clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Willy Hernangómez and Spain play Poland on Saturday in EuroBasket Round of 16

As EuroBasket 2015 enters the knockout round, Spain look to recover from a sub-par performance in the group stage.

Boris Streubel/Getty Images

After stumbling through the group phase at EuroBasket, Willy Hernangómez and Spain have advanced to the Round of 16. They will face Poland on Saturday (12:30 p.m. ET) and are 14-point favorites.

The Spaniards were hit-and-miss in the group stage, blowing out Turkey one day and giving up 105 points to Italy the next. Their defense has been shaky throughout. They are allowing 82.2 points per game, struggling to defend on the perimeter and often showing minimal effort in transition.

As Pau Gasol said, "We have the talent to kill, but defense makes a difference."

Their effort and rotations will have to be on point Saturday against Marcin Gortat and Poland. It is now in a single-elimination tournament. Mishaps like this — in which Willy and Nikola Mirotic completely botch a 4-5 pick-and-roll — ain't gonna cut it.

Poland doesn't have many big names — Gortat is their only NBA player — but they're a dangerous team. Adam Waczynski, A.J. Slaughter and Mateusz Ponitka can create problems on the perimeter and Gortat will be the best center Spain has faced thus far.

Poland nearly beat host nation and tournament-favorites France in the group stage, and an upset over Spain is certainly possible.

Spain must finish within the top seven at EuroBasket to have a chance to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Facing such high stakes, it's unlikely that Willy will receive much playing time in the knockout round.

At 21-years-old, he's susceptible to defensive lapses like the one above. He's also showing his youth at the free-throw line, making just 1-of-7 attempts despite shooting 72 percent in 50 games last season.

For the most part, Willy has been solid. Surrounded by offensive firepower, he doesn't have to do much — just set good screens, roll hard and finish. He's playing that role beautifully.

He has made 10-of-12 field goal attempts (83.3 percent) and is averaging 4.2 points in his limited time on the court (5.8 minutes per game).

In Spain's 104-77 win over a strong Turkish squad, Willy played 16 minutes, scoring 11 points and grabbing six rebounds.

However, it's unlikely he'll see that much action again. If Spain beats Poland, they will most likely face powerhouse Greece in the quarterfinals. If they survive against Giannis and Co., a meeting with France looms in the semis.

Spain will need Willy to contribute some to keep Gasol from wearing down, but I'd be surprised if he plays more than four or five minutes in a game for the rest of the tournament.

You can check out Saturday's game on, and we will have a post-game recap up shortly after the final buzzer. Click here for the complete EuroBasket Round of 16 schedule.