Claver Meets Batum in Eurobasket Semifinals

Nov. 21, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Portland Trail Blazers forward Victor Claver (18) and forward Nicolas Batum (88) stand on the court during the game against the Phoenix Suns in the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

To the surprise of nobody, Spain and France will face off today at 12:00 p.m. PST in the semifinals of Eurobasket 2013. The winner will most certainly be favored against the winner of the other semifinal, which sees Lithuania playing Croatia. While the France versus Spain game is replete with plenty of big-name NBA talent such as Marc Gasol, Tony Parker, and Ricky Rubio, Blazers fans will be interested in the fact that it pits Victor Claver (Spain) against Nicolas Batum (France).

While France and Spain were almost guaranteed to meet at some point in the tournament, one still has to marvel at the fact that the two teammates here in Portland are now meeting in a tournament on nearly the other side of the world. Basketball truly a global sport now, and this is a just a microcosm.

I digress, though – this is the money game of the tournament. Just because this isn’t the NBA, don’t even think about writing this game off. Both teams are chock full of NBA talent, and boast legitimate superstars in Parker and Gasol. France has extra motivation, as they have not beat Spain in a Eurobasket competition since 2005, so they’ll be itching for some payback. Spain, however, is going for the three-peat – they have won the last two Eurobasket competitions.

Additionally, both Blazer representatives contributed in their respective teams’ wins in the quarterfinals. Batum put up a very Batum-like line with 14 points on 5-11 shooting, to go with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block. Claver had a more pedestrian performance, with nine points on 3-8 shooting in addition to two offensive rebounds. Spain, however, won by a blowout, so Claver and the Spanish team were never truly tested.

To be honest, this will likely be the highest quality basketball a fan can watch until Opening Day (yes this beats pre-season games). It is a huge bonus in particular for us Portland fans, as we will get to see two of our very own in action.

As for results: I still see Spain taking this one. They just have too much depth and talent. They know how to turn it on during big games, and they have ruled this tournament for the past several years. France has to rely heavily on Tony Parker, who, to be fair, is somehow playing some of the best basketball of his career at this age. An off-game from him could be fatal, while Spain has more than enough pieces to step up if there are any off-games. They also had an easier quarterfinal game, with no player logging over 25 minutes. In comparison, both Batum and Parker had to play 35 minutes in their quarterfinal game.

In any case, tune in tomorrow on ESPN3 if you have the chance.

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Topics: EuroBasket, Nicolas Batum, Portland Trail Blazers, Victor Claver

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