The first day of FIBA Eurobasket 2013 was one full of upsets and surprises. Germany outlasted France, 80-74; Finland pulled off a 61-55 shocker against Turkey; and Latvia upended Bosnia and Herzegovina to the tune of 86-75.
Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies center and member of the Spanish national basketball team, provided bulletin board material for Team USA when he said the 2012 U.S. basketball team wouldn't stand a chance against 1992's Dream Team.
Thursday's group games should be no different as all 24 teams return to action. Here are the group games that you should not miss:
Group C: Spain vs Slovenia (3:00 a.m Manila/Perth Time) - FIBA EuroBasket Boxscores & Stats Information of every EuroBasket Game
This meeting between two opening-game winners will feature intriguing match-ups both in the frontcourt and the backcourt. Spain has the core of its 2012 Olympics guard corps coming back for Eurobasket 2013; Ricky Rubio, Jose Calderon and Sergio Rodriguez should prove to be a handful for any opposition at the European level. However, with both Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka begging off from this year's competition, only Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol has had high-level experience.
Slovenia, on the other hand, will rely heavily on veteran power forward Jure Balazic and Phoenix Suns guard Goran Dragic for offense. Dragic has been an able playmaker so far this tournament, dishing out 9 assists in their cliffhanger win against the Czech Republic. They also have an intimidating inside presence in Mirza Begic, who was the top shot blocker in Eurobasket 2011. All told, this will be an exciting game marked by physicality and defense.
Decimated by the loss of top players Andrei Kirilenko and Timofey Mozgov, Russia dropped a painful loss to Italy, where they trailed by double digits for most of the game and fell short trying to catch up. It's not that they weren't producing offensively; Alexey Shved, Vitaly Fridzon, and Sergey Monia scored in double digits. The trio, though, shot a combined 15-of-36 from the field. The rest of the team also failed to provide support when it mattered the most. The Russians need to distribute the ball better if they plan to advance in the tournament.
Greece dominated European minnows Sweden in their opening game on Wednesday; they unleashed a 24-8 second quarter and never looked back. In contrast to Russia, six Greek players scored seven points or more; Vassilis Spanoulis led his team with 13 and Ioannis Bourosis added 12. They also clamped down on Sweden's inside scoring, blocking 8 shots (with two players having two blocks each) and altering even more. In the absence of the usual big names in the Russian roster, inside defense might spell the difference between a close game and a blowout.
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