All right, so who had FYR Macedonia winning that game?
Come on! While the BallinEurope prognosticators took something of a hit in the comments section here beginning a few nanoseconds after Vlado Ilievski’s game-winner, few truly had this one pegged. Team Russia coach David Blatt kinda sorta probably wasn’t surprised, but even the mystical crustacean Lazdeika had Lithuania to win last night.
And hey, note that right here at BallinEurope it was guessed that “this game comes down to turnovers; FYR Macedonia needs to hang close throughout and exploit the three or four opportunities they get.”
(Incidentally, Macedonia won the turnover battle, 14-8.)
So BallinEurope plods forth with another two sets of official Fearless Predictions™ for tonight’s France-Greece and Serbia-Russia games. BiE’s man in the U.K. Sam Chadwick joins in on the fun in forecasting the matches again and, as yesterday, neither writer read the other’s opinion before posting.
Also provided strictly for the reader’s edification are some lines from the sportsbook, in this case Sporting Bet. As BiE previously stated, whether gambler or no, it pays for the fan to know the bookie’s stand; after all, these guys have the most to lose financially if they get it wrong. (But they cleaned up a bit last night, eh?)
And a few more YouTube clips…
• France (7-1) vs. Greece (6-2)
Os says: It’s not quite a rematch of their 2009 EuroBasket Group E game – Greece is bringing exactly half that roster into this game, while Team France returns eight from ’09 – but these two sides are playing up the rivalry aspects of the matchup.
What should be played up is how much losing the rebound battle will hurt France; if France has an Achilles’ heel in this tournament it’s here. Bottom of the table statistically among remaining team, Les Bleus are fated to be outboarded by the bigger, stronger Team Hellas. As awesome as Joakim Noah has been at 8.0 rpg (including 2.6 offensive), he can’t do it all against Antonis Fotsis and his guys.
From the other angle, France would appear to have a huge advantage up top, with Nick Calathes looking to contain Tony Parker. BiE’s hedging that the Spur goes for his biggest game of the tournament yet; he may have to go for 30 to keep his side in the game.
Finally, here’s a bonus Fearless Prediction™ free of charge: Crazy as it feels, the X- (and probably even deciding) factor in this game will be Boris Diaw. The on-again/off-again play that has dogged Diaw since the beginning of his career has been in full evidence in EuroBasket 2011 – and it’s not just a question of providing the Bobcat with scoring opportunities, because Parker et al do, as Diaw is getting off over seven shots per game.
But take a look at his scoring lines: 14, 6, 2, 21, 15, 3, 4, 5. Better yet, here are his shooting percentages: 7/10, 3/7, 1/6, 7/9, 6/10, 0/5, 1/8, 1/4. That’s right, 2-of-17 over the last three games, against the likes of Turkey, Lithuania and Spain.
As for specific instances of previous play against Team Greece, Diaw’s been shaky: unimpressive on EuroBasket 2005 opening day with just six points and two rebounds; a respectable 6-of-13, 14-point, four-rebound performance in a Greek victory on the way to the title in the ’05 quarterfinals; and a total disappearing act of 0-of-2, zero points, five turnovers and one rebound in 19 minutes in 2009 as France managed to top the Greeks despite him.
It’s a good thing that Diaw has steadily contributed four to five rebounds per game in the tournament despite his playing time: BiE believes France will need it. But here’s to thinking they’ll need key shots from their captain in the second half in this one. Fearless Prediction™: Diaw does okay, France squeaks out the 80-79 win.
Sam says: France rested its stars against Spain and got dominated; hopefully that rest was enough for Parker and Noah to be back to full heath for this matchup with the Greeks. On the other hand, Team Greece have steadily been improving for this whole tournament and will look to reclaim their place among Europe’s basketball elite. Prediction: France take the win.
Sportsbook says: France (3/10 to win outright) gets a handicap of minus-7.5 against 5/2 underdogs Greece. The over/under line for the game is 138.5 points, thereby implying a final prediction a 73-65 or 73-66 French victory.
• Russia (8-0) vs. Serbia (5-3)
Os says: The day before the FYR Macedonia Miracle, this matchup was forecasted as the most closely-contested of the four quarterfinal games. Make no mistake, however: This should be a dandy.
Russia escaped Group F undefeated thanks to the last-second three by Sergey Monya, the second close call the team has survived to this point. Though most all observers reckoned Russia would sweep the floor with FYR Macedonia, well, by now everyone knows who the gods’ favorite team is in this EuroBasket. BiE’s been blowing Russia’s horn since day one of this tourney, so the praise will be kept short here; however, it should be said (written?) that the eked-out victory, a couple games after the one-point win over Slovenia, demonstrated again that Russia’s crazy-good defense is backed with a spine strong enough to survive the pressure of crunch time.
So what does Serbia bring to the table? In this opinion, Greek fans need to be a bit concerned about their team’s recent play, entering Group F with a loss and chasing this with two more consecutive Ls and a sloppy win over Turkey in which Greece nearly handed the game over in the second half. Despite putting up 90 or more, Greece managed to get outgunned by the quicker, more “athletic” France and Lithuania; Spain tromped them, while fatigue was a disturbing factor in the FYR Macedonia game.
Speaking completely empirically/subjectively, no one outside of Milos Teodosic has looked good for Team Serbia as of late, and nothing but the extra time for Dusan Ivkovic to cook up a gameplan suggests that will change here. Fearless Prediction™: This one’s for you, Konj: Russia 67, Serbia 59.
Sam says: This is another game I’m looking forward to; the Russians and Serbs have had a long rivalry and we’re all looking for that to continue, as no matter who wins, the loser will be out for revenge the next time these two teams meet. AK-47 has been solid this entire tournament for the Russians, but Nenad Kristic has been adding his own solid play for the Serbians … The good news is that I don’t think this is going to turn into a battle between just those two, with the solid play of Timofey Mozgov at centre and Victor Khryapa constantly finding the open man for the Russians, helping them go undefeated so far. The Serbians, on the other hand, recently lost to Spain by 25 but are nonetheless buoyed by the steady play of Milos Teodosic. Prediction: I see no upset here; Russia take it rather convincingly.
Sportsbook says: Russia (3/4) is a two-point favorite over Serbia (11/10). With an over/under of 140.5, that makes a final predicted score of Russia 71, Serbia 69.
And in the placement game, Os says Lithuania bounces back to top Slovenia, 70-60.