U20 European Championship
|Spain have the tournament's best ofense and Nikola Mirotic is the leading scorer, so Russia's defence will have to adapt or suffer the consequences|
The second Semi-Final will feature hosts Spain against another red team, the one from Russia.
Since France and Italy qualified to the other Semi-Final it left Russia as the only team outside of Western Europe to stay in the gold rush.
For Spain, this is the fifth time in a row in the Semi-Finals stage, and with that they tie their own record as no other team managed to do that before, but Spain between 1994 and 2002.
This will be the 10th time for Spain in this late stage but no gold medal came out of it and if Russia need some support from history then Spain won in the Semi-Finals only three times and lost six.
Three of those six semi-final losses were in the last three years in a row.
Russia on the other end won the gold once, when they hosted the games in 2005, yet that's also their only medal as twice more they went as far as now but lost the bronze.
Long Hard Road
Spain's road to the Semi-Finals seems perfect yet some small bumps are worth mentioning.
In the first round the hosts smashed everything they found on their way including a 49-point win over Turkey and a 73-point point win over Austria.
Yet from the Qualifying Round onwards it was a different story.
In the games against Ukraine and also the Quarter-Final versus Latvia, Spain needed a fourth quarter comeback to earn the win.
Italy managed to put up a big fight and lost by just five points.
Things aren't perfectly smooth for Spain, who won three of their last games by up to seven points, yet when things gel together for them, it's the best show in town.
Russia wasn't expected to do great things here, but they are showing their ability almost every night.
After a loss on the opening day came four wins in a row and a loss to France in the battle for the top spot in the Qualifying Round - the exact same path of Italy.
Russia showed great character, not the usual thing for this team, in a great second half comeback against Turkey to get the spot in the Semi-Finals.
|Russia is a team that has reached so far thanks to the great collective effort, but the all-around game of forward Andrey Zubkov still stands out |
What Makes Them Special?
No team here is scoring and sharing the ball as Spain, but the way they are sharing is not a common one.
Not only they have the top disher in the championship in Josep Franch, who has 5 assists per game, but there are five other players in Spain with more than one assists per game.
The ability of so many players to create points for their teammates is what makes Spain very dangerous.
Keep in mind also the intensity of Spain that doesn't rest for one second and whoever comes off the bench is bringing huge intensity.
That's how they reached the crazy big wins in the Preliminary Round.
That's how they came back in the last quarter twice for a win.
If Spain have so many players to pass the ball well, Russia's main feature is sharing the load.
Not everyone played all the games, but whoever stepped on the court was there to influence, as each player on the squad -with only one exception- has more than 10 minutes per game.
No less than seven players have scored between six and 14 points per game.
Compared to Spain where only three players can say that, this difference speaks for itself.
When Spain's leading scorer - Nikola Mirotic - is making almost double the points of Russia's top scorer - Andrey Zubkov it says it all.
Stand Out Figures
Spain have the most productive offense in the tournament in many ways.
They are the only team to score more than 78 points per game here and they are by far above that with 88.
Spain dish the ball more often with 17.6 assists per game, they have the best field goal percentage from the field and from the arc.
Add to that Nikola Mirotic, the top scorer in the games by a big margin,and you understand that whatever Spain do good, they do it much better than anyone else here.
Russia stand out with their job on the defensive end.
They show the third best defensive team in the competition by allowing just 64.9 points for their opponents, and things were pretty clear with Russia so far.
In the two games they allowed their opponent to reach the 70 points line, they lost, and even then nobody scored more than 72 against the Russian defense.
Russia do that by not allowing many field goal attempts, yet against Spain, who don't get their high points by shooting a lot but by converting a lot of easy points in fast breaks and open three pointers, the Russian defense will need to make the adjustment.
Since Spain didn't fall below 72 points so far, and in most cases scored much more, while Russia didn't allow more than 72 points so far, and in most cases allowed much less, that's your magic number for tonight.