By Yarone Arbel
Here's a game of ambitions.
Lithuania have no intentions of stopping in the quarter-finals no matter what team stands in their way, they came here to go all the way and can't afford to lose.
Croatia are satisfied with their results so far although they would obviously like to go on but, in case of a loss today, no heads will be chopped off.
And that is great news for Jasmin Repesa's side. The last time they went into a game as clear underdogs with no pressure to lose a game was in their group win against hosts Spain. Then again since that shock result, Croatia have lost three games in a row, all in the qualifying round.
|Kasun must be at his best down|
low for Croatia to be dangerous
Lithuania will have the best passer of the tournament, Sarunas Jasikevicius, on court. He won't be 100% fit, but there's no chance he's going to sit out.
Coach Ramunas Butautas declared his team can play very well even without him and will hope they'll do it again, as was the case in the second half against Slovenia, so that his key player can be rested as much as possible before the semi finals.
The winners of this game go through to the semi-finals to meet Russia, while the losers will face France to fight for the Olympics qualification berth.
Last Time Out: Lithuania pulled a big and impressive 80-61 defeat of Slovenia to win the first spot in their qualifying round group, while Croatia lost to Russia 70-83.
Head-to-Head: In EuroBasket 2005 the teams met in the qualifying round. Lithuania had a weaker line up than here, while Croatia was armed with Nikola Vujcic, Dalibor Bagaric, Andrea Zizic and Gordan Giricek. Still, Lithuania won 85-67.
Key Match-up: Maria Kasun v Lithuania big men. Of the top seven scorers for Croatia so far, Kasun is the only inside player. He is averaging 12.5 ppg on 60.4% shooting from the field. While Croatia relies mainly on one inside player, Lithuania have the Lavrinovic twins, Robertas Javtokas and Darius Songaila. Unless Stanko Barac can, once again, surprise and step up, Kasun's ability to get a good performance against those four will be crucial. If he can't deliver, Croatia will have to win this game with nothing but guards.
Statistics: Both teams excel and fail pretty much in the same statistical categories. They turn the ball over a lot, but get few steals or block. Both rank in the top five in points scored, field goal percentage and assists. The main difference lies in the rebounds where Lithuania is first and Croatia only…ninth.
X-Factor: With a much shorter line up, weaker frontline and big time difference in the rebounds category, Croatia will need to get a lot of help in the rebound from their guards. Zoran Planinic, Roko-Leni Ukic and Marko Tomas are all 195cm and up guards. Coach Repesa will need them to support his front line against the tall, strong and athletic Lithuanians.
Speaking Out: "Croatia is a big basketball country that raised great players in the past and will have in the future. The coach is like half of the team. They play very smart basketball so we are expecting a hard battle." - Lithuania Coach Ramunas Butautas.