A little over a week ago, as the first day of EuroBasket careened to a close there was one thing that shocked everyone: Spain lost. After Spain advanced to the qualifying round another funny thing happened, they lost again. These losses were in fairness to two of the best teams in the tournament in Serbia and Turkey. But this is the almighty Spain we’re talking about here; 4/7 odds to win EuroBasket (meaning you lose money if you bet on them), they have six players with NBA experience (Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Carlos Navarro, Jorge Garbajosa, Raul Lopez), the best basketball prospect in Europe (Ricky Rubio), and they’re coming off a Silver Medal at the Olympics last summer. Games are not won on paper though and for Spain that’s a problem. They have lacked offensive consistency and especially a lack of outside shooting during this tournament.
Disclaimer: I suggest all Turkish or French fans might not want to read the rest of this, as you may become severely scared or frightened. SPAIN HAS ITS SWAGGER BACK. After a three point loss to an undefeated Turkish team Spain needed to pretty much win out in order to make it to the next round. This sense of urgency was not on display early in their next game against Lithuania, where they found themselves down 24-15 in the second quarter. But then a sort of epiphany happened after a Rudy Fernandez three pointer. The game and shot clocked stopped working for a few minutes, as the basketball gods gave Spain time to come reflect on the disservice they had done to basketball by putting up this type of effort. BAM! Two Paul Gasol fastbreak throw downs courtesy of Ricky Rubio passes and then an installment of aggressive full court press led to multiple Lithuania turnovers. 7 minutes later Spain had just capped a 23-0 run and looked like the best team in Europe. Many teams have played good games in this tournament but those seven minutes are the best basketball I’ve seen so far. Spain was able to run the fastbreak with ease, calmly made open long range shots, played feisty defense, and found a way to continually find their best player Pau Gasol close to the basket. The game ended with Spain winning 84-70, Gasol putting up 19-8 and Rubio dishing out 8 assists. A new Spain–or maybe the old Spain–had emerged. Next up was a date with the home country Poland to see who advances to the next round.
Anything you can do I can do better. If I could read minds that is what JC Navarro was thinking after watching Pau Gasol dominate against Lithuania. The Euroleague MVP found his jumper and the rest of the teams advancing should look out because it’s deadly. Navarro hit 7 of 9 threes to finish with 23 points, just 3 more than teammate Pau who together helped put a whooping on Poland 90-68. Finally the electric Spanish duo is producing together. With Pau being so destructive in the paint last game and today, everything opened up on the outside for Navarro and company. Spain booked its ticket to quarters.
Reasons to Fear Spain From Here on Out:
- Pau Gasol has a mean streak going and when he’s playing with passion he’s the best big man in Europe.
- Juan Carlos Navarro relies on his outside shot to open up the lane for his floater, so when he’s knocking down threes, he becomes an all-around threat on offense.
- Ricky Rubio finally doesn’t look out of place picking up 12 assists in his past two games, Spain can lean on him to run the offense smoothly.
- Spain has its swagger back. They have the most talent of any team in the EuroBasket but they were having trouble playing together. Now with two huge wins, the team is playing with plenty of confidence.
Look out France. Be careful Turkey. You’ve been warned Slovenia. Spain is Spain again.