The 2013 EuroBasket tournament tipped off Wednesday with a slate of 12 games spread across four different locations as 24 teams begin attempting to qualify for the 2014 FIBA World Cup while asserting their dominance over their fellow European countries.
Teams have a tough week ahead of them as each six-team group team will play each other over a six-day period, resulting in just one rest day. The top four teams at the end of this round-robin tournament will get re-seeded next week while the bottom two teams in each division will be sent packing -- meaning every game is important and any upsets are going to hurt.
There were a few upsets on opening day, too, which we've decided to recap below.
Finland 61, Turkey 55 -- Turkey is one of the favorites to move on to next year's FIBA World Cup, but it looks like the pundits got it wrong after Finland was able to upset the talented squad on the first day of the tournament. Yep, the team that lost to Team USA at the 2010 FIBA Worlds lost to Finland.
The Finnish squad was led by Petteri Kopponen, a first round pick in the 2007 NBA Draft that has yet to make his way to America for an NBA regular season. Kopponen struggled with his shot as he finished with just 12 points on 15 shots, but the 6'4 guard added a game-high nine rebounds and rattled off 11 straight points to keep his team in it late.
Turkey's NBA players didn't exactly look like they played in the most-talented league in the world on Wednesday. Hedo Turkoglu and Ersan Ilyasolva combined to shoot just 3-for-21 to score 11 points while Houston Rockets big man Omer Asik scored just four points in 18 minutes of action.
Great Britain 75, Israel 71 -- Great Britain was expected to struggle mightily in this tournament considering Luol Deng is sitting out, but the absence of the Chicago Bulls star wasn't felt Wednesday. Well, maybe it was, but the fact that Israel shot just 53 percent from the free-throw line allowed Great Britain to pull off an overtime upset.
Great Britain's best player was actually born in Toronto as Kyle Johnson and grabbed six boards to lead all scorers. Johnson played his college basketball at Long Island and has participated in international competition for Great Britain over the last three years, but never showed this sort of potential. 30-year-old Kieron Achara added a solid double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds while Myles Hesson scored 14 to round out his team's double-digit scorers.
New Houston Rockets swingman Omri Casspi was expected to make Israel a contender in EuroBasket, but he finished Wednesday's game with just 13 points on 14 shots. 32-year-old guard Afik Nissim looked like the team's best player en route to a team-high 17 points, especially considering he did that after starting the game on the bench. Lior Eliyahu and Yotam Haperin -- both veterans on the international circuit -- added 11 and 12 points, but it wasn't enough to overcome their team's struggles from the free-throw line.
Georgia 84, Poland 67 -- Georgia took a 39-22 lead into halftime and never looked back, surprisingly overpowering a Polish team that features NBA veterans Marcin Gortat and Maciej Lampe.
Georgia was led by Viktor Sanikidze after he finished with a game-high 23 points to go with his six rebounds. Three of his teammates scored in double figures, too, as they were able to offset awful free-throw shooting with a solid day from the field (49.2 percent) and by committing just five total turnovers.
Gortat would finish the game with 12 points and eight rebounds while Lampe added a quiet 10 and five. Prezemyslaw Zamojski did work off the bench, too, hitting three 3-pointers to finish with 11 points in ten minutes.
Montenegro 81, Macedonia 80 - This was one of the featured Wednesday games and it lived up to the hype. Macedonia led through three quarters of play, but Montenegro pulled away late in a battle of American guards.
Former Boston College standout Tyrese Rice scored 16 points to go with five assists and four steals to lead his team in all three categories. Suad Sehovic tied Rice with 16 points of his own, Milko Bjelica added 12 and Orlando Magic big man Nikola Vucevic scored nine points in 14 minutes for the victors.
Macedonia's American dynamo Bo McCalebb scored a game-high 23 points and teammate Damjan Stojanovski added 19, but newly-signed Atlanta Hawks big man Pero Antic struggled en route to eight points on nine shots to go with five turnovers before fouling out.
And now a brief recap of the rest of Wednesday's EuroBasket games:
Spain 68, Croatia 40 -- The Spaniards are probably the best team in the tournament, and they didn't have to work too hard to dismantle an overmatched squad from Croatia. Former Portland Trail Blazers wing Rudy Fernandez led Spain with 15 points in 16 minutes while current NBA players Marc Gasol, Jose Calderon, Ricky Rubio and Victor Claver finished with 34 combined points in limited minutes.
Latvia 86, Bosnia and Herzegovina 75 -- This was actually a bit of an upset, too, but neither team is expected to advance too far in the tournament. Latvia was led by an impressive performance from Rolands Freimanis, a 6'10 big man that scored 24 points in just 17 minutes before fouling out.
Ukraine 58, Belgium 57 -- Ukraine outscored Belgium 18-9 in the final quarter to pick the one-point victory in the opening round thanks to some late game heroics from NBA journeyman Pooh Jeter. Jeter finished with just eight points as Ihor Zaytsev led his team in scoring with 16 points while 33-year-old Christophe Beghin led Belgium with 14 points off the bench.
Germany 80, France 74 -- Robin Benzing had 19 points and Heiko Schaffartzik had a double-double (12 points, 11 assists) to fuel Germany to the surprising win over France. Spurs guard Tony Parker had 18 in the loss for France, but it was not enough to overcome a slow start to the game. Germany had just too much firepower, as UConn guard Niels Giffey and former Iowa State guard Lucca Staiger joined Benzing and Schaffartzik in double figures with 14 points each.
Serbia 63, Lithuania 56 -- Serbia held off a pesky Lithuania to open EuroBasket play with a seven-point win. Serbia jumped out to a 31-20 lead before a flurry of threes fueled a 13-2 Lithuanian run to tie the game at 33 in the third quarter. Serbian captain and former NBA center Nenad Krstic had 20 points and nine rebounds for game-highs in both categories. Mantis Kalnietis had 17 points in the loss for Lithuania.
Slovenia 62, Czech Republic 60 -- Slovenia used a balanced offensive attack to hold off Czech Republic to protect its home court. Jure Blaazic led Slovenia with 11 points while Goran Dragic had eight points and nine assists. A 45-37 rebounding advantage for Slovenia helped it overcome a tough shooting game -- the team was just 5-23 from three. Washington Wizard Jan Vesely led the Czech Republic with 17 points.
Italy 76, Russia 69 -- Luigi Datome scored nearly a third of his team's points. His 25 to go along with eight rebounds led Italy to the seven-point victory. Alexy Shved had 17 points to lead Russia, but it was not enough to counteract a tough shooting game. Russia was just 12-35 from inside the arc for the game.
Greece 79, Sweden 51 -- Greece raced out to a 39-21 lead and never looked back. All 12 players to enter the game for Greece scored in the 28-point laugher. Vassilis Spanoulis led Greece with 13 to join two other Greece players in double figures. Jeffery Taylor had 16 for Sweden, but he did not have a teammate to score more than eight points.
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