MADRID (FIBA 3x3 World Tour) – After a long first day, all teams got a chance to nose at each other and the smell they got was that of hard, hard work. Hardly any ankle-breaking moves or flashy, easy lay-ups (or dunks, as a matter of fact) were on the menu. Instead, you could find plenty of rough, physical, inch by inch plays in games that were often won or lost under the basket, or surprisingly, behind the arc, which could also explain the often low final scores of some games.
There could be several explanations for that push and pull phenomenon: first of all, there was a substantial amount of big men (maybe due to the very strong Eastern European participation, with 8 from 15 teams hailing from that region).
Second, there was the heat, which, as unspectacular as it might seem, did not incite players to squander their resources and run around like Tasmanian devils. In fact, much of the first day was not only defined by endurance (or the lack thereof, as some more veterans teams had to realize), but also by energy efficiency. It was not about running, but about making others run, in order to pass the ball around, find open spots and hit comfortable shots from mid- or even long range.
In fact, one of the essential questions of today could be what will carry you farther: expertise (such as Madrid’s veteran team) or young, fresh legs? Well, the balance of the day clearly shows: being an old fox, you win games. Some games. But maybe it will not be enough to win tournaments at the end of the day.
And taking a look at the overall group standings, one must look another reality in the face: that Eastern Europe is putting its foot down in a strong and dominant fashion. Of the 8 participating teams from that region, 6 are at the head (or ranked second) of their respective groups, with Vilnius (does this come as a surprise?) leading group 1, Prague group 2 and Kranj group 3, while Ljubljana, Split and St. Petersburg are ranked second respectively.
But there’s still a long ways to go and many things are still possible. As it stands right now, team Malaga is looking good or even better than their third rank suggests. This might be due to the fact that they lost their last and much contested game against St. Petersburg at the buzzer beater. But also Stockholm and Paris must keep their faith and hope to qualify as one of the two best 3rd ranked teams. Or will we see the miraculous comeback of team Madrid?
Well, as said: anything is possible, but in order to find out, you have to tune in or come by personally. Whether it’s the games, the cheerleaders or the dunking: you won’t regret it.