Poland Open Qualifying Round Against Serbia

11 September 2009

Hosts Poland will hope to take a step closer to reaching the Quarter-Final stage of EuroBasket for the first time since 1997 when they go up against Serbia in their Qualifying Round opener on Saturday.

Wins over Bulgaria and Lithuania saw the Poles progress from Group D but they now face tough tests in the form of Serbia, Slovenia and Spain, who advanced from Group C, dubbed the ‘Group of Death'.

The home side look sure to use more of their high-octane offense as they try to improve to a 2-1 mark in Group F with a win. Their 82 points per game over the first three outings ranked third behind Greece and Turkey.

Serbia recorded a memorable win over world champions Spain and recovered from a defeat against Slovenia with a decisive win over Great Britain.

Captain Nenad Krstic provided timely baskets as Dusan Ivkovic's men used a 17-4 spurt late in the third quarter to put the outcome beyond all doubt.

The Serbs have done well when they took the initiative from the very start (as they did against Spain) but must do a better job of closing out games and not resting on their laurels too much.

Head to head: This will be the first official game between the two sides. Yugoslavia beat Poland in the opening round of EuroBasket 1997, on their way to winning the tournament.

Last time out: Poland suffered their first defeat, 87-69, at the hands of undefeated Turkey while Serbia sent Great Britain crashing out of the tournament with a 77-59 demolition.

Key match-up: Marcin Gortat v Nenad Krstic. The battle of the big men. While he has averaged more than 17 points through the first three games, Gortat insists his role primarily lies at the defensive end, as an intimidator. He has played that role to great effect so far, currently leading all players in blocks per game (2.3) and trailing only Andris Biedrins in the rebounding race (11.3). Krstic is at the very core of Serbia's offense and, in Gortat, faces perhaps his toughest and most physical opponent yet. He will be made to work very hard for every shot, basket and point.

X-factor: Lasting the distance. Poland will be eager to impress their fans in Gortat's home town and light up the scoreboard as they have done so far. That approach might prove costly. Serbia also have to manage themselves. They got off to a great start against Spain and held a 56-37 lead heading into the final quarter when they ran out of steam and were lucky the world champions couldn't find their range on the day.

Stats: 35.0 and 18.6 - The combined averages in terms of points and rebounds by Poland's inside duo of Gortat and Maciej Lampe. They might slide somewhat as they go up against the impressive frontlines of Serbia and Spain.

Sounding-off: "Serbia have a lot of good big men and we will have to try and stop them. We have to stop Nenad and the ones who can step out and take three-pointers. This is a team that is well-balanced and they're very well coached by coach Ivkovic. He's a great fit for them." -Poland's Marcin Gortat.


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