The penultimate round of group games at the EuroBasket 2015 tournament made up the hoops action during day 5. The contests in France, Croatia, Germany, and Latvia went a long way to completing the Last 16 picture, but there is still plenty to play for tomorrow as Groups A through D lock.
Bosnia and Herzegovina slipped to a heavy defeat at the hands of Finland, losing 59-88 and now looking like leaving the EuroBasket 2015 competition. Finland though are on track to make the next round, moving to fourth at 2-2. A 7-18 run in the second quarter gave the Finnish a 27-41 lead at halftime and a huge 15-31 winning third act ended the contest, allowing Finland to cruise in the fourth. Finland took their opportunities by adding 22 points from turnover ball through the game.
Israel edged Poland 75-73 to book a berth in the Final Phase, while the Polish could still progress win or lose in the next game depending on other results. This was a crunching contest for 40 minutes as the players clashed on the hardwood, changing the lead 17 times, with no team ever winning by more than five points. However, Israel sunk from beyond the arc with 1:45 on the clock to put the final daylight between the nations on the scoreboard.
Current champions France remain on course in their title defence after taking out Russia 74-67 to remain undefeated at the top of Group A. As for the Russians, they are down and out and are still hunting for a first victory this week. Russia started well with a 24-16 winning opening frame, but Les Bleus spend the second and third stanzas clawing back to parity, even leading 52-53 through thirty minutes. The champs carried the momentum in the fourth quarter to win the game.
Serbia stayed classy in Group B with a commanding 72-91 win that cemented top spot in the standings, while the Turks remain on course at 2-2 in third. Undefeated Serbia has been hot this EuroBasket 2015 and again they were putting on the kind of show that YouTube videos are made of. However, credit to the defence for dealing with a tricky Turkish pick and roll game by grabbing 9 steals, 15 turnovers, and 20 points on the break.
Italy and Germany played out the classic encounter of the tournament so far, but it was the Italians who used overtime better to come away with 89-82 victory. The teams locked 76 apiece through regulation time, but in the overtime frame the Azzurri stayed calm at both ends of the court to edge ahead then stay in control for the remainder. In victory Italy punched its ticket to the Final Phase, while Germany dropped out of the top 4, but can still progress by defeating Spain next.
Speaking of Spain, they once again got back on track with a big 99-73 win over Iceland. Iceland are eliminated and Spain would have been on the edge, but now at 2-2 the country can progress with a victory tomorrow. The Spanish have been hot and cold this week, but here they exploded in the third act with 33 points and then swept Iceland aside with 25 points in the closing frame. Spain is building its inside game, sinking 46 points in the paint during this game.
Greece joined Serbia and France as the three undefeated teams with an 83-72 win over Slovenia. Greece has already qualified and looks on course for first place in Group C, although Slovenia can also make it with a win over Macedonia on Thursday. The Slovenians showed fight to come back from a 17 point deficit in the second quarter to 62-60 after thirty minutes on the floor. However, Greece found another gear in Q4 to settle the game, finishing with 44 points in the paint and 62% shooting from the field.
Georgia registered its first victory to dent Macedonia’s hopes of qualification. The 75-90 success was easily the Georgians best display this week and they can now qualify, going against Holland and Macedonia for the coveted fourth spot. The game was open through the second period, but Georgia snapped for a 16-3 run that stretched either side of halftime and never looked back. The winners drained 8 of its 16 attempts from downtown for 50% accuracy.
Croatia edged the Netherlands 72-78 to leave the Dutch with just a single win, but still able to qualify at the expense of Georgia and Macedonia. That will be decided tomorrow, but for Croatia the job is mostly done as they locked second in Group C. The hosts were trailing by 12 points in Zagreb heading to the long break, but a 17-1 charge got them firmly back in the game. From there the Croats controlled, but fumbled in the fourth quarter to lose a 12 point cushion of their own. The home fans were relieved when Holland failed to capitalize and Croatia won.
The tightest group in the competition, Group D saw Belgium fall to a 64-66 defeat to the Czech Republic. The Czech’s had thrown away a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter and a two pointer for Belgium looked to have sealed the deal with 58 seconds left. However, the Czech contingent rallied to put home a triple and then shut the game down. Neither team is through, but both are in the mix, the Czech Republic has its boarding pass at 1-3, while Belgium is nervous at 2-2.
Ukraine passed hosts Latvia in Riga, taking a 74-75 victory to open its account and give a hope of making the next round. Latvia drops to 2-2 but is able to progress tomorrow with a win. This game went down to the wire and the lead has been swapped numerous times and there were plenty of ties in forty minutes of hoops. However, Ukraine had Oleksandr Lypovyy who shot 100% through the contest as he scored 15 points, including two free throws that set up the win late on.
Lithuania left it late to beat Estonia 62-64, and despite an unconvincing tournament are through to the Last 16, while Estonia can make it through by beating Latvia on Thursday. Estonia carried a six point lead into the final four minutes of the game and an historic win seemed likely, until capitulation set in and the Estonians closed the game without a single bucket. That was the room Lithuania needed to snatch the win, mainly on the back of free points with the Lithuanians being sent to the charity strip 27 times during the game.