Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Petteri Koponen Watch: Tony Parker is a baby edition

H.T. with more on how Finland beat France and Koponen beat Tony Parker.

(Photo: FIBA)

I see BlueForest escaped from those underground tunnels I locked him in. (BlueForest's game recap here.) Well, it gives me time to withdraw from game recap, the most typical form on narration. So here's a different look at Finland vs. France EuroBasket additional qualification round game.

Yep, France had already clinched their spot at the final qualification round with their very convincing victory over Italy just three days earlier. Nicolas Batum and Johan Petro were missing, and Ronny Turiaf played a total of eight minutes. Despite all this, the victory was something Finland needed and the decisive three pointer was scored by Teemu Rannikko, the same guy who missed the potential clincher against Italy a week earlier.

Even though France wasn't at their best, they surely didn't give this win for free. Young guards Nando De Colo (Spurs draftee, 18 pts) and Antoine Diot (15 pts) gave home team all they could handle and big guys Ian Mahinmi (12/5) and Ali Traore (12 pts) fooled Finnish interior defense in couple occations. But unlike in the first game between these two teams, Finnish big guys lead by Hanno Möttölä (16/9) weren't pushed around easily.

Of course, the main focus of sold-out group of 3354 people was on France's household names Tony Parker and Boris Diaw. Diaw seemed awkwardly overweight and was far from his best form. (We've seen that before. Damn you Diaw. Let me love you!-Ed) France only had six fast break points in the whole game and Diaw was non-existent in the half court offense, scoring only three points.

Tony Parker is still recovering from injury, and he seems to have a long way to go. Petteri Koponen (15/4/4 assists/2 steals) outplayed Parker on both ends of the court, forcing him to shoot from distance and blowing by him in every occasion. When Parker noticed he wouldn't get the superstar treatment he's used to, he concentrated on yapping to the referees and he left Energia Arena without speaking to the media. While Parker ended up with 4 points (with 2-14 field goal shooting), Koponen executed Finland's offense extremely well and had one of the best all-round games of his national team career.

(Of course, I have tremendous respect for Parker and I am sure he will go for MVP at the European Championship games, but even the best of them have bad days occasionally. For instance, I remember one day Hans von Blumenstock only scored 33 points in Finnish Division 4 game, making only 7-9 of his three pointers.)

Backcourt tandem Rannikko-Koponen were the heroes in the late game. Rannikko scored 14 points in a row in a four-minute span starting from last minute of 3rd quarter, leading Finland to 66-57 edge. After France took the next three and a half minutes 13-1, Koponen made a jump shot and Rannikko ended up with and-one, giving Finland a 72-70 edge. After Boris Diaw's one made free throw, Rannikko swished an NBA three pointer giving everyone in attendance the goosebumps. Tony Parker missed a strong layup with just 11 second remaining and France had to foul Koponen, who made both free throws and gave Finland the 77-71 lead.

France will beet Bosnia and Herzegovina or Belgium in the last qualification round, while Finland plays the last national team game of summer 2009 against Italy this thursday. Since this is the first time ever Italy slipped out of European Championship Games, local media is currently butchering everyone involved in this national team campaign excluding Marco Belinelli. Finland tries to snatch their second win in a row and end up 2nd in their additional qualifying group, which isn't exactly impossible; at the moment, Finland is highly motivated and Italy just trying to recover from huge disappointment.

Boxscore Here. Highlights Here.


Blog Archive