By: Nick Gibson / @euro_adventures

EuroBasket’s second day was even better than the first.  Mainly because Slovenia proved they want to do more than just advance for the Celje fans, they want to finish first in their group.  Frankly, I don’t see anyone keeping them from the top slot after today’s nine-point win against the champs.

[EuroBasket Podcast: Surprises, Serbians and Shermadini]

Slovenia 78-69 Spain

There were so many great moments in this game.  Dino Muric hitting a big three in the third to bring it within one was pretty cool.  Mirza Begic dunking right through Xavi Rey to tie it at 47 and then go up one from the line. That was up there.

Zoran Dragic putting Slovenia up 50-48 with a galloping lay-up and following that with a one-footed touch-pass of a shot as the shot clock expired that ripped the net, the climax of a third quarter which I’d call the best of Zoran’s career.  (He hit another three right after that.  Then Balazic hit one. This game was perfect.)

But I also liked Bostjan Nachbar putting Goran Dragic in a big-brotherly noogie hold and protecting him from a technical after GD’s overreaction to a borderline call nearly threatened Slovenia’s momentum with a silly technical foul.  Boki positioned himself between Goran and the official and locked up Goran around the three-point line before ushering him 50-someodd feet to the Slovenian bench to cool down.

He cooled down, and it was a good thing he did; the kind of rhythm Slovenia had in the fourth quarter comes around too rarely to throw it all away. But Goran didn’t cool down so much that he couldn’t hammer the nail home once and then again down the stretch. The first was a filthy switch-handed reverse that he finished with his right, the next a crafty little number in the paint that included a couple pivots and an arcing finish.

Slovenia’s fans deserved the Hell out of this one.

Poland 68-69 Czech Republic

Among my list of basketball players I’d like to see succeed the most, Jan Vesely easily makes the top seven or eight, and he could be top three material.

So Jan going for 23 and 14 on the heels of 17 and 7 is akin to a father watching his child take his first step one day and utter his first word the next.

Still, my biggest smile of the day came—as I’m sure it did for many—when 33-year-old Lubos Barton splashed home a corner three to win it for the Czech Republic with 0:04, approximately 52 seconds after keeping hopes alive from the opposite corner to bring his boys back to within two (67-65).

Germany 73-77 Belgium

Who’s more frustrating than Tibor Pleiss, huh?  (And not for Rudy Fernandez-ish reasons. But for…let’s call them Tibor Pleiss reasons.) Nobody. That’s who.

Just when you rise out of your rolling chair and slap your knee in excitement after a huge offensive rebound off an intentionally missed free throw by Heiko Schaffartzik with :08 seconds left and Germany down 76-73 in overtime, he comes down with the ball, sort of shivers a couple of times and then puts up what looks like a well-executed volleyball set instead of gathering himself and slamming it down with a yelp.

It’s fun watching Schaffartzik’s confidence soar even higher now that he’s pretty much the man whenever he wants to be with this team.  If you’re going to give him grief for 4-of-12, you’ve got to give him credit for drawing nine fouls along the way. It’d be easy for him to step back and enjoy his green light, but he’s putting pressure on defenses off the dribble, which is admirable…and opening things up for…

Robin Benzing, who pulled out his bag of tricks in this one. One beautiful one-handed scoop in the fourth quarter against [I forget] was pretty sensational, in particular.  Benzing had 24 and 5 tonight and was as aggressive as I’ve ever seen him in the second half. If this summer goes down as The Year Robin Benzing Emerged as a National Team Fixture/Leader/Star, then chalk this German experiment up as a win.

Oh yeah, the team that won: Jonathan Tabu sort of Lubos Barton-ed his guys out of a late-game lead regurgitation with two huge threes—one to put them up 56-60, the next to break a tie and make it 63-60.

That’s when field goal-less Lucca Staiger stepped in and rocked that thing to overtime. But another three from Tabu in OT, plus Belgium making 4-of-6 FTs in the last 0:22 sealed it.

And you know. Tibor.

Bosnia & Herzegovina 67-77 Serbia

If Teodosic, Lucic and Serbia’s ideal squad were out there against Bosnia and Herzegovina’s cavernously porous defense, that 77 could’ve been 97 real quick.

Italy 90-75 Turkey

The Italians absolutely picked Turkey apart.  Did what they wanted, got where they wanted, all without letting Turkey think that, for even one second, size mattered.  Nicolo Melli grabbed 10 rebounds in 29 minutes.  Omer Asik and Semih Erden combined for 29 minutes also…and had three boards between them.

The Twelve Giant Men should certainly be able to squash One Medium-Sized Melli.  But not today.  Turkey has real problems at the point but–what’s that?–oh, yes. We knew that.

Bogdan Tanjevic apparently still hasn’t arrived at the same conclusion.

Or maybe he has and isn’t telling us.  All that matters is that neither this problem nor this sedentary offense are going anywhere, especially when paired with a supposed strength (defense) that gave up 90 to Italy.

Montenegro 72-73 Latvia

Montenegro is proving they’ll be a hot ticket throughout this EuroBasket, as they’ve provided two of the best finishes of the tourney.

Today’s came free of controversy and upheaval; just good old fashioned Kristaps Janicenoks.

Thanks for the .GIF, Euro-step.net.

Lithuania 75-67 Macedonia

Vlado Ilievski: Uses a steady, Euro-steppy drive to get off his floater on one possession, then a couple trips later he uses a fake and similar-looking drive just to kick it out for a wide-open look (three Lithuanians collapsed on Vlado, fearing the wrath of yet another float piece) for Cekovksi. Cekovski missed, but that’s got nothing to do with Vlado. The fact is he used one smart play to open the door to another; that’s what makes him so valuable to this Macedonian club, balancing the seesaw opposite Bo and Pero.

Then there’s Mantas Kalnietis.  One play he craftily gets himself to the rim from the right side and scores., taking advantage of a Macedonian defense that hadn’t had time to settle.  Then on the next possession, he drives hard from the left side and is ushered toward the baseline by a double team; now here, instead of kicking it to the corner or pulling it out—it was early in the shot clock, still—Mantas opted for a jump pass that cleared the double team but was ultimately intercepted and taken the other way.

But then Mantas hits midrange J to make it 69-62 with a minute left, proving that I should just shut up about it already.  This wasn’t a day where Mantas’ decision making took Lithuania out of the game. In fact, his dynamic involvement was pretty close to what Lithuania’s roster-full of forwards needs from the backcourt. In the end, Mantas tallied 17 points, 6 boards, 5 assists and turned it over only twice.  We can’t expect Mantas to be Lithuania’s calm leader; we just need him to limit those signature stretches of Good vs. Evil.

But before you go: watch Macedonia play every chance you get. They and Montenegro play harder than anyone.  Except for Slovenia, who is in a class of their own thanks to some of the world’s best fans.

Greece 80-71 Russia

I think the best description of Russia’s offense came from Vladimir Spivak, who called it idealess. I think that about sums it up, unless we’re counting bad ideas.

Greece looks really, really good, but I haven’t been interested enough to watch significant stretches yet.  They’re beating folks too easily right now.  Here’s hoping Turkey vs. Greece is the classic it’s historically been and not a beat down.

Didn’t Have a Chance to Get to These…

Croatia 77-76 Georgia

Finland 81-60 Sweden

Ukraine 74-67 Israel

Great Britain 65-88 France