Taking on the world champions

Greek hoopsters have put their controversial defeat to Russia on Thursday behind them and are concentrating on tonight’s last-16 match against Spain at the World Basketball Championship in Turkey, hoping to break their run of bad luck against Spain. Greece lost 73-69 to Russia in a game that neither side apparently wanted to win, as defeat meant avoiding meeting tournament favorites the United States in the third round of the championship. It was an ugly game and it was followed by some ugly remarks, too. Russia coach David Blatt, who worked for Aris Thessaloniki last season, stated: «You saw what I saw. This game makes me feel ashamed because I have worked in Greece. They cannot possibly have thrown the ball over the basket in order to miss their free throws. It was not right. What happened was unbelievable.» Yesterday Blatt apologized for his remarks. On Thursday, Greece coach Jonas Kazlauskas countered: «We had a bad game and I am disappointed in my team. Yet you are looking for something that does not exist. All the rest is nonsense,» using a well-known Greek swearword for «nonsense.» As the Greek team was leaving the court, Turkey coach Bogdan Tanjevic taunted Greece forward Yiannis Bourousis, saying, «Well done for losing.» The Olympiakos player approached Tanjevic to respond but was restrained by others. The players are now focused on finally beating Spain, after having lost to the Iberian team in several deciding games in the last decade, including the 2006 World Championship final in Japan. The match (9 p.m. tonight, live on ET1) is like an early final and the Greeks have promised to put up a good fight against the world champion: «We are trying to focus on our target. Each game is different but we are confident and we will try to be ready,» said guard Vassilis Spanoulis yesterday. «This Greece team deserves some respect. The Spanish are saying they will win easily but we want to speak on the court,» stressed a fired-up Bourousis.

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