Scariolo on Markkanen: 'He's the most difficult opponent I had to prepare for'

2022-09-13 05:31

Sergio Scariolo praised the Finnish national team and denied the notion that stopping Lauri Markkanen is the only key to success against Finland in the quarterfinal.

Credit: FIBA, Federación Española de Baloncesto
Credit FIBA, Federación Española de Baloncesto

If the top 3 players of EuroBasket 2022 were evident before the tournament, Lauri Markkanen could make a case for transforming it into the Top-4.

After edging out Croatia, Finland will now face Spain, who also advanced to the quarterfinals as the underdogs in a matchup against Lithuania. Spain's head coach Sergio Scariolo was widely praised for his game plan against the opponents in the Round of 16.

Now, the Italian specialist admits - it's even harder to prepare for the match than it was before.

"Because of the way he plays, he is the most difficult opponent I have had to prepare for," the coach said about Lauri Markkanen.

Markkanen scored 43 points against Croatia, drawing more and more comparisons to Dirk Nowitzki who recorded the same amount of points in EuroBasket two decades ago. Standing at 2.13-meters tall, the Finnish forward is a member of the coveted 50-40-90 club, shooting two-pointers at 60.6%, triples at 40.5%, and free throws at 91.3%.

"It has been especially difficult to prepare for this match," the coach told the media. "Very difficult at a tactical level to interpret an opponent that plays in an original, atypical, very effective way with five open shooters, with a world-class star, and with other excellent shooters, a team that shoots threes more and better, that runs more in transition."

"It is a team that if you let them play, drives you crazy and can make you dizzy by scoring a triple at the end of possession after running like a headless chicken for 23 seconds," Scariolo compared. "It is a difficult team, and we will see if we are mentally capable of living up to what a EuroBasket quarterfinal entails and what it demands from us."

The entire Finnish team has been efficient from the field throughout the tournament. They rank third in three-point percentage, first in free throw percentage, and tied fourth in assists per game.

Although only two players - Sasu Salin and Edon Maxhuni - average 10 or more points per game besides Markkanen, Scariolo does not underestimate anyone.

"The question is not so much defending him but the whole team that is full of shooters besides Salin and [Petteri] Koponen, who are extraordinary at that," the coach answered when asked about the ways of defending Markkanen.

"In general, a lot of their players shoot three-pointers. You have to defend him but do it very intelligently and very carefully so as not to open other leaks elsewhere," Scariolo explained. "When you have so much court to cover, the task of the players is always more complicated, especially so as not to get distracted or get lost in unnecessary help, not to become swallowed in the paint if it is not necessary. It takes a very high level of concentration."

The match between Finland and Spain will open the quarterfinal round of the EuroBasket 2022 today. The duel is scheduled for 17:15 CET and can be watched on Courtside 1891.

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