By Jeff Taylor
Slovenia must do something for the first time at EuroBasket 2007 today when they take on Greece if they are to stay on track for a medal, bounce back from a defeat.
Ales Pipan’s team put up a terrific fight against Lithuania on Wednesday before fading in the second half and settling for second place in Qualifying Round Group F.
So, despite reaching the quarter-finals with just one loss, Slovenia must take on one of the real powerhouses in the game, the EuroBasket 2005 gold medalists, to stay alive in the competition.
“Greece are still the champions,” Pipan said. “We played two friendly games (this summer) against them but they mean nothing.”
The Greeks finished third in Qualifying Round Group E behind Spain and Russia.
|Diamantidis has been a spark on|
offense in Greece's last two game
They accomplished this by bouncing back from a heavy loss against the Spanish with a buzzer-beating win against Croatia and a triumph over pesky Portugal.
Last Time Out: Slovenia lost to Lithuania, 81-60. Greece beat Portugal 85-67.
Key Match-up: Goran Dragic v Dimitris Diamantidis. Diamantidis has no equals in Europe when it comes to defense and, in the last two games on offense, he has started to assert himself which makes him a more complete player. And that is good news for Greece, who are missing Antonis Fotsis this summer because of a broken finger, and with Theodoros Papaloukas not in the best of form. Dragic is not polished offensively, yet, but his ball-hawking skills have led to numerous steals in this EuroBasket and he could be very disruptive against the Greeks.
Key Statistics: Slovenia lost to Lithuania because they were killed on the boards, losing that battle 44-22. The Greeks rebound as well as any team so Erazem Lorbek, Rasho Nesterovic, Matjaz Smodis and Uros Slokar will find it very difficult.
X-Factor: Michail Kakiouzis. The Greek captain has had a reduced role with coach Panagiotis Yannakis preferring to use Michalis Pelekanos at small forward, and using Kakiouzis as a reserve at power forward. But Pelekanos hurt his ankle in the Portugal game and that means Yannakis must use Kakiouzis at number three again. The injury to Pelekanos may be a blessing in disguise because Kakiouzis is what one Greek journalist called “the brains of the Greek team”. The team certainly looked re-energized and better when he appeared against Portugal and made four of five shots, scoring eight points.
Speaking Out: “We were big underdogs coming into this competition overall, but I think that we showed we can play good basketball, solid basketball and we can play with all the big teams. We have a lack of depth, but we try to make up for that and play aggressively. It’s going be a big challenge to beat Greece, the last EuroBasket champs, but maybe we can do it.” – Slovenia's Matjaz Smodis.