Greeks have basket..balls
Posted by Ricky - Sixers4guidos on September 14, 2007
This slogan is written in many t-shirts and banners that greek fans wear and take to the arenas when their national team plays.
Well, they just show it’s not only some marketing trick, as I watched one of the most unbelievable comebacks ever seen in these competitions, that ended with Greece’s 63-62 win over Slovenia.
The end reminded me of another historic resurrection (or collapse, depending from your standpoint) in the fourth quarter: the 17 points lead squandered by Blazers vs Lakers in game 7 of the 2000 Western Conference Finals.
Because the game was completely in Slovenia’s hands with a comfortable 16 points lead with 6.49 to go, 42-58. Yes, Greece scored 42 points in more than 33 minutes (jeez… gotta love FIBA basketball), and with the two offenses so cold, it seemed more than closed at that time.
Well, you do the maths: in the last 6.49 minutes Greece outscored Slovenia 21-4, scoring half the points they managed to put in the previous 33.
Even harder to believe, the score was 49-61 with 2.30 to go, meaning the game ended with a 14-1 Greece run in 150 seconds !!!!!!!!!
The question is: what happened? Slovenia simply quit playing, perhaps “fearing” the win vs the last European champs. It’s the worst mistake you can do when facing a fierce, veteran, winning team that never, and I mean never, gives up.
It was a mix of idiotic turnovers (many), bad shots (a bit), good shots missed (some), combined with an amazing amount of offensive rebounds given up to the greeks, who progressively started believing what was frankly unforeseeable.
Basically the exact opposite of what slovenians did in the first three quarters & a half, building a deserved and even surprising lead in another low scoring, tough, even ugly (100% FIBA…) battle.
The first quarter ended with “the green team” up three (14-17), a difference doubled at the half (28-34) with Rasho Nesterovic and Matjaz Smodis carrying the others. Greece went to the locker room for the break having shot 0/7 from three point land, but the game was clearly still open.
In the third quarter Slovenia played its best basketball on both sides of the court, closing it at 40-51. That immediately became 40-54 at the start of the fourth with a three pointer by Dragic, and the aforementioned 42-58 some minutes later, on a nice left handed hook by Slokar…
A three pointer by Tsartsaris seemingly gave Greece some life (49-58) but when Jaka Lakovic responded, connecting on a corner trey for the 12 points lead (49-61 with 2.30 to go) everyone, me included, thought that the champs were done.
After Lakovic scored the last slovenian point from the free throw line (53-62), the night came on the Triglav mountain, and Theodoros Papaloukas went finally to work.
European best player scored on a drive + foul (and missed free throw) for the 55-62, then the first three pointer to cut it to 58-62, before Zisis with another three made it 61-62 with 33 seconds on the clock.
And in the other half court ?? I told you: no one was taking care of the ball (blame also coach Pipan for that), sort of five dead men walking… balls thrown in the stands or delivered to greek hands, 24 seconds violations, bricks…
So after Lorbek’s miss on a open three it was Greece to have the ball to win the game, and (smart) coach Yannakis did the right choice: put it in Papaloukas’ hands… another drive of his and the ball went in (63-62) with 7 seconds to go. The comeback was complete.
The average fan could think that 7 seconds it’s a lot of time in basketball, that a decent coach can draw several plays for a good shot, right ?? … uhm, not in Slovenia’s case: Lakovic dribbled and took an ill advised long three pointer that fell wayyyyy short, hitting the ground exactly like his team. He couldn’t repeat his winning shot vs Italy, so that greek players celebrated the win.
Never underestimate the heart of MANY champions.
(Before this, Lithuania beat Croatia 74-72, with former New Jersey Net Zoran Planinic missing two free throws with 1 seconds to go: slavic basketball is out of the semifinals, another impressive fact).
Spain-Greece and Russia-Lithuania are the two (fantastic) semifinals planned for tomorrow that I will NOT watch due to a wedding… I always knew that getting married is insane.