Preview by Yarone Arbel
|If Greece guard Kostas Vasileiadis is indeed one of the best three-point shooters in Europe as Yarone Arbel reckons, today will be the perfect oppurtunity for him to prove it|
Group F - Thursday at 21:00 (20:00 CET)
The main game on the opening day in Group E features two powerhouses of European basketball, in Greece and Slovenia.
Slovenia missed the top spot in Group D to Russia and as a result arrived to Vilnius with a 1-1 record.
Greece was shocked by F.Y.R. of Macedonia by 14 points and carry that loss with them to stand on 1-1 as well.
This means the winner of the game will take not only have a one win advantage, with only two games to play, but also hold a better position in case of a tie-breaker will be needed.
With the intimidating teams arriving to the Quarter-Finals from the parallel group, this game can prove to be a "make or break" affair.
While nobody on the Greek team but Antonios Fotsis was born before 1983, in Slovenia we see no less than five players, all of them playing massive minutes, which are already 30 or older.
The two-day gap gave the older squad of Slovenia time to rest their bodies but in such an intense defensive battle fatigue could become a factor as well.
This is expected to be one of the most intense games in this round, mostly due to the close history these two teams share, as mentioned below.
With the pressure that comes with the importance of the game, the slow pace of both teams, the very hard defense on each side and the close history don't be surprised to see this game decided in the last seconds as well.
Head-to-Head: These two played each other five teams already with Slovenia winning the first three games; Greece were on top in the last two. Yet the most important games of the five were the last two in the previous two EuroBaskets. In 2007, Greece won the Quarter-Final battle 63-62 after one of the biggest comebacks in EuroBasket history from 49-61 with 2:40 to play. Two years ago the two sides played for the bronze medal and once again Greece won by a single point, 63-62 this time.
Last Time Out: Slovenia led for 39:59.8 minutes against Russia but lost right with the buzzer and missed the top spot in Group D. Greece eliminated Croatia with a 74-69 victory to finish second in Group C.
Key Match-Up: Greece's Antonios Fotsis and Slovenia's Erazem Lorbek are two major forces in today's European basketball. Their top performance in EuroBasket 2011 for their national teams is another proof for that, if anyone needed that. Lorbek averaged so far 12.6 points and 5.6 rebounds while Fotsis is almost identical with 13 points and 3.8 rebounds.
Key Stat: Both teams are ranked in the lower third of the 24 teams on offense, and are only second and third to Russia in the Points Allowed category. Defensive figures will decide this encounter.
X-Factor: Kostas Vasileiadis of Greece is one of the best three point shooters in Europe. He was just one out of 13 in the first three Preliminary Round games but in the last two hit three in each game with good accuracy. If he continues this way against Slovenia, Greece will earn nine or even more points from long distance and in a game that is expected to be so defense-oriented it can make a huge difference.
Sounding Off: "We can get a lot from the first game against Greece and we have to take it as one of the finals, however we cannot be obsessed with that. This is a long tournament, a lot of games are played and at the end the champion will be the team which will be physically and psychologically the best. Greece is a great squad, although they don't have the best players with them and they play great defense. They don't allow big number of points so I think they will play very controlled." -Slovenia's Jaka Lakovic.