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Greece Secures Second Round Spot in FIBA World Cup

Greece World Cup
Greek players celebrate the progress to the next round of the FIBA World Cup. Credit: Hellenic Basketball Association

Greece came back from a 15-point deficit to defeat New Zealand 83-74, securing their qualification to the second round of the FIBA World Cup.

In the next round, they will face Lithuania and Montenegro.

Greece finished second in Group C behind the unbeaten United States, while the Tall Blacks placed third ahead of Jordan, who they beat in overtime.

Ioannis Papapetrou emerged as one of the heroes of the game for Greece, leading his team in scoring with 27 points and 6 rebounds. He shot 8/15 from the field and 4/7 from beyond the arc.

Giannoulis Larentzakis played a crucial role in the comeback with 20 points and a perfect 7/7 at the free-throw line.

Greece avoided their worst finish ever because they reached the 16 phase in each of their previous eight appearances at the World Cup.

The game was highly competitive from the start, with New Zealand taking a 20-15 lead in the first quarter. Both teams struggled with their shooting, but New Zealand managed to build a 13-point lead (33-20) in the second quarter.

Whatever coach Dimitris Itoudis told his players in the locker room at halftime, it must have been inspiring. All of a sudden Greece forced New Zealand to commit consecutive turnovers, without even allowing them to take a shot for a couple of minutes in the third quarter.

Greece fought back and made it a one-point game (51-50) in the third period. They eventually took the lead in the fourth quarter and never looked back, securing a 12-point lead (73-61) with 3:49 minutes left in the game.

Antetokounmpo-less Greece progress in the FIBA World Cup

Itoudis, talked about defense fueling his offense after the game.

“We’re not a team that’s going to have a lot of isolations, we need to dig deep into the shot clock, running that ball, and we have seen in the friendly games that we can play team ball, that we can share the ball, we have had 23 assists, 19 assists…

“This is who we are. And our identity on the defensive end, it gives us a lot. You get a boost from a good defensive stop,” the Greek coach said.

Notably absent from the Greek team due to knee surgery is Giannis Antetokounmpo, who would have participated in the tournament otherwise.

Earlier in August, the NBA star revealed his official decision not to participate in the FIBA World Cup. He emphasized his intention to focus on the 2024 Olympic Games.

Antetokounmpo expressed regrets over his decision to miss out on the World Cup on social media. He revealed that this choice was predominantly influenced by the advice of his medical team, which had carefully considered his health and overall well-being.

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