Greece basketball team lost on Tuesday the first game of the FIBA Olympic qualifier to Canada 91-97 and must now win the second game against China to qualify for Tokyo.
The turning point of the game, played in in Victoria, B.C., was when Andrew Wiggins buried a deep 3-pointer with 3:44 remaining in the third quarter to give Canada a 67-65 advantage – their first lead since the opening frame. Canada never trailed again.
They led 74-71 at the end of the third, further distanced themselves from Greece by opening the fourth on a 9-0 run and led by as many as 12.
Greece coach Rick Pitino said that he was proud of his team.
“I don’t think in my 45 years of coaching I’ve ever said more than five times that I was super-proud of a team after a loss. I really am. Their effort was astonishing. They haven’t been together but a week because a whole new team came in. We learned a lot from this game.”
“We made some mistakes at critical points, which led to a change in momentum, but this is what happens in basketball and you have to move on. We played for the first time with this lineup and learned a lot from this game. Now we have the match against China and we hope to have the opportunity to face Canada again in the tournament.”
Asked about the absence of Giannis Antetokounmpo, he replied: “We are proud of Giannis, he does important things with Milwaukee and has the opportunity to go to the NBA Finals. If we manage to qualify here, he will come with us to Tokyo.”
Greece recently played the Acropolis International Basketball Tournament from June 18-20, placing in second after Serbia, losing to the Central European team by just eleven points, with the final score standing at 64-75.
Greece lost Spanoulis last week
Greece suffered a blow last week when their star player Vassilis Spanoulis –affectionately known as “Kill Bill”– announced he will retire from basketball following an injury.
In an emotional Instagram post, Spanoulis said that it is “time to close the biggest chapter of my life.”
“It was a difficult decision because basketball gave me a unique journey full of intense moments and great emotions. Basketball gave me everything and I gave it everything.
“I leave proud of what was greatly conquered but also of what was lost after a hard battle. Above all, I leave full, because I achieved more than I ever dreamed,” Spanoulis said and signed the emotional post as “The child who dreamt of playing basketball.”
Earlier in June, Spanoulis announced his return to the Greek National Team after six years, raising hopes that Greek basketball would qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
Despite the fact that he is now 39-years-old, Greeks hoped that his skill and experience could have made a huge difference in the qualifying tournament for the Olympics, where Greece needs to overcome Canada and China, in order to qualify for the Olympics. If it goes through, it will clash with France, Iran and the U.S.A in Tokyo.