EuroBasket 2013: Fortunes Reverse For Batum And Claver At Day Two
Thursday was the second day of competition at EuroBasket 2013, with group play continuing at various cities in the host country of Slovenia. Both Nicolas Batum (France) and Victor Claver (Spain) returned to action with their respective national teams after opening their group play schedules on Wednesday. Let's recap the results.
Nicolas Batum: 23 minutes, 17 points (7-10), 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block, 1 steal in France's 88-65 victory against Great Britain
This was basically a must-win for the French after a stunning 80-74 upset loss to Germany
in their EuroBasket group play opener. And from the opening tip, you could see a different level of focus and determination from Nicolas Batum and his fellow teammates as France coasted to an 88-65 victory against the British, a team that pulled an upset of their own in their first game by defeating Israel.
After tallying zero points in the paint in the loss to Germany, Batum finished a cutting baseline dunk on the first play of the game versus Great Britain, setting the tone for a much more fluid offensive performance than we saw in the prior game, both for himself and his countrymen. Rather than settle for off-balance jumpers and mid-range pullups, as was the case against Germany, Batum made a consorted effort to get better looks closer to the basket, which resulted in Batum going a perfect 5-for-5 on two-pointers. He also cut down on the three-point attempts, going from seven against Germany to five against Great Britain (and one of those was a prayer at the halftime buzzer) while doing a better job of squaring up his shoulders before shooting. The end result was a game-high 17 points on 70 percent shooting, a drastic improvement from performance against Germany.
Batum didn't seem nearly as concerned with getting his teammates involved Thursday against Great Britain, which is probably for the best. Aside from Tony Parker, Batum is easily the most talented offensive player on the French side, so his scoring is much more important than his playmaking, which is probably better handled by Parker, Nando De Colo and Boris Diaw anyway.
Overall, France's defense was improved from the game prior, and while the same can be said for Batum's individual defensive performance, there were the occasional lapses, such as in the third quarter when he was beat backdoor by Myles Hesson for an easy layup. But Batum also had a steal at halfcourt that resulted in an and-one basket that sparked a 9-0 run for the French, so the good was definitely outweighed by the bad.
After stumbling out of the gate against Germany, the French asserted themselves against an inferior Great Britain team like you would expect one of the best teams in Europe to do. And the same can be said for Batum's individual performance, which would have looked even more impressive statistically had the game not been a blowout by the middle of the third quarter.
But it's a good thing that Batum played only 23 minutes, as the French play their third game in as many days Friday against Israel. You can watch that game on ESPN3.com starting at 11:50 AM.
Victor Claver: 28 minutes, 3 points, 6 rebounds, 1 block in Spain's 78-69 loss to Slovenia
Championship teams know they're always going to get their opponent's best shot. And when you're Spain, a team that has won back-to-back EuroBaskets and has been the second-best team in the world for at least the five years, you're going to be the team every other team gets up to play. And that goes double for the talented Slovenia squad playing in front of their home crowd.
As for Claver, his performance was mostly unchanged from his five-rebound, two-assist outing in Wednesday's victory against Croatia
. But the Slovenian "Big Three" of Bostjan Nachbar, Zoran Dragic and Goran Dragic posed a significantly more difficult challenge for Claver and the rest of Team Spain, a challenge that the Iberians weren't able to meet.
Even with the loss, Spain is still a near lock to advance to the next round, as the remaining teams in Spain's group (Georgia, Czech Republic and Poland) are not in the same class as the Slovenians, not to mention they're not playing at home.
Spain gets the day off Friday, then returns to action Saturday against the Czech Republic. Tipoff on ESPN3.com is set for 5:50 AM.