SPORTS

Defense woes cost Greece victory against Finland

Greece will start the second group stage of the Eurobasket from the bottom of its pool, with no wins and two defeats, after producing its worst performance to date on Monday to go down 86-77 to surprise package Finland at Koper, Slovenia.

The team of coach Andrea Trinchieri has therefore finished third in its first-round group, and will carry over to the second round its losses to Italy and Finland, in the hope it will get to beat at least two out of its three second-round opponents.

On Monday the Greeks welcomed back Vassilis Spanoulis from injury, but the Olympiakos guard was nowhere near his usual self, committing several turnovers and doing little to ease the defensive crisis the whole of the team has been going through since the previous game with Italy.

If conceding 81 to Italy is understandable, the 86 points that one of the tournament’s lowest scoring teams, Finland, put past Greece are particularly worrying.

Greece held the upper hand for most of the first half, leading by up to six points (16-10 and 28-22), but it was simply unable to contain Finland shooting guard Petteri Koponen who scored at will throughout the game, for a total of 29 points.

By the end of the second period the Finns had edged ahead (36-35), and pulled away in the third as the Greek defense worked well for only the first four minutes of the second half.

With a 21-12 partial score in the third quarter, Finland took a 10-point lead (57-47) into the fourth, that it did not have much trouble preserving against a frustrated Greece that often seemed to be lacking a plan in attack.

Nikos Zisis stood out among this Greek team with 19 points. Spanoulis scored 17 points, but this came with zero out of six three-pointers and as many as seven turnovers.

Greece will now face Spain next on Thursday in the first match for the second round at Ljubljana.