By David Hein
Germany and Latvia face off in the final Group B match of the EuroBasket 2009 with the final spot in the Qualifying Round still to be decided.
Germany can afford a loss by seven points and still advance to the next round but German coach Dirk Bauermann would much rather have his team finish off with a victory going into the next round.
Latvian coach Kestutis Kemzura saw his team improve from the opener against Russia to the second straight loss against France - especially on defense, which held the French to just three points in the second quarter.
Kemzura also had to be pleased that his team was able to build a 10-point lead in the third quarter. But the Latvians failed to execute effectively offensively the rest of the way in falling to 0-2. And now they need a big win to advance.
Germany meanwhile showed their potential and youth in a tight win against Russia, building a 19-point lead before watching the Russians close to within one point and then holding on for the victory.
The first time national team member Heiko Schaffartzik and 20-year-old Robin Benzing both came up with big three-pointers in the final two minutes. In addition, fellow first-timer Lucca Staiger, 21 years old, iced the game for good with two free throws with eight seconds left.
That will only give the young, inexperienced Germans more confidence as they build towards reaching the Qualifying Round.
Head to Head: Germany lead the all-time series 2-1 with the most recent game coming at EuroBasket 2003 where Germany won 94-86 in first round action in Sweden.
Last Time Out: Germany collected their first victory of the Group B campaign by holding on for a 76-73 win over defending champions Russia. Latvia dropped to 0-2 with a 60-51 loss against France despite holding the French to just three points in the second quarter.
Key Match-up: Steffen Hamann and Heiko Schaffartzik vs. Kristaps Valters and Janis Blums. The German starting and first backup point guards Hamann and Schaffartzik have combined for 16 assists against six turnovers in the first two games while the Latvian duo have a 10-7 ratio. German coach Dirk Bauermann has been very pleased with his playmakers and their understanding that they cannot afford to turn the ball over.
X-Factor: Jan Jagla. The center is Germany's leading scorer after collecting 19 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks against Russia after just five points and five rebounds versus France. Jagla fouled out in both games and he will next battle at times with Latvian big man Kaspars Kambala, who is in superb form.
Key stat: 12 and 6 of 17. Latvia's NBA center Andris Biedrins has totaled just 12 points in his first two games while making just 6 of 17 shots. Kemzura knows Biedrins will need more scoring than that to beat Germany.
Sounding off: "A big salut to our fans. We feel in Gdansk like in Riga and it will be a great matter for the tournament if we can play in the next round. Nobody wants to lose with almost two thousands fans supporting you. They are the best so we have to beat Germany tomorrow." -Latvian coach Kestutis Kemzura