Greece defeats Brazil 91-80

Greece remained undefeated in the 2006 World Basketball Championship after beating Brazil 91-80 yesterday in Hamamatsu, Japan. Greece’s fourth successive win was marred by the loss of guard Nikos Zisis, who was intentionally elbowed by Brazil’s Anderson Varejao with about four minutes left in the third quarter. A a result, Zisis will no longer participate in the competition and is being treated at a local hospital, where he was diagnosed with a twice-broken cheekbone. He will fly to Greece to be operated on in the next few days. Guards Theodoros Papaloukas and Nikos Hatzivrettas led a balanced offense with 14 points. Greece’s top scorer, guard Vassilis Spanoulis, was scoreless. Marcelinho Machado scored 25 points for Brazil, including seven three-pointers. For the first three quarters Greece appeared to be cruising to victory as the Brazilians only threatened with long-range shots and their defense seemed to be incapable of resisting. Greece led 28-16 after the first quarter, 49-32 at halftime and 67-51 after the third. Then, suddenly, Greece’s tightly disciplined passing game appeared to collapse, allowing the Brazilians to score 16 unanswered points and turn around the game; they rebounded from a 56-69 disadvantage to lead 72-69. They accomplished this turnaround with their top player, guard Leandrinho Barbosa, on the bench. Barbosa, a starter with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, ended with four points. The Greeks appeared to lose their cool after Zisis’s injury and complained loudly about every decision by the referees. Even coach Panayiotis Yiannakis was hit with a technical for protesting. It almost felt as if the Greek team, which had to come back from early or late deficits to win its first three games, felt uncomfortable with the large lead. Once they fell behind, with less than six minutes to go, they were reinvigorated. The Brazilians, on the other hand, committed too many fouls. After Hatzivrettas scored a three-pointer to level the score at 72, Greece scored 15 consecutive free throws to open up a 10-point lead (87-77). Greece will play Turkey today for first place in Group C. The winner will play the fourth-place team in Group D (China, Italy, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Slovenia, United States) and the runner-up will play Group D’s third-place team.

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