EuroBasket ended with a dud from France and Rudy Goberta

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One by one, the NBA all-stars who brought intercontinental interest to EuroBasket were sent packing from specific tournaments.

Italy knocked out Nikola Jokic and Serbia immediately after the group stage. Giannis Antetokounmpo was thrilled to host Germany until losing in the quarterfinals to Greece. Luka Doncic exploded to 47 points in the group-stage victory, only to see Slovenia face a blow to Poland in the quarter-finals. The final NBA headliner was Rudy Gobert, whose French team suffered an 88-76 loss to Spain in the gold medal game in Berlin on Sunday.

It was a signing victory for Spain coach Sergio Scariolo, who has been overseeing a youth movement after the retirements of Pau Gasol, Marc Gasol and Sergio Rodriguez last summer. Toronto Raptors forward Juancho Hernangomez carried the torch against France with a game-high 27 points and seven three-pointers, while his brother, New Orleans Pelicans center Willie Hernangomez, won tournament MVP honors. Spain led Alabama to a national title equalizer under Nick Saban after losing their quarterback and the entire defensive line in the NFL Draft. This should not have been his year, and yet Europe’s flagship event won anyway.

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Gobert and the NBA are eager for observers to assess his game. polarizing blockbuster business The story wasn’t as well-organized or inspiring as the one that sent him from the Utah Jazz to the Minnesota Timberwolves in July. Indeed, EuroBasket proved to be a reminder that extracting maximum value from Gobert’s skills as a shot-blocker, rebounder and finisher required carefully crafted strategies and the right set of teammates to cover his boundaries. Can you

The three-time Defensive Player of the Year earned All-Tournament honors with Antetokounmpo and Dennis Schröder averaging 12.8 points and 9.8 rebounds in nine games, but he had little impact against Spain. Gobert finished with just 6 points, six rebounds and two blocks in 27 minutes as France fell into the first half hole on 21 points and never recovered.

To take three convenient examples, unlike Jokic, Antetokounmpo and Doncic, Gobert lacks the offensive skills needed to drag a team through a mid-quarter slump, consistently setting up his teammates to look easy. , to penalize a mismatch on the block, to stretch a defense with an outside shooting or to capture a close game with a fourth-quarter grab. France needed at least some of those qualities, with its offense against Spain yet another 30-year-old Gobert, who went on to claim his first national team gold at the 2020 Olympics after claiming silver and two FIBA ​​World Cup bronzes. demanding, were easily stunned.

Seeking to engage Gobert aggressively, France regularly stationed him near the free throw line, hoping to use him as a distributor in high-low configurations. But Gobert forced two of his three turnovers to pass, a consistent theme for the Frenchman, who had 19 turnovers on the night.

France coach Vincent Collet said, “From the beginning of the tournament, our weakness has been to turn the ball. ,[Spain] Scored 35 points from our turnover. We scored seven runs from him. What can we say? This figure is enough to tell you about this game. we survived [overtime games] Against Turkey and Italy, and we could have already died because of these turnovers. ,

Down the stretch, France turned to New York Knicks guard Ivan Fournier, who finished with a team-high 23 points, but never had much success in a two-man game with Gobert. In Utah, jazz coach Quinn Snyder enlisted Gobert as a screen-setter and pick-and-roll target, with shooters positioned around the arch to give them as much room as possible to work. Spacing is hard to come by in international play, and Gobert spent most of the night lost at sea to the Spanish internal defenders.

Instead of challenging Gobert directly, Spain neutralized his defensive influence through skillful, careful offense and heated outside shooting. By spreading the lineup and moving the ball ahead of France’s defence, Spain produced high-quality perimeter form and driving lanes when Gobert was removed from the paint. Of course, Gobert has encountered similar strategies in the NBA playoffs, when opposing offenses have forced him to move as much as possible and protect smaller, faster bowlers in space.

The takeaway for the Timberwolves, who parted ways with four first-round picks and a package of players to take down Gobert, is simple and profound: Their new center can quickly appear mortal without the right support systems and personnel.

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Utah managed to launch a league-leading attack with Gobert by keeping and bombing three or four capable shooters on the court at all times. That’s promising news for Minnesota, which last season was the only team to attempt more three-pointers than Utah. Carl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Edwards, and D’Angelo Russell are all high-volume shooters, which should allow Gobert to move freely around the basket where he is most comfortable.

Russell will take on the added burden of feeding Gobert into the pick and roll, however, as both Towns and Edwards are naturally wired as score-first players. Meanwhile, Edwards and Russell must serve as Minnesota close, covering up Gobert’s lack of shot-creation and off-the-dribble skills. While there’s a lot left to work on, Minnesota’s aggressive ceiling is much more.

Defensively, Towns and Gobert will continue to find themselves targeted by opponents who want to eliminate them, get them out of position and upset them with fouls. The Timberwolves’ post-season fate may hang over whether the two big men can move forward enough to contribute to a functional perimeter defense. After all, Utah conceded 15.5 three-pointers per game in their first-round series loss to the Dallas Mavericks – nearly double the Jazz’s average – and France allowed Spain to shoot a blistering 15-for-31 from outside on Sunday .

The Gobert Gambit has the potential to lead to Minnesota’s first playoff series win since 2004, and perhaps even more. To reach those heights, the Timberwolves must reflect on France’s flop and cast them as a nudge-able piece over the top, rather than asking Gobert to be a franchise savior.

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