caseyholdahl

Sep 04

EuroBasket 2013: Claver And Spain Cruise, Batum And France Beaten

By caseyholdahl

Group play at EuroBasket 2013 (formerly known as the European Championship) started on Wednesday in host country Slovenia. Both Nicolas Batum (France) and Victor Claver (Spain) are playing for their respective national teams, so I'll be providing updates from those contests, most of which you can watch online on ESPN3.com (assuming you have a cable package that includes ESPN).

Here's how Claver and Batum did in their first games of group play …



Victor Claver: 0 points (0-3), 5 rebounds, 2 assists in Spain's 68-40 victory against Croatia

The Spaniards have been the class of European basketball for the last decade, having won the last two EuroBaskets while serving as the only team in the world that has been able to give the Americans a real game since Team USA got serious again. And even with a new coach and no Pau Gasol, who is sitting out EuroBasket 2013 to get healthy for the upcoming NBA season, the Spaniards are the odds-on favorite to win yet another European title.

Their quest got off to an easy enough start on Wednesday with a 68-40 victory against Croatia in Group C. Claver started at power forward and generally comported himself well, finishing with five rebounds and two assists in 21 scoreless minutes. Claver only took three shots, which isn't  surprising considering he starts alongside Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez, Jose Calderon and Ricky Rubio, all of whom are more accomplished offensive players.

Much like his role as a rookie Trail Blazer, Claver is on the floor to play defense and grab rebounds, while leaving most everything else to his more veteran teammates. He was active on both ends of the floor, despite not getting many opportunities within the floor of Juan Antonio Orenga's offense, and more than held Croatian power forward Dario Saric (four points, two rebounds), who would have likely had been a first round pick in the 2013 NBA Draft before withdrawing his name just before the deadline.   

But most importantly, Claver seemed to play with a level of confidence we hadn't seen during his rookie season in the NBA, a positive development for both Spain and the Trail Blazers.

Spain continues group play on Thursday against host country Croatia at 11:50 AM on ESPN3.com.



Nicolas Batum: 9 points (4-11), 5 rebounds, 5 assists in France's 80-74 loss to Germany

If there's a team that observers have thought could end Spain's European dominance, it's France. Yet every time the two teams meet, the Spanish manage to come out on top, as was the case in the now-infamous quarterfinal game of the 2012 London Summer Olympics. Spain has eliminated France in the last two EuroBaskets, including in the 2011 EuroBasket final, so there's ample motivation for Les Bleus to take their best shot at the Iberians, especially while they're down one Gasol.

Though the French didn't look like a threat to unseat Spain in their group play opener against Germany. Despite a roster with no current NBA players, Germany defeated France, a team starting NBA players Tony Parker, Boris Diaw and our own Nicolas Batum, 80-74 in a huge upset. Germany shot 60 percent from the field and 60 percent from the three-point line, which is about all you need to know about the outcome.

As for Batum, while his nine-point, five-rebound, five-assist performance wasn't necessarily bad, it wasn't nearly enough given his importance to the French side.

Batum splits much of the playmaking duties with Parker, allowing the All-Star point guard to function as France's primary scorer, as evidenced by Batum finishing with a team-high five assists. On various occasions, Batum threaded bounce passes to cutting teammates for easy layups, which is important for a team that historically struggles shooting from deep.

But while Batum did a decent job of creating for others, he'll need to do a better job the next time around of creating for himself, at least if France is to have any chance of medaling. Batum took 11 shots, second only to Parker for most attempts, but made just four and missed all but one of his seven three-point attempts, none of which were particularly good looks. He didn't attempt any shots in the paint and finished with a plus/minus of -14, which is incredibly unfortunate for Batum, especially against a team like Germany.

While every team would like to get off to a good start, losing their group stage opener isn't particularly serious for the French, at least not yet. The group, which includes Ukraine, Belgium, Great Britain and Israel, is rather weak, so the French still have a great chance of advancing to the next round should they get back on track Thursday against Great Britain. However, the Brits are likely to be playing with a ton of confidence after upsetting Israel in their opener. That game also will be shown at 11:50 AM on ESPN3.com

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