IZMIR – France and Lebanon pulled out emotional, hard fought victories on day of the FIBA World Championship, and they face each other in an exciting day two contest.
After an incredible opening day to Group D in Izmir, which also saw Lithuania hold off a determined New Zealand, the second day kicks off with Canada and Lithuania doing battle.
The Canadians led for most of their opening game against Lebanon but could not execute down the stretch.
No doubt coach Leo Rautins will be working on getting the ball inside more to Joel Anthony, who had 17 points but just one shot attempt in the crucial last quarter, as his team shot 30 three point attempts and only 33 from inside the arc.
Lithuania overcame a 37-point outburst from Kirk Penney to secure victory on day one, and they will be looking to improve their interior defence after Penney shot 20 free throws yesterday.
Linas Kleiza had 27 points and no doubt much of the offence will go through him again, leaving Canada’s Jermaine Bucknor with a tough assignment. The Europeans punished New Zealand inside, shooting 28/42 from two point range, and will be a big test for Lebanon’s Matt Freije and Jackson Vroman.
The most anticipated game of the day though is second-up with Lebanon and France, two of the best supported teams in Izmir, and it will be a contrast in styles.
Led by Rony Fahed and Fadi El Khatib, Lebanon raced up and down the court against Canada, while France suffocated Spain in a dogged half court affair.
While France had a famous victory yesterday, star swingman Nicolas Batum is not taking Lebanon lightly. “We have to keep focused,” he said. “We are going to play Lebanon and Lebanon had a great game against Canada. So we have to keep our minds on, keep focused and it should be a great game.”
Lebanon play a relentless style and France, who committed 20 turnovers against Spain, will be punished severely if they do not look after the ball. Meanwhile France’s athletic defence will be looking to cover the three point line, where Lebanon hit an impressive 9/21 in their opening game.
The final match of the day will see a Spanish team hell bent on getting their win tally take on a New Zealand Tall Blacks team that surprised many with their play against Lithuania.
The Tall Blacks only committed 11 turnovers on day one, but point guards Lindsay Tait and Mike Fitchett will be sorely tested by the extended pressure of Ricky Rubio, Raul Lopez and Sergio Llull.
The match-up of Penney and Juan-Carlos Navarro will be worth the price of admission alone, while on the other wing Rudy Fernandez will have his hands full scoring against youngster Thomas Abercrombie, whose athleticism impressed the Izmir crowd yesterday.
In the frontcourt the athletic Mika Vukona will also face a challenge against the taller pairing of Felipe Reyes and Jorge Garbajosa, and the undersized Craig Bradshaw and promising 216cm youngster Alex Pledger face a big challenge against Marc Gasol.