Sloukas powers Greece past Poland
EUROBASKET 2017 - GROUP A (GAME 4)
|Greece||95 - 77||Poland|
|(23 - 29)
(49 - 43)
(70 - 67)
(95 - 77)
Greece clinched a berth in the Eurobasket 2017 Round of 16 after an emphatic fourth quarter capped a 95-77 win over Poland in Helsinki.
Kostas Sloukas led all Greek scorers with 26 points, while Nikos Calathes also had his best game of the tournament thus far with 24 points and 10 assists for the first Greek double-double at Eurobasket 2017.
Losers of their last three contests ahead of Wednesday night, Greece tipped-off against Poland knowing a loss would end their Eurobasket journey even before the tournament shifted to the knockout rounds.
Despite Poland being in the same situation, it was Greece who looked more nervous in the opening quarter as the Poles took a commanding lead thanks to a solid 29 points in the opening frame. Damian Kulig – Poland’s leading scorer on the night with 26 points – was an early protagonist as his side took a six-point lead into the second quarter.
Greece stormed back in the second quarter to flip the script on Poland as Sloukas and Georgios Printezis played a leading role in handing Greece a six-point lead by half-time. Kostas Papanikolaou, who had previously struggled with foul trouble throughout the tournament, was also vital for Greece in the second frame as Greece seemed to have turned the tide heading into the second half.
Kulig did his best to keep the Greeks in check in the third quarter, while Adam Waczynski provided depth scoring for Poland with 17 points as Poland trimmed Greece’s lead to three points heading into the final frame.
With Poland clawing back for comeback, Greece’s offense reached a higher gear thanks to the Greek backcourt. Poland would remain within striking distance for the opening few minutes of the final frame, but a 25-10 run by Greece put the game away rather quickly in the fourth quarter.
Greece’s three-point shooting was again the catalyst for Greece’s success. The shooting range of the Greek guards forced Poland to mark-up tight on the likes of Calathes and Sloukas, leaving Greece’s big men to expose the Polish defense in the paint.
An 8-0 run to close out the game added the finishing touches to a gutsy win by Greece, who are rewarded with a play-off date against Lithuania on Saturday. Poland, who finished the tournament with a 1-4 record, join Iceland as the two eliminated sides from Group A – the latter losing to Finland to finish winless in the group.
In the battle of the top two sides in Group A, Slovenia thrashed France 95-78 to win the group with a 5-0 record and set-up a meeting with the Ukraine in Turkey on Saturday.
France’s loss, paired with Finland’s win over Iceland, meant the French slipped to third spot in the group and will now face Germany while the Finns will face Italy in the first knockout round.