Sixers 4 guidos

The first italian Sixers blog

Russia the unlikely champ of Eurobasket 2007

Posted by Ricky - Sixers4guidos on September 17, 2007

russia-campione.jpgUnlikely and for several reasons.

Russians came to Spain with no other ambition than getting a pass for the 2008 Olympics. They were facing the hosts in the final, a team that everyone picked as final winner and that a whole country was ready to carry to the victory, after five silver medals in the previous competitions (make it six, now…).

It’s not over. Russia gave up 17 offensive rebounds. Russia was down five (59-54) with 1.30 to go.


Euro 2007 will be remembered for the many close games, crazy comebacks and buzzer beaters and in the final game we had them all. To spice things up even more, the hero of the game was the most unlikely one.

Yes, because it was a black player named Jon Robert Holden, a Pittsburgh native, to take Russia to the 59-60 “road” win in the final seconds, a weird and enjoyable show at the same time. 

The point guard – who, in case yo don’t know was given the russian citizenship by president Vladimir Putin in person !!! – first pulled a Michael Jordan, stripping the ball to Pau Gasol (a play very similar to the one MJ did vs Karl Malone in his last appearance, game 6 vs Jazz in 1998, seconds before scoring over Byron Russell) with Russia down one and 25 seconds to go… then pulled a Gary Payton in the other half of the court, dribbling, pump faking and hitting the game winner with 2 seconds to go (a play very similar to the one Payton did in game 3 of the 2006 Finals vs Dallas).*

That was the end of the game, but I have to tell you the whole story, once again it’s really worth.

1st quarter

Spain’s start was excellent: 3-0 with Rudy Fernandez connecting from the corner, then a couple of threes from Jose Calderon (very good also tonight) to push the lead to 15-4. Russia was playing like your typical jump shooting team so Spain could overcome Pau Gasol’s slow start (0/3), finding 5 points from his brother Marc, very effective under the boards, to close the quarter 22-11 with a lucky shot by Cabezas at the buzzer. “A sign”, everyone thought. 

2nd quarter

After another three by Raptor Jorge Garbajosa, Aleksey Savrashenko and Andrei Kirilenko began shaking their team A couple of dunks by AK 47 (10 points) and another pair of baskets by his big man cut the deficit to 31-25.  Here came what I thought was “another sign”: a three by Pau Gasol, his first basket of the night (34-25). But he went back missing shots, while russian 7’3 center continued punishing spanyards in the paint (8 pts) and let his team end the first half down only 3, at an acceptable 34-31.

Some half time stats were really curious: Spain was 3/18 from 2 points (!! Gasol 0/4, new grizzlie Navarro 0/3…) and 7/15 from 3 (Calderon 3/3), Russia shot 1/9 from 3 pt and a nice 11/19 from 2. Rebounds were very close, (21-19 Spain), same for turnovers (Russia 8, Spain 7).

3rd quarter

Gasol finally managed to score his first two pointer, the fourth three by Calderon pushed the lead back to 9 points at 40-31. Ponkrashov replied with another one from behind the arc and Spain didn’t take advantage from the fact that Savrashenko AND Kirilenko picked their 3rd fouls and had to leave the game. Gasol in fact cound’t find a rythm and Victor Khryapa made it a three point game at the end of the quarter (49-46) with a couple of misses that could have tied it.

4th quarter

Russia baby, Russia !!! A quick 5-0 run (10-0 if you include the end of the third) and the orthodox brothers were up for the first time at 49-51. Here came the ugliest part of the game, with russians committing a lot of offensive fouls (spanyards are very good in taking charges so for once don’t think about refs helping the home team…) and Spain bricking shot after shot.

Kirilenko came back when the score was tied at 52-52, only to see the Red team taking another lead with Pau Gasol scoring twice after being fouled but missing also four three throws in the spurt (he was 3/8 overall in the 4th and ended the game with a costly 5/12 from the line). His last miss came at 59-54 (1.30 to go), and here Russia built its (unlikely) win.

