The last day of the second stage: In Group F we've got Finland duking it out with Slovenia for a last ticket to Kaunas and the knockout stage of the tournament, Georgia still looking for their first victory in the second round and Russia looking to prove they are still unbeaten for a reason against FYROM.
Slovenia vs Finland:
By now we know what to expect from both teams. Finland, with their never-say-die attitude, their trigger-happy guards and the non-existent frontcourt. Slovenia, the talented team that crumbles under pressure, and still mourns the loss of Beno Udrih, who would be an extra option on the perimeter. Our own Goran Dragic single-handedly kept Slovenia in the game two days ago, scoring the first 11 points of his team to help chase a solid FYROM team that threatened to pull ahead, and finished the game with 20 points, but fouled out with 5 rebounds and 6 TOs, not being the leader Slovenia still lacks.
Finland on the other hand pulled a so-called upset over a depleted Georgia - it was a given that Georgia's backcourt would only with difficulty control the rythm, and in the absence of main offensive threats (and defensive scarecrows) Zaza Pachulia and George Tsintsadze, they relied heavily on Viktor Sanikidze. The Finns had six players in double figures, displaying their usual fondness for outside shooting and going 13-26 from deep. They were more agressive, earning more FTs than Georgia, and deserved the win - they had more rebounds and assists and less turnovers than Georgia.
As far as today's game is concerned, this is a game with no tomorrow for Slovenia - they are the hosts of next Eurobasket, and wanted to draw attention in Lithuania. A string of unfortunate events - sweaty defeats of lesser opponents and defeats in the hands of same-level opponents, led them into a premature final of sorts, against Finland. If Slovenia have the cool head to defend and feed their big men they will stay in control - if their 3s fall, they'll even stretch the floor. Their chances are proportional to their levelheadedness. Finland? They just have to keep on playing as they've been - if they stay close enough gor enough time, Slovenia will crumble by themselves.
Greece vs Georgia:
nothing much to say - Georgia are missing two key players, Greece comes off a defeat at the hands of Russia. I expect Greece to show up focused in the first half, stifle the georgian frontcourt and feed the big men. The game should already be turning into a blowout by the time the 3s start to fall. Then Georgia will mount a desperate comeback, which will be fended off. Period.
FYROM vs Russia:
Shved had the greek defense running (they literally played pick'n'roll for 40 minutes... it was not pleasant), but started looking confuzzled when Calathes finally started driving himself. A pity it was far too late for that - but Bo McCalebb will drive hard, and will drive from the beginning. FYROM have been overachieving up to now, but can they stop Kirilenko? Or the monsters Russia fields at the F and C spots? Russia has a pair of alternative scoring plans, all of them equally reliable. I expect a physical game, with Russia coming out on top.
As you might have observed (a cunning observation, no doubt) I have far more to say for the first game, much less for the other two. It's not that the games aren't interesting in their own right (they're not that interesting), but the first on is the only meaningful.
I think I'll write a recap of the last stage tomorrow, and will even post a picture of the brackets (ths things I do for
love TDS...). See you!