Day 16, and second day of the quarter-final stage. Today sees Greece face France and Russia play against Serbia. It also saw Lithuania secure a place at the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, winning in yet another heartbreaking game, their fate decided in the last frantic seconds.
Slovenia 77 - 80 Lithuania:
I didn't watch the game, but it was decided in the closing seconds. Erazem Lorbek seems to have made an important 3-pointer for Slovenia to give them the lead, then Songaila committed a TO for the hosts, followed by a TO by Goran Dragic, which was followed by a dagger from Kalnietis, giving his team a 79-77 edge. He then had the chance to seal it, but only made one of two free throws. Dragic's three at the buzzer didn't go in.
Lithuania rescued whatever there still was to be rescued in this Eurobasket - they earned a spot at the Olympics. Losing to FYROM was definitely a disappointment, but getting their act together enough to prevail against Slovenia - after just a day - was rather impressive.
now to the important stuff:
France vs Greece:
You might not know it, but France has been on the verge of winning it all for the past 11 years. They lost to a superior Team USA back in 2000, earned bronze in the next tournament, lost to Greece in 2005 in the semis, after alowing an epic 7-point comeback in the last 35'', then they defeated Greece (or rather Greece tanked the game, a decision that didn't sit well with me) during last Eurobasket on a miraculous shot by De Colo and were mauled by Spain in the quarters. They are out for blood today. They will look to invest on their superior athleticism and their undiputed leader, Tony Parker. The addition of Joakim Noah made France a contender, since they now have a presence in the lane, on both ends of the floor.
Greece on the other hand will try to defend, not miss any rebounds and avoid turnovers on the offensive end. For Greece, this tournament already is a success - the revamped national team admittedly had a good draw, but did their due and beat teams of similar talent level during pool play. They lost to Russia and FYROM, but bounced back both times, and hope for the upset today. This might just happen, if Parker has an off-night: France is dry behind him in the PG spot, as his backups are either inexperienced or not passers of the same class (De Colo is a scoring guard, not a playmaker).
Expect a slow and ugly game, where turnovers count more than assists. If France is allowed to play their game, their talent and overflowing athleticism will win the game - if Greece can contain them, they can hope for the upset.
Serbia vs Russia:
There are two aspects in this game: How will Serbia stop Russia's frontcourt? And will Serbia's backcourt finally live up to its potential? Shved has been playing really well this tournament, but the serbian backcourt is as inconsistent as it can get. Teodosic can beat Shved off the dribble and create 4 on 5 situations, which Russia cannot handle well. The frontcourt question is of another nature. Serbia doesn't lack for big bodies, but Russia gives the impression of only featuring 7-footers. Kirilenko is one of the most consistent players in the tournament, with all-around presence and improvisation at the offensive end. The game will be slow. I expect nothing spectacular to happen. Russia will probably win, barring a surprise resurrection of the serbian backcourt.