Russia and Serbia meet in a heavyweight Eurobasket semi-final clash with the latter looking to exact revenge for their narrow loss in the group stages and the former taking one step towards their re-emergence as a top international basketball powerhouse.
The Serbians have quietly gone about their business this summer as they have not seemed to have missed Milos Teodosic at the point. They have won all but one of their Eurobasket encounters with the one game coming against the Russians in the second round of group games.
That victory was no fluke for Russia, who have put the nightmare period of post-London 2012 behind them. Having Alexey Shved back on the roster has definitely helped as his influence has pushed the team in the direction that they need to be in. The previous two Eurobaskets are now firmly on the backburner.
Tournament form – Russia: WWWLWWW – Serbia: WLWWWWW
Breakdown: Serbia are riding a five-game winning streak but their sole loss of the tournament was a three-point defeat to Russia in the Group Phase. So it is the Russians who probably have a slight psychological edge.
Russia’s defense was excellent in that encounter smothering Serbia on the perimeter and their size was able to match it in the paint. Serbia’s size and strength completely overwhelmed Italy but that advantage should be nullified against a similarly big and physical Russia.
Towering centers Timofey Mozgov and Boban Marjanovic slugged it out last start with the Russian’s mobility causing the Serbian problems. Russia will need to rely on Mozgov offensively too, in an effort to support Shved, who was gassed late against Greece.
Shved had to be benched in the dying minutes and Russia was able to hang on but they undoubtedly need their star firing in crunch time if they are to knock off the 2016 Olympic medalists.
If the stars nullify each other, then it could come down to some of the supporting players. Nikita Kurbanov had a strong game against Serbia in the Group Phase but had limited impact against Greece. He looms as an X-factor, as does Serbian forward Vladimir Lucic who performed well in the Group Phase game and comes into the clash in-form.
With the teams similarly matched, it is set to be a memorable showdown between two giants of European basketball.
Breakdown via FIBA