EuroBasket: Can Greece’s Resurgence Continue Against Russia?

FILE - Greece's Ioannis Bourousis dunks the ball during their Eurobasket European Basketball Championship round of 16 match against Lithuania, in Istanbul, Saturday, Sept. 9. 2017. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ISTANBUL (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) – Wednesday action starts with a bang as a rejuvenated Greece look to continue their stunning turnaround against a confident Russia.

Greece will be aiming for their third-straight victory and a place in the final four, which looked unlikely after a disastrous start to the tournament. They face a formidable foe in Russia, who have lost just once.

Italy and Serbia will also be looking for a Semi-Final berth and clash in a game that promises to be an entertaining affair. Both teams can get hot from the outside in what shapes up as a high-scoring contest.

Greece v Russia (17:45 CET/ 18:45 local time)

Tournament form – Greece: WLLLWW – Russia: WWWLWW

Key Match-up: Kostas Sloukas v Aleksei Shved. Quite clearly, Sloukas is a barometer for Greece. Mirroring his team, Sloukas started the tournament slow before catching fire. In the past two games – both must-win for Greece – Sloukas combined for 47 points, including 10 threes, to propel his team to victories against Poland and Lithuania.

Sloukas has been red-hot from deep and will need to continue that scorching form against Russia, who are brilliantly led by Shved. An MVP candidate, Shved is averaging 23.7 points and 6.7 assists to be the catalyst of Russia’s 5-1 record.

The winner of this battle could go a long way to determining the outcome of the game.

Breakdown: Apart from a fadeout against Latvia, Russia has had a stellar tournament fueled by Shved’s brilliance on the perimeter combined with Timofey Mogzov’s dominance in the paint. Around their stars, Russia are well organized and know their roles. It is a confident and well-rounded team.

After seemingly headed for a disappointing exit, Greece have gotten hot at the right time and loom as the x-factor team of the tournament. At their best, even without superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, Greece has loads of firepower through a dynamic backcourt of Sloukas and Nick Calathes, who has also found his groove after a tough start.

Greece has a slew of talented big men, who are athletic and strong, making them a tough matchup for opponents. Add to that, Thanasis Antetokounmpo can be a spark plug off the bench and a game-changer on his day.

It might all come down to which Greece turns up – the lethargic, disorganized team of the opening four games or the energetic, slick team of the previous two games.