Greece paid for its poor defense in the second half of the game against Brazil on Tuesday and went down 79-78 to miss out on the top spot in the group and leave it till Thursday to seal qualification to the second round of the FIBA World Cup in China.
The Greek team wasted a 17-point lead in the first half, allowing the Anderson Varejao-led Brazilian team back into the game. The poor mobility in the court, with the slow move from offense back to defense, cost Greece dearly, but should serve as a good lesson ahead of games that will matter more, in the knock-out stages.
Brazil’s Croatian coach, Aleksandar Petrovic, built his defense targeting Giannis Antetokounmpo to contain the Milwaukee Bucks superstar. Even so Greece got the points it needed from outside the 6.75-meter line to lead 19-15 after the first period.
In the second quarter, the Greek defense, led by Costas Papanikolaou, frustrated the Brazilians while Printezis ran riot at the other end scoring 14 points in six minutes. Nick Calathes and Giorgos Papagiannis undid the Brazilian zone and the distance between the two teams grew to 17 (40-23) before a half-time result of 40-30.
The Brazilians fought their way back in the third quarter, to lead 47-44, making the most of the rather poor game by Antetokounmpo (13 points, four rebounds and five fouls) and the rushed efforts in the Greek offense. The Greek triples did not go in (0/7 in this period) and Brazil finished the quarter on top (56-53).
Despite the efforts by Ioannis Papapetrou, who helped Greece momentarily level the score, the Brazilians regained their advantage in the last few minutes to advance by seven (71-64).
The last-gasp attempt by the Greeks brought the game back to a level score (76-76) after a Printezis triple, but a missed free throw by Costas Sloukas two seconds from the end denied Greece the chance of overtime.
Greece’s final game in this first group stage is on Thursday against New Zealand. The winner will join Brazil in the next group stage, but carrying with it the loss to the Brazilians from the first round.