The Eurobasket 2013 Quarterfinals are set and ready to kick off. Teams have finally reached the key part in the competition where everything is on the line. It’s now win or go home. Which team will come out on top? Who will advance? Whose hearts will get broken on the hardwood?
Spain vs. Serbia
Serbia will need to make adjustments. They have key players who are not at a hundred percent health. Stefan Markovic and Nemanja Nedovic are currently listed as “doubtful” for their game against Spain. Nenad Krstic will need to come up with a big game and make Spain’s Marc Gasol work hard on the defensive end. Krstic’s veteran presence will be in setting the tone for his younger teammates, who will need to take their defensive intensity up to another level, just to meet Spain head on. The young Serbs will have to be on point and move the ball well in order to control the tempo of the game from the early goings. Bogdan Bogdanovic will need to provide Krstic with some help on offense and if he’s able to play, combo-guard Nemanja Nedovic will be an asset as a threat from downtown.
For Spain, clearly they need the Marc Gasol who showed up in their recent game against Italy to be there once again. Aside from his defense, Gasol will also need to be a factor down low. He can force Serbia’s defense to collapse on him, allowing him to find an open teammate who can knock down a shot from long range. Gasol, Rubio and Calderon are all capable passers, but when the offense flows through Marc, opposing defenses have to react and not let him have his way in the paint.
Slovenia vs. France
This will be an interesting duel between two very talented point guards, France’s Tony Parker and Slovenia’s Goran Dragic. That being said, it is very clear to everyone that the game cannot, should not, fall onto the shoulders of these two players alone. It will be a team effort. It will come down to which team is best able to rally behind their respective point guards to carve out the victory.
“Nobody can win by himself,” said Parker’s San Antonio Spurs teammate Nando de Colo. “We must be together and if we want to do something good now, every player must be ready. If you play, one, five, 20, 40 minutes, you must think about the team. We know Tony is our first option in offense. But we must be there to help.”
Even though many expect this game to be a war, Slovenia has a distinct and not-so-intangible advantage over the French squad and that’s the home court advantage. Statistically, when games are close and the win is on the line, it’s the roar of the crowd that has time and again lifted many teams’ spirits for that extra push. Mirza Begic and veteran Bostjan Nachbar will need to attack the basket.
A big factor for France will be whether they can avoid a fourth quarter collapse. They’ve been complacent at times during the tournament and a few teams have seized the initiative and made the French pay. Alexis Ajinca and Nicolas Batum will be key in relieving some of the pressure they know is coming Parker’s way.
Croatia vs. Ukraine
For their hard work, execution of good basketball fundamentals and their drive to win, both of these teams were rewarded with quarterfinals berths.
Ukraine does not have any clear stars who dominate any particular aspect of the game, whether on offense or defense. They’ve reached this point by playing smart basketball and ubiquitously “finding the open man” time and again. It’s so simple, it works.
Croatia on the other hand, have been on an absolute tear, winning seven straight games after their initial opening day loss to Spain. Have they peaked too early though? Do they have enough to punch through to the next round? Both Bojan Bogdanovic and Ante Tomic have to bring their A-games against the Ukrainian team. At this point, the worst thing Croatia can do is rest on their laurels and underestimate their opponents.
If Ukraine’s Sergii Gladyr can once again heat up from beyond the arc, things will definitely flow much smoother for his team overall, as Croatia’s defense will be forced to stretch out. Viacheslav Kravstov will have an interesting match-up versus Croatia’s Tomic in the paint. Whichever big man is able to assert himself and clean up on the glass, will be a key factor.
Italy vs. Lithuania
Italy has a tough task ahead. The Lithuanian’s are expected to pound the ball in the low post and take advantage of their size. If the Italian’s shots from the outside don’t fall, then will be in trouble. They need their three-point shooting to serve as an “equalizer” in the game. With a few good rallies, while they have a shooting rhythm going, the momentum of a game can quickly shift in their favor. They are coming off a high, with their win against Spain, and both their morale and confidence will be important factors in determining their success. They will look to follow the lead of stand-outs Alessandro Gentile and Luigi Datome. Marco Bellinelli has also shown that he can turn things up on the offensive end, but has been known to be a streaky shooter.
“It’s really important,” Belinelli said. “We won six games. We beat one of the best teams at this European championship with Spain. But at the same time, it’s important for us to fly down and be ready to play against Lithuania. They are a great team and have experience.”
Lithuania has the ability to match Italy’s firepower on the outside, but they will be counting on their defense to make a victory possible. If they can easily convert defensive stops into transition baskets, then they will have a distinct advantage in this match-up. Various players have stepped up at different points in the tournament for Lithuania, making their depth one of their better assets as well. Mantas Kalneitis needs to exemplify consistency and should get some solid support from Linas Kleiza, Jonas Valanciunas and Renaldas Seibutis.