Greece beats Lithuania in OT

In its first real test in the 2006 World Championship, Greece’s basketball team overcame Lithuania 81-76 in overtime yesterday. It was a seesaw game that fully confirmed coach Panayiotis Yiannakis’s saying that «basketball is a game of mistakes and whoever makes the fewest wins.» In this case, it was down to who would make the last mistake and this happened to be Lithuanian guard Arvydas Macijauskas. With Lithuania down 79-76 and with plenty of seconds left in its possession, he tried an off-balance three-point shot which was not even close, and fouled as soon as the Greeks got the rebound. Guard Theodoros Papaloukas scored Greece’s final points. Macijauskas probably tried his luck early because he feared the Greeks would foul him for two free throws, which would not be enough. Still, he could have positioned himself for a better shot. In the end, Greece kept itself in the game thanks to its defense, which resulted in 16 steals to Lithuania’s seven. On the other hand, its awful free-throw performance (10 of 23 in the first half and 21 of 41 overall) almost cost it the game. It was a clash of very different styles, with Greece relying on its tough defense and slow-tempo offense and Lithuania on its run-and-gun offense. But the Lithuanians shot poorly early in the game and were forced to commit 24 turnovers, to Greece’s 16, thus wasting their 44-27 rebounding advantage. Guard Vassilis Spanoulis led Greece with 15 points, followed by forward Antonis Fotsis with 11. Greece is now undefeated in Group C, along with Turkey, winners against Lithuania (76-74) on Saturday and Australia (76-68) yesterday, while twice-defeated Lithuania will struggle to make it to the Round of 16. Greece next faces Australia tomorrow. In its Saturday opener, Greece allowed underdogs Qatar to open a 16-point lead (25-9 and 28-12) before rallying to win 84-64. Again, they relied on their defense, forcing Qatar to 35 turnovers.

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