By David Hein
Reigning champions Russia can book their spot in the Qualifying Round with a victory over Germany in Group B action in Gdansk.
David Blatt's Russians came up with a strong performance against Latvia in their opener but they will be facing a young, motivated German side hoping to secure their first win in the tournament.
The defending champs overcame a big performance by Kaspers Kambala, who scored 22 points in fouling out both of Russia's main low post players. Kelly McCarty came up with two huge baskets to turn things around in the end in an 81-68 win. And Blatt will likely need McCarty to score his fair share of points against Germany.
Despite their lack of size, Russia out-rebounded Latvia 33-30 with six players grabbing at least three rebounds. Point guard Sergey Bykov committed five of Russia's 16 turnovers and must take care of the ball against a German side which prides itself on tough defense.
Dirk Bauermann's Germans led France by as many as five points and had two chances to lead by four points in the final two minutes but missed three-pointers. Tony Parker ended up hitting a three-ball and Germany could not execute offensively down the stretch in losing 70-65.
German veterans Patrick Femerling, Demond Greene and Sven Schultze were the only players to score in double figures for Bauermann's young, otherwise very inexperienced team. But the coach said he will once again start his 20-year-old EuroBasket debutant Robin Benzing, who struggled against France.
Head to Head: Russia lead the all-time series 3-2. The most recent match-up came at EuroBasket 2005 when Germany won 51-50 on Dirk Nowitzki's three-pointer with 27 seconds left in the final first round match.
Last Time Out: Germany played tough but fell to France 70-65 while Russia held off Latvia 81-68
Key Match-up: Patrick Femerling vs. Timofey Mozgov. Femerling has loads of experience - winning 2002 Worlds bronze and 2005 Euros silver - and will likely try to take advantage of the young Mozgov, who at 23 years of age is 11 years younger than Femerling.
X-Factor: Germany small forward Robin Benzing. The 20-year-old emerging star started the opener but went scoreless with one assist in 16 minutes. German coach Dirk Bauermann said Benzing looked like he was stage fright but expects his talented youngster to perform much better in his second game.
Key stat: 81 and 70. Russia scored 81 points against Latvia - something that surprised David Blatt. The bigger number for the Russian coach was 70, the number of maximum points he wanted to allow to the Latvians. Both teams are young and quite inexperienced and will be relying on defense, meaning a low scoring game can be expected.
Sounding off: "(Russia) have a really good young team. And in (Kelly) McCarty they have a great veteran who gives them so much leadership and scoring. He basically gives them everything they need from him. But they are really good, well coached. It's gonna be hard but I think we can get them." -Germany coach Dirk Bauermann