Bourousis shined for Greece with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Greece’s major woe was three-point shooting – 3 for 21 (14.3%). Batum alone was 3 for 4 for France – including 2 in the fourth quarter as France stormed ahead.
Crisp ball movement got Greece going early as Emporio Armani Milano forward Antonis Fotsis drilled an open triple and Panathinaikos’s Kostas Kaimakoglou and Nick Calathes penetrated for layups to make it 0-7. Tony Parker finally got France going with a jumper, but after a basket-plus-foul by Bourousis, Greece was back in control. A France turnover led to a second Fotsis three and a double-digit lead, 4-15. Parker free throws and a jumper by De Colo revived les Bleus. Then De Colo nailed a three over Nikos Zisis to cap an 8-0 push that cut the gap to 3. Olympiacos forward Kostas Papanikolaou banked in a shot in the final minute of the quarter before Parker’s free throws ended the opening quarter at 14-17. Papanikolaou displayed low-post skills with a flick inside to put Greece back up by 7. De Colo countered with a three and shortly after attacked in transition to knot the game at 21-21. Zisis stopped the run with a floater and Bourousis sank a turn-around jumper as Greece regained control. Joakim Noah grabbed an offensive rebound and almost tore the hoop down with a one-handed slam for France’s first basket in over four minutes. Bourousis countered with 2 from the line, but France kept it close through De Colo and Parker. Bizkaia Bilbao forward Kostas Vasileiadis fed Bourousis for a two-handed dunk to make it 27-31 at the half.
Bourousis continued rocking early in the second half with another slam. Le Mans forward Nicolas Batum rose for an important three-pointer, but Kostas Kaimakoglou of Panathinaikos used a slick move to draw a foul and keep Greece ahead. After stopping Lokomotiv Kuban big man Ali Traore on defense, Bourousis teamed with Calathes on a pick-and-roll for a layup that made it 32-39 and forced France into a timeout. After the stop, Traore sank a foul line jumper and then the French came up with a steal, but Bourousis muscled his way to another offensive rebound and foul drawn to keep the Greek momentum strong. France continued its push with Traore and Valencia Basket’s Florent Pietrus closing the gap before Parker came up with a steal and layup to even things at 40-40. Calathes found himself wide open and sank a clutch triple, which proved the difference at the end of the third quarter, 40-43. A Michail Bramos foul on Pietrus as De Colo scored gave the French an additional possession and Batum took advantage with a triple to tie the score again, 45-45. Then a Parker jumper gave France its first lead of the night. A baseline drive and reverse layup from Parker capped a 9-0 run and signaled for a Greece timeout. Kostas Koufos shined with a spin move and shine to end a three-minute scoring drought for Greece, but Batum shined at the other end with a triple. Parker found the touch from outside and lifted his team’s advantage to 56-50 with four minutes remaining. Bourousis clawed 3 points back from the line to bring Greece back within a single possession. Then Fotsis sank another to make it 56-54 with two minutes to go. Batum answered with a crucial jumper and then a blocked shot on defense to preserve the lead. Another Batum jumper with 72 seconds on the clock put Greece on the ropes. Zisis kept Greece alive from the line, but a team offensive rebound hurt Greece and De Colo essentially sealed the outcome from the line.
Russia 77-67 Serbia
Russia remained perfect at EuroBasket 2011 with a tough 77-67 victory over 2009 runner-up Serbia. The Russians led throughout, but Serbia kept coming back behind former Euroleague MVP Milos Teodosic, who will play in Russia this season alongside four current Russian national team players at CSKA Moscow. The win puts Russia into a semifinal showdown with France for a spot in Sunday’s final. The win also guarantees Russia at a minimum a spot in the pre-Olympic qualifying tourney next summer. Serbia will play Greece in the consolation round for a spot in that same event. Andrei Kirilenko paced Russia with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists. Andrey Vorontsevich and Viktor Khryapa scored 11 apiece and Alexey Shved tallied 10 points and 4 assists for Russia. Teodosic was the main man for Serbia with 20 points.
Teodosic got things started with a layup through the heart of the Russian defense and then a baseline jumper. Teodosic’s CSKA Moscow teammate Anton Ponkrashov got Russia on the scoreboard before BC Khimki center Timofey Mozgov evened the score. Russia seemed to thrive in a scrappy game as the frontline denied Serbia in the paint, while the forward duo of Viktor Khryapa and Kirilenko pushed Russia ahead. Teodosic sank a three, but Russia continued to attack the basket and got a layup for Kirilenko and an alley-oop to Mozgov that made it 12-7. Anadolu Efes forward Dusko Savanovic become the first Serbian not named Teodosic to score when he sank a jumper. Alexey Shved fed Mozgov for a monster slam the kept Russia in control. Despite a Savanovic triple, Mozgov remained a dominant force inside and made it 16-12 after 10 minutes. BC Khimki forward Sergey Monya added a jumper and Shved sank a floater as Russia built on its lead. Khryapa added a triple to stretch its lead to double figures. Olympiacos forward Marko Keselj hit from downtown for Serbia’s first points of the second quarter only to see Vitaly Fridzon of BC Khimki match him. A basket inside by FC Barcelona Regal center Kosta Perovic and a three from Caja Laboral forward Nemanja Bjelica helped Serbia keep pace and a Teodosic drive trimmed the gap to 29-24. A Khryapa three was not enough to stop the Serbian momentum. Teodosic worked well with Perovic to generate points. But CSKA forward Andrey Vorontsevich had the final word with a high-flying tip-in to make it 34-27 at the break.
