VIDEO: Official song of EuroBasket 2011
NBA Players: Rudy Fernandez, Marc and Pau Gasol, Serge Ibaka, Ricky Rubio, Juan Carlos Navarro, Luol Deng, Hedo Türkoglu, Ömer Asik , Enes Kanter, Ersan Ilyasova
I knew the games weren't going to be competitive but to be honest it was mostly an exercise to witness NBA talent. As 'Group A' features host nation Lithuania, the day tickets only provide access for the first two games. Lithuania always play the night cap, with tickets understandably highly sought after. Despite showcasing top-flight NBA talent the games attracted a sparse crowd albeit with some vocal support, particularly from the Turkish faithful.
The first round is the best avenue to see the talent affordably. Ticket holders are often interested in simply seeing their National teams play and may not have the patience to sit through a full day's worth of games. Tickets are sometimes offloaded by departing spectators, pockets are also created in the crowd which allows willing fans to vie for a better view. I bought cheap seats for 70Ltl (€21)
NBA Players: Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Marco Belinelli, Danilo Gallinari, Andrea Bargnani, Chris Kaman, Dirk Nowitzki, Nenad Krstic
Though I'd never heard of Serbia's Miloš Teodosić prior to today, he's no secret. He is considered "arguably the best point guard in Europe". Tonight he delivered a line of 12, 9 and 9 in 28 minutes, impressing with his playmaking including several "no-look" dishes. His accuracy is questionable but I fully expect to see him lacing his sneaks for the NBA in the near future. I like his game.
It was an honor to see current Finals MVP and Mr Congeniality Dirk Nowitzki in action. We were treated to glimpses of his greatness, hitting some Ri-Dirk-ulous shots as Germany teased a comeback early in the fourth. But Serbia are simply the better team. As my German colleagues noted, "Dirk probably misses his Dallas teammates".
"The Group [B] of death" features 4 superstar teams and neighboring Latvia so understandably the stadium reaches capacity. I scored my tickets through a scalper, paying with my last 150Ltl. Three-quarters of its stated value, it was a home printed E-ticket. The scam is quite simple, person orders a ticket online then prints and sells multiples of said ticket. As long as the purchaser is the first one to scan their ticket at the start of each game, they're golden. I watched all three games.
Highlight of the game: Bargnani over Noah and Diaw
This was a fitting curtain call for a day packed with nailbiters and a week of entertaining European Basketball. It was a game against the two unbeatens of Group B. I was able to score cheap tix for this possible Finals preview off some Latvian fans. Seeing it in person was my only real chance to see this barn-burner as it was competing with a Lithuanian TV game. Ticket holders had already been treated to two exciting games each decided by a point. I haggled the price down to a bargain 20Ltl.
The result was practically a coinflip. Serbia's star point guard was missing for the crucial stages of the game, fouling out with 40 seconds left in regulation and France was saved by a missed shot off a "gimme" in the dying seconds. It simply sets up a tantalising rematch if both teams continue playing to form. My prediction still looks good but am unsure if France and Lietuva are on the same side of the pool.
- Read Live EuroBasket results: Lithuania, September 2011 Part II