EuroBasket: Good day for Russia, Macedonia. Yes, Macedonia.
Going into EuroBasket — the combination European championships and Olympic qualifying tournament — Macedonia had never won a single game in the event.
Now, they are 3-0 in the second round of group play and locked in for the knockout stages. That means they have a chance to make the Olympics (top two finishers at EuroBasket get those slots, so probably not Macedonia) or the pre-Olympic qualifying tournament next summer (finishers 3 to 6 at this event, which could happen).
Here are the results from Thursday in the weaker Group F (all the best teams are in Group E and they will have some real huge games on Friday). As a reminder, there are six teams in Group F and the top four advance to the eight-team knockout stage.
Russia 79, Finland 60: The fact that Russia won by only 19 is the shocker here. Russia was so much the better team you might have been better off watching “Basketball Wives.” Okay, nothing is that bad, but you get the idea. This felt like one of those painful 1 seed vs. 16 seed NCAA Tournament games. Andrei Kirilenko had 14 points for Russia.
Russia is now 3-0 and on into the knockout round. They are the one real threat to win this thing in this Group F (Spain, Turkey, Lithuania are all in the other group, heck Germany is 0-3 in that group). Finland making the second round at all was their victory.
Macedonia 65, Georgia 63: Bo McCalebb — you don’t know him but he has carried lightly regarded Macedonia — hit as good a buzzer beater as you’ll see with 0.2 seconds left to secure the win. McCalebb had 27 in this one. Georgia is playing without Zaza Pachulia, who is out the rest of the tournament with a leg injury.
With a 3-0 record and two games remaining in this round, Macedonia is guaranteed a spot in the knockout round quarterfinals. If Georgia (1-2) wants to make the knockout round they need some help — both Macedonia and Finland need to beat Slovenia, then Georgia needs to beat Greece and Finland. Honestly, Finland isn’t beating anybody, so Georgia may be just playing out the string.
Greece 69, Slovenia 60: EuroBasket has shown us some beautiful basketball. This was the exception to that rule. It was not pretty to watch, and that includes pretty much everything Goran Dragic did. Greece hit their threes down the stretch and get the win.
What this means is Greece likely finishes second or third in this group, Slovenia will end up third or fourth and both move on to the next round.