While powerhouses like the United States and Spain have separated themselves from their groups in the early going at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Group B is up for grabs in a Thursday showdown.
Greece is a perfect 4-0, while Argentina checks in at 3-1. The two countries face each other at 4 p.m. ET in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
Thus far, Argentina tallied a 98-75 win over Puerto Rico, lost to Croatia 90-85 in an upset special that saw Luis Scola go off for 30 points and nine rebounds in defeat, bounced back with an 85-81 win over the Philippines and then crushed Senegal 81-46.
Greece handled Senegal 87-64, beat the Philippines 82-70, outlasted Puerto Rico 90-79 and handled Croatia 76-65 with a dominating second quarter. In fact, Greece outscored a dangerous Croatia squad 20-9 in that second quarter and set the tone for the entire game.
Both Greece and Argentina are safely into the next round since the top four teams from each group advance, but seeding is crucial going forward with formidable squads like the United States and Spain seizing the top spots in their groups.
American fans may immediately think of Manu Ginobili when it comes to Argentina basketball, but he is not in Spain for the World Cup. Instead, Scola is leading the way as the team’s heart and soul, while Pablo Prigioni and Andres Nocioni have helped along the way.
Scola is putting on an absolute show in Spain thus far and is averaging a team-high 22.8 points and 9.8 rebounds a night. He is a double-double threat every time he steps on the floor, even with abbreviated quarters compared to NBA play, and inspired Zach Harper of CBS Sports to drop this gem:
Interestingly enough, Scola has played so well that he has drawn intrigue from Euroleague powerhouse Real Madrid, but the Indiana Pacers forward put those rumors to rest, via David Alarcon of Hoops Hype: “I have a contract with the Pacers, and I will continue there. We’ll see what happens next year.”
It’s not just Scola, though, as Prigioni has set the table with 5.2 assists a night and Nocioni has posted 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds a game.
One name American basketball fans may not be familiar with who has rounded out the Argentina roster is Walter Herrmann. He is scoring 10.5 points and grabbing 5.5 rebounds a game, and the 6’9” forward’s ability to mix it up down low has taken some of the pressure off Scola and will help against Greece’s formidable front line.
Greece also brings some players with NBA experience to the table. Nick Calathes has contributed at the point, and Giannis Antetokounmpo is the versatile forward who can play all over the court and get out in transition.
However, it has been other players leading the way for Greece in the early going in Spain. Kostas Kaimakoglou is scoring 11.2 points and grabbing 7.5 rebounds a game, and Giannis Bourousis is scoring 11 points and grabbing a team-high 8.8 rebounds a game.
More importantly, Bourousis stands at 7’1”, Kaimakoglou at 6’9” and Antetokounmpo at 6’11”, which means there is serious size on the court at all times for Greece. This will be critical against Argentina as it looks to contain Scola and Herrmann on the interior and control the boards.
However, Scola has been playing at an elite level throughout this tournament and will be the best player on the floor throughout the game. That is important because this game will likely come down to the final minutes. Having a superstar like Scola with the ball in his hands in crunch time could be the difference between a victory and defeat.
It will be Thursday.
Prediction: Argentina 88, Greece 85
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