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Quick EuroBasket Recap - Day 5 - Getting Serious

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Germany lost to unbeaten Serbia today, their second straight loss to an undefeated team. No one aside from Dirk Nowitzki did much for Germany in the game, and even Dirk took too long to get it going. Serbia built a 16 point lead before Germany finally got serious in the fourth quarter. A Dirk-led flurry eventually got the lead down to 5, but the Serbs were able to respond and keep the game from getting any closer.

Los Angeles Clippers center Chris Kaman had a mixed day. He had his third double double of the tournament, finishing with 10 points and 11 rebounds. But his jump shot was sadly missing, and Serbia's NBA-level centers Nenad Krstic and Kosta Perovic more than held their own against him. Kaman picked up his fifth foul on an illegal screen midway through the fourth and had to watch the final minutes from the bench. He has at least been a monster on the boards in the tournament, and is the overall rebounding leader through four games.

Serbia is an interesting team. Four years ago they went 0-3 at EuroBasket with a team that included Marko Jaric and Darko Milicic. They've turned the team over almost completely since then. The lone holdover from that 2007 team is Milos Teodosic, who had a near triple double against Germany today with 12 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds. The Serb point guard didn't shoot the ball particularly well, but he ran the team superbly and almost always got a good shot for somebody. Serbia's ball movement in general is a joy to watch - it's too bad NBA teams don't move the ball that well.

It's a good news/bad news situation for Germany. When Israel beat Latvia earlier in the day, the Germans were assured of advancing to the second round. However, in the very strange format of the EuroBasket tournament, essentially Groups A and B are combined with the top three teams from each, and your record against the teams in your own group carries forward. So Germany moves into the next round, but they do so in an 0-2 hole, having lost to fellow Group B advancers France and Serbia. With only four teams moving from the next round into the knockout stage, the Germans will have a very difficult time advancing any further. They were helped when Poland beat Turkey in Group A - if Poland can beat Britain tomorrow and steal the third spot in Group A from Turkey, then they would at least be the weakest team in the six team group on paper. Still, Germany would have to finish ahead of one other team, which may be next to impossible with France, Spain and Serbia all undefeated through four games and Lithuania playing in front of the home crowd.

Germany does find themselves in the somewhat unique position on Monday of being able to take the game off. Since they've already clinched the third spot in the group, and since the opponent Latvia will NOT be advancing, it doesn't matter whether they win or lose. They'll advance either way, and the loss won't be included in their record in the second round group.

Five of the six spots in Group E are decided - France, Serbia, Germany, Spain and Lithuania. The final spot will come down to Poland or Turkey; Great Britain does have a mathematical chance, but the point differential is currently weighted so much against them that it's not very realistic. Poland goes through with a win over Britain in the early game; if they lose, then they'll have to await the outcome of the Turkey-Spain contest, but again because of point differentials, it's likely that Turkey will advance in that case.

In Group C, both Greece and Macedonia have already advanced, but the third spot is up for grabs, and any one of the remaining four teams could conceivably claim it. Amazingly, Finland is in a decent position to advance. If the beat Montenegro while Croatia and Bosnia lose, they would likely advance to the next round.

In Group D, Russia and Slovenia are both undefeated heading into a final game showdown, and Georgia controls its own destiny for the third and final slot.

Much was made of Group A being the group of death, but with Poland's one point upset of Turkey today that has changed the dynamic. At any rate, the real group of death is Group E, the combination of the top teams in Groups A and B. With the possible exception of Russia, none of the teams in Groups C and D have been anywhere near the level of Spain and France and Serbia. Turkey, Lithuania and Germany would likely advance to the knockout stage pretty easily through the other half of the tournament, but instead two of them will be going home early.

In addition to the games that will determine who advances like Poland versus Britain and every game in Group C, the games to watch tomorrow are France-Serbia and Russia-Slovenia. In each case, two of the remaining unbeaten teams in the tournament face off, and remember that even though the teams are already assured of advancing, these games count because the result will be carried forward to the standing in the next round. So for instance the winner of France-Serbia will have a one game lead over the loser as the second round of the tournament starts on Wednesday.