Greece toyed with fire but managed to emerge unscathed from the crucial match against Croatia, winning 74-69 and advancing to the second round of the European Championship in Lithuania on September 5.
It took the experience of Antonis Fotsis and Nikos Zisis as well as the enthusiasm of Nick Calathes and Costas Vassiliadis for Greece to fend off the resistance of the Croats, whose comeback in the second half could have spelt disaster for the Greeks.
The national team had a great first half in which it stifled the Croatian attack and enjoyed a high scoring rate, to stretch its lead as far as 20 points (43-23), with the first half ending 44-27.
However, when the score was at 47-27 at the start of the third period the Croats tightened their defense and made a decent effort to reduce their arrears, which proved successful.
They went on to get to within two points, but some crucial points by Fotsis and Zisis when it really mattered gave Greece a precious win, without which it could have been eliminated.
Greece still had a problem with its two-point shots (ending the game with just a 36 percent rate), but its three-pointers were improved (at 35 percent) from previous games and exceeded 70 points once again.
Fotsis and Vassiliadis led the scoring for the Greeks with 17 points each, while Calathes scored nine points and collected eight rebounds.
Greece will now enter the second round, which means another round-robin pool with three teams from another first-round group.
The Greeks will carry one win and one loss with them to the next round, after finishing the group with four wins in five matches. Greece’s next opponents will be Russia, Slovenia and Georgia.