Round of 16 for the ages: EuroBasket playoffs started with a bang

Jonas Miklovas
2022-09-12 14:15

Seven of eight games ended in single-digit difference, and they were full of drama, emotions, and star power.


It was already the greatest Round of 16 in EuroBasket history. All it needed to be legendary was a huge upset.

That's where Nicolo Melli, Simone Fontecchio, Marco Spissu, and the rest of the Italian national team came to the rescue.

In a game full of emotions, technical fouls, an ejection, and a comeback for the ages, Italy eliminated Serbia 94-86. The same Serbia with two MVPs - NBA and EuroLeague - on the same team. The same Serbia that won all five Group D games by an average of 21 points. The same Serbia that was considered to be one of the few favorites to win it all.

It was an upset but not something that would surprise you a lot. Especially if you watched all eight Round of 16 games in Berlin.

Before the tournament, this EuroBasket was touted as one of the best ever, and the first weekend in the German capital proved the case. Seven of eight games ended in single-digit difference, and the one with a larger margin, Slovenia's 88-72 win against Belgium, was a contested match for more than three quarters.

Overall, there were two overtimes with heart-stopping moments at the end of regulation, as France managed to squeeze out a victory against Turkey, while Lithuania forced overtime but eventually lost to Spain.

There was a 43-point Lauri Markkanen masterpiece against Croatia. There was Germany squandering a 24-point lead against Montenegro but eventually advancing to the quarterfinals. There was Luka Doncic putting up the third 30+ points game in a row, the first such feat in 30 years of EuroBasket.

If that is not enough, it looked like even stars aligned for EuroBasket yesterday. The first three Sunday games ended in identical scores, 94-86, and the fourth almost did the same, finishing 94-88.

This is the fifth EuroBasket I am covering as a journalist, and I must admit I haven't seen anything similar.

It all started with France getting the impossible victory in the first Saturday match. Down by two, with 12 seconds to play, French wingman Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot was hit with an unsportsmanlike foul, and it looked like Turkey would advance.

But Cedi Osman missed both free throws, Evan Fournier then stole the ball, and Rudy Gobert tied the game with a monstrous putback.

France then went on to win 87-86 in overtime.

"It might be the worst emotional loss in my 26-year coaching career," coach Ergin Ataman said after the game.

It was completely the opposite for coach Gianmarco Pozzecco on Sunday.

The Italian coach was hit with a technical foul four minutes into the game and then had to leave the arena midway through the third quarter when his bench received a second technical.

Pozzecco then made a spectacle you do not witness often. He hugged or kissed everyone on his own team, shook hands with Svetislav Pesic, and even hugged Predrag Danilovic, who was calmly sitting in the stands.

The Italians were down 57-61 at the moment but responded with a 25-9 run and completely changed the momentum of the game.

Coach Pozzecco then made a Hollywood-worthy comeback on the court, only to be denied by his own staff and players. Fearing to be punished, they pleaded with Pozzecco to wait for the final buzzer before storming the court.

Pozzecco was in his own planet. He fell on his knees, then he tried to jump over LED screens surrounding the court, then he hugged all the Serbians leaving the court. And all of that was not even the craziest part.

That was when he jumped into Giannis Anteteokounmpo's lap as Greek was calmly walking down the corridor in the Mercedes Benz arena.

This footage, for a moment, must have stopped some hearts in the Milwaukee Bucks front office.

But hey, that's this year's EuroBasket. Passion, buzzer-beaters, overtimes, upsets, emotions, star power.

The Round of 16 was as good as it gets. Cannot wait for what the last eight games of the tournament will bring.

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