When last Tuesday Spain was shorn in Athens by the Greek team in the first friendly match in preparation for the Eurobasket, Sergio Scariolo pointed out that the team needed to take a step forward to face such strong rivals. This Thursday, again with the Greek national team as a rival, although this time without Giannis Antetokounmpo, Spain rediscovered its path in the heat of the Wizink Center. With Lorenzo Brown at the helm and the Hernangómez brothers leading from both sides of the pitch, the team found the formula to recover the offensive and defensive balance that had been sorely lacking in Athens.
The outside game returned, a hallmark in recent years, and the defense was much more confident about it. In short, Scariolo’s plan went perfectly and made the Madrid pavilion vibrate, which ended up applauding Lorenzo Brown. The American was received by the public in Madrid between applause and whistles, although slight. There were those who disagreed with the base, who played his first game on Spanish soil since his nationalization, but the boos turned into celebrations as the minutes passed. Decisive in both defense and attack (eight points, four rebounds and five assists), Brown showed his best virtues and teamed up with the pair called to lead the team in the Eurobasket, Juancho and Willy Hernangómez (33 points and 18 rebounds between both of them). Both were able to enjoy a much more comfortable match thanks to the absence of the great star of the Greek team, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Without the power of the Milwaukee Bucks power forward, Greece is much less Greece.
Anteto It was the great attraction of the duel. The Wizink stands displayed a mixture of Spain and Bucks jerseys with 34 on the back. The expectation to see the Hellenic giant was maximum after last Tuesday he overwhelmed Spain with 31 points and 10 rebounds. But fans were left wanting to see the two-time NBA MVP dressed in shorts. The Greek Federation reported that he was suffering from “slight discomfort” in his knee and remained on the bench only to give advice to his brothers Kostas and Thanasis. Replacing one of the best players on the planet is an impossible task and Greece felt his absence, despite Kostas’ efforts to emulate his brother’s wonders as he soars into the air. But there is only one Giannis and the middleweight of the saga, although he made an effort when it came to fighting in the paint, he could not with the well-equipped Spanish defense.
Spain showed breadth of resources and Scariolo a good reading of the match. When Greece accumulated giants that closed the way to the basket, the coach brought in Llull or Rudy so that the captains punished from the triple. On the other hand, if the Hellenes dispensed with their strong men, the Hernangómez could take over the area and did a lot of damage with the quick transitions launched by Lorenzo Brown.
After a first quarter in which neither team showed their cards, Spain began to blow up the game before the break with an 11-2 run, crowned with three consecutive three-pointers by Rudy, Llull and Brown. Scariolo’s group tried to maintain the advantage at the beginning of the second half, but the best minutes came for the Greek team, who managed to tie the score after an attack of pride. Giannis, sitting on the bench in street clothes, shouted almost as much as his coach, giving directions to his teammates in search of the comeback.
But Spain had already found the way and in the last quarter, they collapsed the Hellenic hope. Scariolo’s men brought out the pride that they lacked in the Athens game and when it seemed that it could be tightened, they raised the level of intensity. Once again Willy Hernangómez, the best player of the match (23 points and 10 rebounds) sentenced the match with a distant triple that put Spain at +7, a distance that would not be lowered until the end.
After the bad experience of the defeat in Athens, this victory boosts the morale of a team that was not sure how their game would work. Although Antetokounmpo’s loss has facilitated Scariolo’s tests, the formula seems clear: be a team.
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