Greece beat all odds to defeat Lithuania 77-64 in Turkey on Saturday as Eurobasket 2017 saw its first slate of knockout games end with an impressive showing from the Ethniki.
Leading for most of the game, Greece narrowly held on early in the fourth quarter against a pesky Lithuanian comeback but an impressive effort by Greece’s bench pushed the 2005 tournament winner one step closer to the continental crown.
Kostas Sloukas, also known as Slouky Luke, led all of Greece’s scorers for the second straight game as the Fenerbahce guard notched 21 points, while Nikos Calathes scored 14 points and added 6 assists.
Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas had an impressive double-double, but the Toronto Raptors centre was outmuscled by Greece’s big men as Lithuania’s impressive group stage run was for not in the knockout round.
Lithuania took the lead early in the first quarter as Valanciunas and Marius Grigonis gave the Lithuanians a 4-0 lead early in the frame. Printezis was Greece’s early inspiration in attack as the Olympiacos forward scored 8 of Greece’s first 10 points to give Greece back the lead in the opening quarter.
Greece would build on that lead as Nikos Calathes showed off both his range and passing abilities with a three-point shot followed by a slick assist inside the paint for Georgios Papagiannis.
Papagiannis, meanwhile, showed his steel on defense as he provided a huge block on Valanciunas moments before a transition three from Sloukas as Greece took a 25-17 into the second quarter.
With both sides feeling out the game in the opening quarter, both benches looked to clamp down defensively in the second quarter. Kostas Papanikolaou made an early three-pointer to extend Greece’s lead into double digits, but Lithuania went on a quick 6-0 run to trim the deficit to 5.
Calathes continued to be a key role-player for Greece in the second quarter, scoring 4 of his 12 first half points in the quarter to keep Greece in the lead. Lithuania would respond through Matnas Kalnietis and Donatas Motiejunas to trim the Greek lead to seven points by half time.
A sloppy start to the second half by both offenses saw each team miss a handful of shots before Sloukas and Mindaugas Kuzminskas exchanged baskets. There, however, would be no answer from Lithuania for Sloukas as he went on to hit three successive three pointers to stretch the Greek lead back into double digits.
Greece would continue to hold their advantage through to the end of the quarter, and were fueled by Ioannis Bourousis’s resurgence as Greece carried a 61-48 lead into the final frame.
Lithuania would make things interesting in the final frame as the Group B winners went on an 11-2 run early in the fourth quarter to trim Greece’s lead to four points.
Following a much-needed timeout, Greece returned to the court energized as Bourousis notched another key basket followed by a clutch three-pointer from Thanasis Antetokounmpo pushed Greece further in front.
Lithuania tried to make one last comeback Kuzminskas looked to inspire his teammates, but by then the Greek lead was too much for Lithuania to overcome as Kostas Missas men triumphed to set-up a date with the winner between Croatia and Russia.
Meanwhile, the other knockout round fixtures on Saturday saw Germany edge France, while Slovenia and Italy won comfortably against Ukraine and Finland respectively.
HIGHLIGHTS COMING SOON: LITHUANIA - GREECE
by Peter Katsiris
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