The 2013 FIBA EuroBasket quarterfinal resumes on Thursday with another tasty quarterfinal battle in Italy vs. Lithuania and Croatia vs. Ukraine at Arena Stožice in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
With France and Spain already setting the stage for a star-studded semifinal showdown, the winning teams out of these remaining quarterfinal games are expected to provide more drama in the penultimate stage of the tournament.
Lithuania vs. Italy
Lithuania opened their EuroBasket campaign flat, suffering losses against Serbia and the unheralded Bosnia and Herzogovina in the first round. However, the Lithuanians finally found their peak form in the second round as they defeated France, Belgium and Ukraine. Their exploit in the second phase of the tournament awarded them the no.2 spot in Group 3 and a showdown with the skidding Italy in the quarterfinal round.
On the other hand, the Italians kicked off the tournament in a resounding fashion as they swept their first five assignments in the first round. However, they slowly found out that the tournament was tougher than they expected in the second round with Slovenia, Croatia and Spain all coming in from the other group. Italians dropped their game against Slovenia and Croatia before pulling off a 86-81 squeaker against Spain.
Lithuania will be banking on their height advantage in this quarterfinal match-up. Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas, Houston Rockets power forward Donatas Motiejūnas and former NBA player Linas Kleiza are all expected to provide big numbers for Lithuania, which is bracing for big output from Italy's Marco Belinelli and Italian League MVP Luigi Datome.
Based on their play in the second round, the Lithuania-Italy showdown is expected to be a defensive tussle with physicality all over the floor. Unlike the result in the first two quarterfinals, Italy and Lithuania will be close down to the final minutes. At the end, I still see Lithuania advancing to the semifinal mainly because of their youngsters. Motiejunas and Valanciunas will have a big time game in this one and it will be enough to eliminate the Italians. Lithuania by six points.
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