By Jeff Taylor
|Guard Nikos Zisis, Greece's main threat from the perimeter, will probably miss Saturday's game after spraining his ankle against Serbia |
Fifth Place Game- Saturday at 21:00 (20:00 CET)
No matter what happens on Saturday, Greece coach Ilias Zouros and all of his players will leave the EuroBasket in Kaunas believing they accomplished their mission.
The main aim for the Greeks was to learn how to play defense under Zouros, gain experience and earn a trip to the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
In a 24-team tournament like the EuroBasket, Greece knew nothing was going to come easy but they held their nerve when it mattered and stayed in the hunt for the London Games.
The Greeks won four of five games in Group C but finished second to the only team to beat them in the First Round, F.Y.R. of Macedonia.
Then, in Group F, the Greeks fell to Russia but came out on top against Slovenia and Georgia and went into the Quarter-Finals looking to spring a major upset against France.
While they executed Zouros' game-plan to near perfection and got 17 points and 11 rebounds from center Ioannis Bourousis, the French were too good in the end.
They bounced back, however, with a huge win over Serbia on Friday to clinch a spot in next year's qualifying tournament for the London Games.
Nikos Zisis, one of Greece's leading players, sprained his ankle late in the win over Serbia and won't be able to play on Saturday.
Lithuania fell short of their lofty expectations.
The host nation, like Greece, won four of their five First Round games but suffered a heavy defeat to Spain and came in second in Group A.
Next in Group E, the Lithuanians won a vital game against Serbia, 100-90, and after falling to France, earned a Quarter-Final place with an 84-75 triumph over Dirk Nowitzki and Germany.
In the last eight, however, the unthinkable happened for the players, coaches, federation and fans.
Minnows F.Y.R. of Macedonia continued their remarkable run at the EuroBasket with a 67-65 victory over the Lithuanians.
Mantas Kalnietis rescued the host nation with a late three-ball to help give the Baltic side a three-point win over Slovenia in the Classification Round.
The triumph meant that at least Lithuania had secured a spot in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Head-to-Head: The teams have met four times at the EuroBasket over the years and Greece have won just once. In their most recent meeting, at EuroBasket 2007 in Spain, Lithuania prevailed 78-69 over the Greeks.
Last Time Out: Lithuania beat Slovenia, 80-77, and Greece defeated Serbia, 87-77.
Key Match-Up: Nick Calathes of Greece v Mantas Kalnietis of Lithuania
Key Stat: Ioannis Bourousis had 27 points in a dominating display against Serbia.
X-Factor: Jonas Valanciunas of Lithuania
Sounding Off: "We have one more game left to play. We want to finish strong. We have to do it for ourselves and for our fans," says Lithuania coach Kestutis Kemzura