Spurs in international action: Italy vs. Ukraine and France vs. Spain

Christof Koepsel

Italy battled Ukraine in a Eurobasket consolation round matchup and the San Antonio Frenchmen took on Spain in the semifinals.

Consolation Round: Italy vs. Ukraine

In their final game of Eurobasket, Italy lost 66-58 to Ukraine in a matchup that ended up being one of the ugliest of the tournament. Ukraine was led by former NBAer Eugene "Pooh" Jeter (yes, that's actually his nickname and yes, he's now a Ukranian citizen), who scored a game-high 20 points, to go along with four assists, and three steals.

It was obvious from the opening tip that both Italy and Ukraine had played quarterfinal games the day before. The teams got off to slow starts, and neither side led by more than 6 points through the first 30 minutes of the game. In the fourth quarter, the Ukrainians finally got some separation, as Jeter was able to power the offense, while Italy looked more fatigued than ever.

As I've said before, the problem with Italy is that they're overly dependent on isolation magic. It's like they trying to run the Oklahoma City Thunder's offensive sets, only they don't have a Durant or Westbrook, only a kind of Kevin Martin type (Marco Belinelli).

Lacking both offensive flow and energy meant that Italy had very little chance to win this game. Ukraine forced them to shoot one bad shot after the next, on their way to hoisting up 32 three-point attempts. Yes, thirty-two 3's. That's insane. Adjusting that to NBA minutes, that would nearly 40 three pointers attempted in one game. To put that into even more perspective, the 2002-3 Boston Celtics hold the season record for most three-balls attempted per game with 26.28. Unsurprisingly, Italy only scored 10 points in the final 11 minutes of the game.

Belinelli looked dead tired. Throughout this tournament, the new Spur has been forced to make something out of nothing, due to Italy's lack of offensive weapons. He was usually able to do that -- because he's Marco Belinelli -- but he was completely exhausted today, and so was the rest of his team. This meant that he was forced to take even more bad shots, while being even more tired than usual. He was an atrocious 2 of 19 from the floor, in a game he will certainly want to forget.

Italy will play Serbia next, to compete for lucky seventh place. Ukraine, qualified for next year's FIBA World Cup with this actually-kinda-meaningful win.

Semifinal: France vs. Spain

France played Spain in the Eurobasket Semifinals, pitting the two most talented teams in the tournament against each other. Despite taking a huge lead early in the game, Spain couldn't hold on, as Tony Parker had another absolutely remarkable game. He scored 32 points, had six boards, and even drew 11 fouls, carrying France to a 75-72 victory in an overtime thriller.

Much like Italy, France had a long stretch of horrific offense. For almost 14 minutes spanning the first, second, and third quarters, France scored six points. Again, these games are only 40 minutes, so we're talking about more than a third of the game ... and 6 points scored.

Unlike earlier in the tournament, this scoring drought had nothing to do with lack of effort. This 14-minute span was the perfect storm for France: multiple turnovers, great D by Spain, Boris Diaw, Florent Pietrus, Alexis Ajinca, and Parker all missed multiple wide open shots, the low point being Ajinca's incredibly awful airballed layup attempt. Yet, amazingly, France only trailed by 11 once lid was removed from the basket..

The Frenchmen kept pushing the ball and playing aggressively and they were eventually able to tie things up with an Ajinca free throw in crunch time. They got the defensive stop they needed and sent the game into overtime, finally able to pull away in the final minute of OT with multiple key defensive stops.

Parker was the reason France came back in this game, and was still in it during their horrible stretch in the first place. Ricky Rubio is a solid defender in the NBA but he and Spain were unable to stop Parker's penetration. Tony's effort has been questioned in this Eurobasket tournament, but his past two games have been utterly fantastic. He's even played some great defense on two of the top guards in international play (Slovenia's Goran Dragic and Spain's Rubio).

With Parker playing so well, there was never really a need for Nando De Colo to come into the game. In another big game for France, De Colo was a no-show. In 18 ineffective minutes of action, he scored a mere three points and had two dimes. Despite a sub-par offensive performance, Nando did have a huge block on a Spanish fastbreak that helped France cut the lead to one early in the fourth.

France will face Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania in the Eurobasket Final on Sunday.

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