We know half of the teams through from Group F after a wild Saturday. Two Balkan teams locked up their places in the quarter-finals with wins today while Spain cruised to their first win in the second phase.
Damn that crowd makes a difference. Slovenia and Greece delivered one of the ugliest first quarters of offence we’ve seen all tournament but the home team was perfect from the line to move into a 13 point lead after the first frame. That lead grew to 26 points before the inevitable Greek fight-back. Greece knocked 20 off the lead to make it a two possession game inside the final two minutes. Slovenia dug deep yet again, with the Dragic brothers combining for 39 points, 10 boards, and 6 rebounds en route to a 73-65 victory. It was a nervous finish but the win puts the home team top of the group and safely through to the last eight.
Joining them in the next round will be Croatia. The Croats had a 25 point turnaround to take charge against Italy earlier today. In classic Croatian style, at least by this competition’s standards, that 12 point lead was simply too comfortable for them to handle. They almost had to let Italy come back. The late surge by Simone Piangiani’s charges wasn’t enough however and. remarkably, Croatia are in the quarter finals with a game to spare. How will a team determined to make life difficult handle the pressure of unbridled competency? I don’t know but I do know that Ante Tomic will be devastatingly handsome regardless.
Finally we come to the one game that didn’t decide anything today. I sure hope there were no Timberwolves fans watching as Ricky Rubio really looked to be far too focussed on workrate than productivity against Finland. Rubio is one of the most fun players to watch when things click and one of the most frustrating when he tries to force it. This was definitely a case of the latter. Jose Calderon had a monster game from the field to carry Spain while Sergio Rodriguez and his beard contributed well from the bench. Petteri Koponen once again had a strong individual effort for Finland but his solo show simply wasn’t enough for a Finnish team that was outgunned from the off. Spain deserved the 82-56 win but their place in the last eight is still in doubt.
As it stands Croatia and Slovenia are safe. That should be good news for Greece who need to beat Croatia on Monday. Finland face Slovenia the same day, which theoretically means an upset could be enough for them to progress. Italy and Spain’s clash now carries extra significance. A pair of 2-2 teams will clash.
EDIT: Turns out our permutations were off slightly. Italy are safe and Spain will be through unless they lose, Finland lose, and Greece win.