Teodosic continued to carry Serbia as we pulled up for a jumper at the start of the second half. Russia kept control as Ponkrashov hot from downtown and Sergey Bykov of Lokomotiv Kuban drew an offensive foul from Teodosic. Maccabi Electra big man Milan Macvan struck back for Serbia with a triple and then Teodosic got to the line and closed the gap to 39-38. Vorontsevich made in impact for Russia by stopping his future CSKA mate Nenad Krstic on defensive and delivering a hook shot at the other end. He followed that with a triple to raise the lead to 44-39. Serbia started to go to Krstic inside more and he came through to keep it close. Khryapa delivered a clever assist to Fridzon, but Serbia answered to keep the deficit at a basket. A blocked shot by Kirilenko led to a Shved layup at the buzzer that ended the third quarter with the scoreboard at 54-48. Teodosic found Bjelica for an open score as Serbia kept the pressure on. However Kirilenko got to the line for 2 and Shved scored inside to push the lead to 8 again. Teodosic brought Serbia right back with a three-pointer and – after Mozgov missed 2 free throws – a trip to the line. The Russian pressure defense stopped Serbia and Shved made it 62-54. Kirilenko got a shooter’s roll on a long jumper to get the lead to double figures. Keselj hit a triple to keep Serbia’s dimming hopes alive. Savanovic went inside to get back within 64-59 with three-and-a-half minutes remaining. Vorontsevich and Krstic traded points. Teodosic got it to 72-65 with 1:20 left. Valencia Basket point guard Stefan Markovic stripped Shved and coasted in for a layup that made it a two-possession game. Kirilenko pushed back to 74-67 with 2 free throws with 52 seconds left. A Monya triple with 24 seconds left proved to be the nail in the coffin as Russia celebrated a semifinals berth and sent Serbia to the consolation games.
Slovenia 77-80 Lithuania
, Game 5-8
Lithuania gained a spot in the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament next summer by downing Slovenia 77-80 behind 17 points from Mantas Kalnietis of Zalgiris. Four-time Euroleague champion Sarunas Jasikevicius and Darius Songaila of Galatasaray Café Crown each added 12, while Rimantas Kaukenas of Montepaschi Siena scored 10 for Lithuania, which has been to all the Men's Basketball Olympic Games tournaments since the country became independent in the early 1990s. Saras also dished a game-high 7 assists for the winners. All-Euroleague big man Erazem Lorbek of FC Barcelona Regal and Goran Dragic led Slovenia with 16 points apiece. Mirza Begic of Real Madrid added 11 and Zoran Dragic of Krka Novo Mesto had 10. Lorbek and Galatasaray guard Jaka Lakovic fueled a 6-2 opening run and back-to-back layups by Zoran Dragic soon gave Slovenia 14-6 lead that forced the hosts to call timeout. Lietuvos Rytas big man Jonas Valanciunas and Jasikevicius stepped up for Lithuania and free throws by Real Madrid’s Marty Pocius got his team within 16-13. Saso Ozbolt and Goran Dragic allowed Slovenia to keep a 20-19 edge after 10 minutes. Lithuania kept rolling and Kalnietis soon followed a layup with a fast break dunk that made Slovenia stop the game at 21-27. Kaukenas and Pocius kept pacing Lithuania and an alley-oop basket by Zalgiris center Robertas Javtokas gave Lithuania a 30-36 lead. Kalnietis set the crowd on fire with a big slam that made it a double-digit game, 33-44, at halftime. Slovenia improved its defense after the break and a layup by Goran Dragic saw Lithuania call timeout at 37-44. Zagreb shooter Saso Ozbolt struck from downtown and Zoran Dragic got Slovenia even closer, 46-49. Both teams traded baskets at full speed, as a three-pointer by three-time Euroleague champion Matjaz Smodis of Cedevita and a buzzer-beating floater by Kalnietis fixed the score at 57-63 after 30 minutes. A 7-0 run that Smodis capped with a jumper helped Slovenia regain the lead at 64-63. Begic changed the game on defense and a six-meter jumper by Lakovic caused Lithuania to call timeout at 72-68. The game turned into a thriller when Lorbek nailed a big triple for a 77-76 Slovenian lead. Turnovers ensued before Kalnietis answered from downtown for a 77-79 score with 19.4 seconds left. Lakovic missed a floating layup and Kalnietis split free throws to give Lithuania a 77-80 lead with 3.3 seconds remaining. Slovenia had a last chance to win the game, but Goran Dragic missed from downtown at the buzzer.