AK 47 was precise where Pau wasn’t (two foul shots, 59-56 at -1.17), Morgunov used the glass to make it 59-58 at -0.43, so that Spain went to its best player for the deciding shot. But Pau dribbled too much in the low post and when he tried to release his jump hook Holden came from nowhere to steal him the ball.

The honorary russian citizen wasn’t done with his heroics… with a little help from the rim AND the board he hit the game winner in the way I told you, silencing the 16.000 spanish fans. With 2 seconds to play Spain had a last chance and inbounded the ball to Pau again, but his desperate (and unlikely) shot (unluckily) went in and out.

The 28th miss out of 35 two pointers for the home team (that means 20 % !!) let Russia became the new european champion, showing how all the “signs” seen before were definitely misleading.

Kirilenko, 17 points, was named MVP of the competition.

An honour he should share with an (unlikely) “russian” from Pittsburgh.

(* = update: here is the link to the You Tube video of the last minute of the game)

8 Responses to “Russia the unlikely champ of Eurobasket 2007”

  1. sixers29 said

    nice job,this post is very good.I am disappointed with Gasol, he missed many FT, horrible!!!
    I think that our coach had some mistakes, for example:
    -Marc Gasol only played 6 minutes(he scored 5 points)
    -Navarro didn´t play the last five or six minutes of the game. I don´t understand it.

    By the way, at the Olympic Games we are going to have a new player,his name is Ricky Rubio, he is brilliant.
    See you soon,

  2. I think it was better that Russia won because they are vlready in the 2008 Olympics anyways… Russia needed it more probably… Maybe Spain can just do better at the Olympics next year… 😀

    The Olympic Blogger

  3. Alex said

    Good job again with the recap, I’ve enjoyed following Eurobasket on your blog.. Please do keep covering the international competitions.

  4. @ Sixers29: welcome to my blog !! Yes I didn’t get why Marc sit so long after that promising first quarter either. To be honest with Pau his 4th quarter was pretty good, he simply missed too many FT, but he was active and was the only one to score… his last shot is the picture of his up-and-down game… but the question is “where were all the others ????”
    I disagree with you about Navarro, he was clearly in a “off” night and his place was on the bench

    @ the Olympic blogger: welcome to my blog !! Maybe you are right but I think Spain missed a unique chance… just hope the train will pass again !

    @ Alex: thanks a lot, I tried to do my best even in these damn busy working days. I realli appreciate that you follow int’l bball, not many NBA fans do it, and I think they are missing something. See you soon on your (nice) blog !

  5. mcbias said some Belinelli highlights for you.

  6. Wow, great recap. So that guy Holden is Russian, hmm? My favorite part of the international games (World Cup, Olympics, etc) is “those guys” who have sort of vague citizenships… they are my favorites.

    Thanks for the YouTube link, too… that was exciting to see.

  7. Mc Bias, thanks for the Belinelli highlights. I watched that Summer League game and he played really well.. not suprisingly he lit up the Sixers lol

    SML, u r welcom. Holden is russian just as much as I am, of course 🙂 you are right, this is becoming ridiculous, but it’s nothing compared to what happens in other sports. I think our (italian) rugby national team has like 7-8 “italians” coming from everywhere in the world, included many from “your” Argentina

  8. raffaele said

    As for rugby, here’s a list of “italians” playing for Italy’s “national” team:

    Matias Aguero, Martin Castrogiovanni, Sergio Parisse, Ramiro Pez, Lopez Nieto, Santiago Dellape’, Gonzalo Canale, Pablo Canavosio: ARGENTINA

    Wosawai: FIJI

    Paul Griffen, Kaine Robertson, Josh Sole: NEW ZEALAND

    Roland De Marigny: SOUTH AFRICA

    MArko Stanojevic: ENGLAND (serbian father, italian mother, to his credit: that’s you MAN, Ricky!)

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