The last day of the 2013 FIBA Eurobasket quarterfinals promises a slam-bang affair, as two teams that took very different roads clash for the last seat in the semifinals. After the group stages, all the teams that advanced won the important games, meaning that a fairly inconsistent team can take its game up a notch and crash the party.
Linas Kleiza (right) is among the core pieces of the Lithuanian national team.
In this preview, we will take a look at a matchup between a team that took the royal road to the quarters, and a feisty contender that pulled off an upset against the defending champions to take the last seat in the knockout round.
Game 4: Lithuania vs. Italy
Lithuania comes into the quarterfinals full of confidence, shaking off an uneven first round to sweep all of their games in the second round. Throughout the tournament, there has been no single best player for the team from the Baltic coast; what they have, though, is a terrific trio of scorers: center Donatas Motiejunas, guard Renaldas Seibutis and forward Linas Kleiza. Motiejunas and Kleiza both have NBA experience and are known to be excellent scorers with good range. In the case of Motiejunas, the Houston Rockets center-forward is still learning how to play the post game. Kleiza, on the other hand, has good size for a small forward and has a mean shooting streak.
Italy, on the other hand, is playing without Toronto Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani. Without Bargnani's scoring punch, Italy lost steam in the second round after a hot first round. However, they were able to upset defending champions Spain in overtime. Coach Simone Pianigiani's team is short on height; thus, the Italians' hopes are locked on 20-year-old swingman Alessandro Gentile, Detroit Pistons draft pick Luigi Datome, and San Antonio guard Marco Belinelli. Gentile scored 25 points in the upset of Spain and 20 in a losing effort against Slovenia, and is definitely one man worth observing in the next few years.
Both teams are very trigger-happy, and the game should turn into a shootout. However, with only Marco Cusin in the post, Italy has very limited inside options. Lithuania is a deeper team across the board, and has the luxury of rotating five players 6'1" and taller, with one sliding down to power forward. In a game of attrition, Lithuania has the upperhand and should win by 15 or lower.
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