Preview by Yarone Arbel
|Marko Keselj's shooting percentage could prove a key factor. If the Serbia small forward does damage from outside, the Russia defence will be forced to open up and leave spaces in the paint for Krstic|
Fourth Quarter-Final | Thursday at 21:00 (20:00 CET)
The game that will close the curtain of the quarter-final phase will pair Serbia with Russia.
The two powerhouses will fight for the right to face the winner of the encounter between France and Greece in the Semi-Finals on Friday evening.
Russia and Serbia met two years ago in the same phase and back then the latter won by 11 points and moved on to win a silver medal.
Yet there is much wider historical aspect.
Theese two countries were part of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, which used to control world basketball for decades.
USSR won the title 14 times while Yugoslavia won eight gold medals.
Together they won more than half of the competitions, and played each other in the finals no less than eight times.
Now their unofficial successors meet on the floor in Kaunas for a big battle.
The teams walked two different paths in EuroBasket 2011.
Serbia won four games in a row, then felt three hits in a row with the last of them being a huge defeat to Spain and in the last moment stepped up to beat and eliminate Turkey, avenging their semi-final loss at the FIBA World Championship 2010.
Russia have yet to drop a single game at EuroBasket 2011 and have proven their ability to win close games.
Sergey Monya hit two clutch shots, almost from the exact same spot on the floor, in two key games - first to top Group D and later to win Group E.
Both wins were against former Yugoslavia countries - Slovenia and F.Y.R. of Macedonia.
The only team left from former Yugoslavia in the EuroBasket is Serbia.
Could Monya take down all the former-Yugoslavia representatives left?
QUARTER-FINAL ANALYSIS BY CLAUDIO COLDEBELLA - BLATT AND TEODOSIC TALK ABOUT THEIR RIVALS
Head-to-Head: The two sides met twice before, in each of the last two EuroBaskets. In 2007 Russia beat Serbia 73-65 in the opening game of their EuroBasket journey to the gold medal, while in 2009 it was Serbia who took revenge with a 79-68 victory on their way to the silver medal.
Last Time Out: Russia topped F.Y.R. of Macedonia 63-61, to win their group behind a three-pointer at the buzzer by Sergey Monya. Serbia edged Turkey 68-67 to clinch the last quarter-final spot from their group.
Key Match-Up: Timofey Mozgov is Russia's top big guy. At 2.15m he's the only body that can match Serbia's Nenad Krstic. With Krstic leading Serbia with 15.9 points per game, and Mozgov leading Russia with 1.4 blocks per game, this will be an interesting encounter, and if Mozgov fails to stop Krstic Serbia will be surfing a wave and Russia will have to bring help on Krstic for the rest of the night.
Key Stat: Serbia is one of the best offensive teams here with 81.1 points per game, good enough for the 3rd spot in the rankings. They have scored 89 points or more in half of their games here. Russia have the best defense here allowing only 63.6 points. These two figures will collide sooner or later, yet Serbia proved they can win a low scoring game already against Turkey. Do Russia have the tools to score more than Serbia in case Dusan Ivkovic's team sets the tone?
X-Factor: Marko Keselj is one of the best shooters Serbia got. He's ranked 9th in "3 Pts Field Goals Made" with 2.3 per game and 5th in "3 Pts Field Goals Percentage" with 54.5%. Yet Keselj went cold in the last two games making none of his four attempts. The fact his numbers are still ranked that high after the last two games tells just how big his performances were before. If Keselj connects his shots again, especially considering the crowded defense of Russia in the paint, Serbia will have an easier ride.
Sounding Off: "We survived the most difficult part of this EuroBasket, which was the previous group where every team was a powerhouse. I believe in this game we'll have less pressure on us and everybody will see a more relaxed Serbian team," says Serbia's Marko Keselj.