|29 July 2014|
EUROBASKET 2015 2ND QR
|Zaza Pachulia is showing good form for Georgia, depsite carrying an injury|
Georgia suffered on Monday a third consecutive loss in a warm-up game for the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round, but no alarm bells are going off in Tbilisi just yet.
The Georgians travelled to Lithuania and fell 82-51 to the EuroBasket 2013 silver medallists, their heaviest defeat since they commenced preparations for August's qualification campaign.
Georgia once again saw their frontcourt perform solidly, as they got 13 points from Tornike Shengelia and nine points from Zaza Pachulia, despite the fact their star center has still not shaken off a minor injury.
In spite of that once Lithuania, who are preparing for the FIBA Basketball World Cup, started pulling away, Georgia were unable to keep up with the pace and committed 27 turnovers.
There are however mitigating circumstances, as the Georgian team had a long trip to Panevezys and arrived in town at four in the morning, while versatile forward Victor Sanikidze did not play in the game as he is recovering from an injury he picked up over the weekend.
"I want to assure you that, although Lithuania is a great team, the 30-point margin of defeat does not reflect the real difference between us," Georgia head coach Igor Kokoskov commented after the encounter in Panevezys.
"We are definitely not such a weak team.
"We did not play well, while the hosts kept working hard throughout the game and that is why we saw this big gap at the end.
"I promise that you will see much more resistance from our team in the second friendly on 30 July (the two teams meet again, this time in Vilnius, on Wednesday)."
Sanikidze is still doubtful for this second warm-up clash against Lithuania, but Kokoskov was adamant that his absence was mainly a precaution and the forward's participation in the 2nd Qualifying Round in not in jeopardy.
|A question mark lingers over whether or not Manuchar Markoishvili will suit up for Georgia or not this summer |
If there is one cause for concern in the Georgian camp, it stems from the fact that the bruising loss in Panevezys was not an isolated incident.
Previously, Georgia had lost 95-68 to Slovenia and 83-66 to Canada, during the Pokal Adecco International Tournament in Slovenia, over the weekend.
What those games pointed out is that Georgia need to work out some solutions which will enable them to protect the ball better and pass it around more effectively.
It is not an easy task for Kokoskov, as he cannot count on crucial pieces to his backcourt puzzle.
Point guard Ricky Hickman, who played a key role in conducting the Georgian game at EuroBasket 2013 before going on to help Maccabi Tel Aviv win the Euroleague title, is undergoing a rehabilitation procedure in the USA and will not play this summer for the national team of his adopted country.
Similarly, star winger Manuchar Markoishvili has also been unable to join his Georgian team-mates in training camp so far and his participation in August's campaign is a big question mark.
Markoishvili, who recently signed with powerhouse CSKA Moscow, is not a point guard but his influence in Georgia's perimeter play is enormous and there can be little doubt that his safe pair of hands would greatly improve ball circulation.
The absence of Markoishvili and Hickman, who averaged 24.8 points, 7,2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals between them at EuroBasket 2013, is so far putting a big strain on Georgia's backcourt director, George Tsintsadze.
However, not all is bad news for Georgia and their reluctance to read too much into recent results is more than justified.
Firstly, it is worth pointing out that Georgia have faced very strong opposition so far in their preparations, as they have played away from home against four teams that are preparing for the FIBA World Cup and even defeated one of them, Ukraine.
Secondly, Georgia can boast of having at their disposal an envious frontline.
While Kokoskov has not been able to count so far with 2.16m center Giorgi Shermadini, both Pachulia and Shengelia are back this summer, providing a significant boost under the basket.
The duo join in the frontline Sanikidze, who led the team in scoring at EuroBasket 2013, and youngster Beka Burjanadze, who finished as the top tournament scorer in the U20 European Championship Division B, earlier in July.
Georgia were drawn in Group E of the EuroBasket 2015 2nd Qualifying Round, which tips off on 10 August, together with the Czech Republic, Portugal and Hungary.