Greece runner-up at World Championship

Greece was crushed 70-47 by Spain in the final of the 2006 World Basketball Championships yesterday in Saitama, a suburb of Tokyo. Despite the absence of their top star, center Pau Gasol, who broke a bone in his foot in the semifinal against Argentina, Spain neutralized Greece’s best weapons, their tight defense and steals, smothering Greece’s big men inside and leaving the Greeks to shoot themselves in the feet with their poor outside shooting. Greece fell behind early and trailed 18-12 in the first quarter, a position it found itself in most of the eight games it won in the runup to the final. A disastrous second quarter, however, left it trailing 43-23 at the half and it failed to make any inroads in the second half. The 47 points scored, two days after scoring 101 against the United States, was Greece’s lowest output since 1961. Despite the fact that Greece, like Spain, had never before made the Worlds final, the letdown was obvious on the faces of the dejected players. «It happens in sport,» said Theodoros Papaloukas, the only Greek player to be voted by journalists into the all-tournament squad. «It’s life. It’s left a bitter taste. It’s not the image we would have wanted to leave with.» «We were impatient and lacked our usual passion… We made lots of easy mistakes,» said coach Panayiotis Yiannakis. Sharp-shooting power forward Jorge Garbajosa (six three-pointers) and guard Juan Carlos Navarro led Spain with 20 points. Michalis Kakiouzis scored 17 for Greece.