September 18 and 19 should prove to be exciting, as only the strongest teams were able to make it to the knock-out quarterfinals to be played in Ljubljana. At the end of the group stages, those who advanced were the ones who won the games that really mattered. Such is the weight of the second round that even those that had good first-round results did not even make to the quarterfinals. Finland had a 4-1 card in Group D play, but dropped two second-round games to finish with an inferior quotient behind Spain. Greece and Latvia suffered the same fate after blistering starts in the tournament.
Serbian point guard Nemanja Nedovic calls out a play during the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket.
As the quarterfinals approach, individual match-ups become more important than ever. In this preview, we will look at the games scheduled on Wednesday, and predict possible outcomes.
Game 1: Serbia vs. Spain
Having already qualified for the 2014 FIBA World Cup by virtue of being the hosts, one would have expected Spain to just coast through the tournament. However, the Spaniards are too proud to just let go of the crown they have held since 2009. Playing minus big men Pau Gasol and Serge Ibaka, who were big factors in the team's runner-up finish in the 2012 Olympics, Spain leaned on the steady play of Marc Gasol and the playmaking and outside shooting of their backcourt led by Ricky Rubio and Jose Calderon. Spain lost two games in the second round, but a 26-point win over Finland was all they needed to catapult themselves into the next round.
Serbia had a slightly easier route in the second round, losing just one game and placing first in Group E, thanks to an earlier win over Lithuania which sported an identical 4-1 record. The Serbians would like to bounce back after a disappointing eight-place finish in Eurobasket 2011, and they have assembled a formidable crew to do just that. Serbia's strength lies mainly in their platoon of big men, led by veteran center Nenad Krstic and backstopped by four other players standing 6'10" or taller. Their guards are no pushovers, either -- their starting shooting guard, Nemanja Nedovic, was drafted 30th overall by the Phoenix Suns.
Both teams like to play a bruising style of basketball, marked by inside incursions and penetration. Without Pau Gasol and Ibaka patrolling Spain's shaded lane, Serbia will have a relatively easier time in the paint, but will have problems containing Marc Gasol defensively. They can also light it up from outside, and Spain has the upperhand in this regard. Nevertheless, this game should be an exciting one, and the team that makes the proper adjustments will punch themselves a ticket to the semifinals.
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