Preview by Yarone Arbel
|"Although we haven't lost yet there are still a lot of things we need to improve and the game against Greece will be one where we'll have to show that improvement," says Russia forward Andrei Kirilenko|
GROUP F - SATURDAY AT 21:00 (20:00 CET)
When two of the last three EuroBasket champs meet each other on the floor the only sure thing is that it's going to be an interesting encounter to follow.
Both teams started the Second Round with a win, and while Russia earned their ticket to the next round by taking a 3-0 record, Greece are now holding a 2-1 balance missing a single win to stamp their ticket.
Russia have yet to drop a game at the EuroBasket and they are just two games away from the stage where you can't afford to lose.
Finishing a EuroBasket without a loss is very difficult, even more so in the enlarged version of the competition.
If Russia want to go far, and they do, there's no better time to lose than today.
Yet it's still David Blatt's gang, one that doesn't want and hates to lose.
Don't expect them to give up on any game, but in their situation it's easier to accept a bad performance, for the sake of future days.
Greece are missing some players here, but the ones that showed up bring the classic hard-nosed style that won them some games and medals between 2005 and 2010.
It seems like Greece's Coach Zouros knows what he'll get from his players on the floor.
Other than F.Y.R. of Macedonia no team has scored more than 69 points against Greece while on the other side of the floor, other than the game against Finland, Greece didn't pass 76 points.
Blatt as well has a pretty consistent system and if you leave out the game versus Bulgaria Russia didn't allow any team more than 64 points and didn't score more than 79.
Expect a game of 65-70 points on each side that will go down to the closing minutes.
Head-to-Head: The two giants played each other no less than seven times with Russia better Greece in five of these games. This is the fourth EuroBasket in a row the two teams meet. It started when Greece beat Russia in the quarter-finals of 2005 on the way to the gold medal, and Russia won the following two.
Last Time Out: Greece topped Slovenia 69-60 behind 19 points by Nikos Zisis while Russia jumped over Finland 79-60 to remain perfect in the championship.
Key Match-Up: Andrei Kirilenko and Antonios Fotsis are both members of the class of 1981. They've played against each other almost every summer since the U16 European Championship in 1997. Now they are the top players of their teams in this EuroBasket, playing at the same position yet bringing different things to the floor. If Kirilenko is able to stop Fotsis from hitting his three point shots and be dominant on offense, as usual, Russia will be on their way to maintaining their perfect record.
Key Stat: Greece scored nine three pointers in 52.9%, including some clutch shots in the last minutes, to beat Slovenia. Keeping in mind Greece's tournament average before that game was lower than 30%, the big question is can they repeat it one more night?
X-Factor: Kostas Koufos of Greece is having a pretty stable championship so far with 8.7 points and 4.8 rebounds. He had one double-double on opening day and 19 points against F.Y.R. of Macedonia, but in the other games his contribution was solid. In order to beat Russia with their intense defense, Greece will need Koufos to be a real force in the paint.
Sounding Off: "We need to get better game by game. Although we haven't lost yet there are still a lot of things we need to improve to go far in this EuroBasket, and the game against Greece will be one where we'll have to show that improvement," says Russia's Andrei Kirilenko.