Eurobasket Day 1: Turkey vs. Portugal; Russia vs. Ukraine
Turkey vs. Portugal: Enes Kanter got off to a rip-roaring start in his first official game for the Turkish men’s team. Upon being subbed in with 2:47 to go in the first, he immediately grabbed a defensive board, scored on the other end, and then scored again with a nice hook shot on Turkey’s next possession. 4 points and 2 boards in those 2 minutes and 47 seconds.
Kanter played 7 minutes in the second quarter, and I was grinning so hard watching him that my face was hurting. Enes just looked fantastic, and he plays the brand of physical, banging basketball that I love. He had two huge two-handed jams, including one and-1, and left the game at the 2-minute mark with 12 points on 6-6 shooting and 5 rebounds. Turkey led 39-27 at the half.
It took Portugal until 4:31 in the third quarter to score their second point in the half. Ouch. Enes started the second half, and stayed on the court until 1:37 remaining in the third. The result was never in question; Turkey had a 20+ point lead for most of the game. Final line for Kanter: 14 points (7-9; team high) and 7 rebounds in 22 minutes (team high).
Kanter kind of faded in the second half, but I can’t say whether that was due to fatigue or complacency from Turkey’s huge lead.* If this game was indicative of what Kanter can do and his style of play, the main issue isn’t whether he’s NBA-ready or that he hasn’t played in two years. Our main problem is, he likes to bang, take it inside, and foul hard. How the heck is he going to fit in with the current Utah Jazz with their penchant for trigger-happy jumpers, soft and-1 fouls, and “I don’t like to touch or be touched” mindset?
*Update: Upon watching the game a second time, rebounding-wise he might’ve faded. Scoring-wise was kind of a different matter. In the third quarter, Kanter barely touched the ball except at the start of possessions when he was way out at the top of the key. His teammates were jacking up shots, but I guess no one can complain because at least they were making them in this game unlike in the friendlies.
Kanter post-game: “I was very nervous before the game but my team-mates have helped me a lot and everything went very well.” (Eurobasket)
[Video coming sometime in the near or distant future]
Russia vs. Ukraine = Kirilenko vs. Fesenko, or Eurobasket’s Battle of the American Coaches. The latter two know each other a little bit, as David Blatt once took part in a Mike Fratello basketball camp when he was in high school. Russia won Eurobasket 2007, while Ukraine hasn’t won a Eurobasket game in ten years.
The game got off to a slow start, with Russia opening 0-6 from the floor. In the second quarter, we had about two entertaining possessions when AK was guarding Fes. Poor Fes also had to go against instinct and applaud when AK missed two technical free throws.
This game was supposed to be a blowout, but it was so much closer than anyone would’ve guessed. Russia was never able to pull away in a low-scoring first half. The momentum swung Russia’s way in the third quarter behind AK going all AK on Ukraine. To wit:
Russia at one point in the third built its lead up to double digits, but its lead waxed and waned throughout and it was still a 3-point game with 2:30 remaining. With 2 minutes to go and Russia up 5, AK got an offensive board and was fouled. He hit both FTs (69-62), and then blocked a shot at the other end.
It was still 69-62 with 30 seconds remaining. AK collected the rebound on a Ukraine miss, and threw it from FT line to FT line (a la John Stockton’s The Pass*) to his teammate Sergey Bykov, who caught it in stride and laid it in (a la Karl Malone upon receipt of The Pass*). 71-62, 25 seconds remaining.
*Just to be clear, I am NOT comparing two Russian mortals to Stockton and Malone. I’m just trying to help anyone that isn’t interested in watching the video visualize the play. Thank you for your attention.
Ukraine scores and fouls. Russia hits both FTs; 73-64. Ukraine with the desperation 3 with 10 ticks remaining. AK gets the rebound and brings the ball down the floor; buzzer sounds. Players and coaches shake hands; Fes slaps AK’s butt. The end.
AK totaled 20 points (game high), 11 boards (game high), 4 steals (game high), 1 block (led team), 3 TOs (led team), and drew 9 fouls (game high). Love seeing what he can do in his natural habitat, so to speak.