With the first round done and the second round ahead, it is about time to check what happened in the first three days of the tournament. Without having seen any games, this is of course difficult so that this report is more of an analysis on stats and results while it also features some impressions of people being present in Latvia.
The first positive thing for a blog called EuropeanProspects is of course that all European teams made it to the second round. The only real surprise is the elimination of China in favor of Egypt in the most intense game of the tournament as the Africans beat the Chinese team in a double-OT game. The less funny thing though is the result of Croatia who could go unbeaten to the second round but “preferred” to lose against South Korea ignoring the rules change that all results will be taken to the next round. I must admit, I did not know about this change either. So the only team that remains unbeaten is the United States that overcame Serbia 80-78 in a nail biter. A Serbian team that surprisingly came to Latvia without Nenad Miljenovic who was judged “not good enough” by the coaching staff according to Serbian sources. It is not really a surprise if you recall how limited his minutes were with the U19 National Team in the games they played during the Adidas Eurocamp.
Valanciunas already dominates
Our friend Simon at in-the-game.org published some advanced statistics of the first round which are highly interesting. While seeing Jonas Valanciunas at the top of these standings with a 34.2 efficiency pace-adjusted per 28 minutes is not a major surprise. The Lithuanian big guy is doing nearly everything for the Baltic team but he gets some good support by the surprising Egidijus Mockevicius who only plays 14.7 minutes per game. However, Mockevicius comes up with an excellent 10.4 rebounds, 27.1 efficiency and 5.0 blocks in the pace adjusted numbers. Vytenis Cizaukas completes the Lithuanian trio in the Top10 of the Ranking with 22.4 efficiency.
Next to the three Lithuanians, the only European player that made it to the Top10 is the Polish Piotr Niedzwiedzki. The athletic forward has always been a bit behind other members of his generation in terms of potential attested by followers but he comes up with nice numbers so far in Latvia. Niedzwiedzki averages a pace-adjusted double-double with 16.8ppg and 10.2rpg which is completed by 3.0bpg and also a good 2.0 assists. Dario Saric, who played 35 minutes per game in the two games that he participated in, has only a pace-adjusted 13.8 points and 9.2 rebounds so far. What is a bit more disappointing are his smaller numbers in the assist category where he is even behind the above mentioned Niedzwiedzki with only 1.9 passes.
The main disappointment in this ranking so far is of course the Latvian Davis Bertans. After his move to Union Olimpija Ljubljana and being drafted a few days ago, a lot of people expected a big progress from the player who was dominating the U18 European Championship last summer. Despite playing more than 30 minutes per game, the impact of Bertans is though pretty limited as his shots are not falling (38.1% 2FG – 23.1% 3FGs – 36.2% eFG). This brings him to a mediocre 12.9 pace-adjusted points per game and 7.8 in the efficiency ranking per 28 minutes. The Latvian journalist Andrejs Silins, who follows the tournament intensively has sent us his thoughts about Bertans’ performance so far.
Latvia is not all about Bertans
Latvians started a bit nervous against Chinese Tapei, and I think that was the biggest problem. Versus Australia, they were already used to the crowd and the big heat in the gym but yesterday against Argentina, everything went wrong. Latvia is a team that really relies on outside shooting, so the problem starts if shots are not going down. They need to be more aggressive, use the drives a lot more and go closer to basket. For example, Janis Timma has the body and physical ability to do a big damage in penetration against every opponent but he’s not using it at all.
Latvia can win against anyone if the shooting percentage is good and lose to anyone if that is not the case. The good thing about Latvia is that they have many guys who can take control and be leaders, so Bertans has not to be the scoring machine all the time because there is also Timma, Kaspars Vecvagars, Edmuds Dukulis and I believe even more. If they make their game more various, they can go far in this tournament.
Coach Jansons said that what is currently happening to Davis Bertans is that he is going through a lot these days – games were played in Valmiera which is almost his birthplace, NBA draft and all the attention he is getting now… That is the problem, but the coach believes that Bertans will show his best as we go further in the Championship. But as I said before the good thing about Latvia is that this team is not all about Bertans. There are many guys who can be difference makers.
The 2nd phase starts tomorrow
Group E looks highly interesting as all 6 teams come with a 2-1 record. So right from the start, the games will be decisive. On Monday, Latvia will have a serious test against Brazil where we could imagine that the loser will not make it to the next round already. The game between Australia and Russia might also be decisive while Poland should normally beat Argentina.
In the Group F, USA will face Canada on a 4th of July which is already about the last chance of Canada to move to the Quarter-Finals. Lithuania will play against Serbia in a game that will be interesting in order to see if Serbia can go further in this tournament. Egypt has won the game it could and should normally have no chance against Croatia in their opener for the second round.
Well, and then there was this