For four European basketball teams, Rio is within reach. However, only two can make the trip; the other two will have to wait another year and compete in another tournament in order to reach South America next summer.
This is why the stakes in this year’s Eurobasket are as high as ever and a place in the Final means much more than a guaranteed silver medal. And this is why this year’s Eurobasket semifinals will be exciting to watch.
It all starts tonight with a thrilling game between France and Spain. And by tomorrow night when the other semifinal between Serbia and Lithuania unfolds, the basketball world will know another two names bound to compete in the 2016 Summer Olympics, in Rio de Janeiro. Already, six nations reserved a place in Rio: Brazil (host), USA (world champs), Australia (Oceania), Nigeria (Africa), Argentina (Americas) and Venezuela (Americas). Who are the next two? France? Spain? Lithuania? Serbia?
France has the edge in the semifinal against Spain
The first semifinal scheduled for Thursday will be a very close encounter so don’t be surprised if the game has five periods instead of four. Yes, Spain has two-time NBA champion and five-time All-Star Pau Gasol who leads the tournament in points per game but their Eurobasket roster is far from being complete. No Marc Gasol, no Serge Ibaka, no Ricky Rubio and no Juan Carlos Navarro aka ‘La Bomba’. All these absences led to inconsistency in the group stage: they lost against Serbia and Italy and barely won their last group game against Dirk Nowitzki and Germany.
France on the other hand is all-ball when it comes to Eurobasket 2015. Six players in the French national team come from the best basketball league in the world including four-time NBA champ and all-time Eurobasket scoring leader Tony Parker, 2014 NBA champ Boris Diaw and Utah Jazz standout Rudy Gobert. Gobert can be a legit Gasol stopper and can dominate the paint and dunk over people if necessary. Just watch this highlight against Latvia:
— Big Ballers Podcast (@BBallersPodcast) 15 septembrie 2015
The semifinal will be played in Lille so the home court advantage should come in handy for France. Not to mention the fact that France won the last two games against Spain, including a FIBA World Cup quarter-final last year.
Lithuania can’t stop Serbs led by Milos Teodosic
Serbia proved last year that they are legit. Only the 2014 Dream Team stopped them. At Eurobasket 2015, the Serbs were virtually unstoppable beating Spain, Germany, Turkey and Italy in their quest to prove they are Olympic quality. Now, the only thing left to do is to beat Lithuania and qualify for the Final. Can they do it? Of course they can, especially when they have a one of a kind floor general leading the way. Milos Teodosic has taken his play on another level dishing out double-digit assists in two of his seven games at Eurobasket. Overall, he has 58 assists for an average of 8.3 per game. One of them looks like this:
In the quarter-final against the Czech Republic and Barcelona point guard TomásSatoransky, he tallied international career-high 14 assists forcing the Czech coach to say: “If you want to stop him sometimes you need the police.” That’s how threatening Teodosic is on the floor.
Lithuania may have their own weapons like big-man Jonas Valanciunas who seems to have a lot of fun on the floor (17.2 points and 9.2 rebounds per game) but they may not have the necessary firepower to stop Serbia’s floor general. In fact, no other team except the USA may be able to handle the Serbs a loss.
Yes, Teodosic& Co. have all kinds of talents to go above and beyond the semifinals. They may very well be the next European basketball champions.
By: Florian Gheorghe