Greece on the ropes after Finland defeat
EUROBASKET 2017 - GROUP A (GAME 4)
|Greece||77 - 89||Finland|
|(14 - 23)
(33 - 45)
(52 - 67)
(77 - 89)
Greece’s miserable run at Eurobasket 2017 continued on Tuesday night with an 89-77 defeat at the hands of Group A hosts Finland.
Petteri Koponen’s 24 points powered Finland into the Round of 16 for just the second time in Finnish basketball history, while Greece now face a pivotal elimination game against Poland on Wednesday to determine their fate.
Thansis Antetokounmpo led all Greek scorers with 17 points, but Greece trailed from start to finish en route to their third successive loss since beating Iceland on the opening day of the tournament last week.
Yet another slow start for Greece’s offense – and defense – allowed Finland to take a commanding 16-3 lead midway through the first quarter. Chicago Bulls draft pick, Lauri Markannen was a key contributor in Finland’s early surge with a handful of points in the opening frame and a key contributor on the glass as he finished with 17 points and 6 rebounds.
When Greece’s offense finally got going, the attack was rather unconvincing as the likes of Evangelos Mantzaris and Georgios Printezis only just kept Finland within reach with baskets to close out of the opening frame.
Kostas Papanikolaou cut the Finnish lead to 7 points with an early layup in the second quarter, but a powerful baseline move from Markannen restored the 9-point lead very quickly as Greece’s weak transition game continued to be exploited.
Markannen continued to be the main concern for the Greek defense, but his ability to get his teammates involved – namely Koponen – made Finland an all-around threat.
As good as Finland were, Greece’s offense was also just not up to the task. After Carl Lindbom extended Finland’s lead to 12 within the last minute of the second quarter, Nikos Pappas’ missed layup at the buzzer ensured the Finnish lead was up to double digits at the interval.
Matters only got worse after half-time as Finland looked to put the game away. Markkanen was again at the forefront as Finland’s lead reached 20 points within the first few minutes of the third quarter.
Kostas Sloukas, Greece’s only other player outside of Antentokounmpo to reach double-digit scoring on the night, began the fight back for Kostas Missas’ side; however, Greece still stared down a 15-point deficit at the end of the third frame.
Greece’s best quarter was arguably the fourth quarter as Greece would eventually cut the Finland lead to single digits for the first time since early in the second quarter. Greece’s offense was finally on rhythm and their defense suddenly showed some steel, as Greece’s scorers tested Finland and cut the lead to just four points. While there might have been some doubt on the Finland bench as Greece’s offense started to click, the Greek threat was extinguished as Greece were unable to erase their earlier collective struggles.
Finland would tack on points in the dying minutes to round-out the result, making it more and more apparent that Greece’s hopes for qualification for the next round would rest solely on Wednesday’s matchup with Poland.
Earlier results in Group A saw Slovenia keep their unbeaten record intact with a 102-78 demolition of Iceland, while France narrowly defeated Poland (78-75) to ensure their spot in the Round of 16 alongside Slovenia and Finland.
Group action concludes on Wednesday with the main fixture taking place in the early evening in Helsiniki between Greece and Poland. Slovenia and France will tip-off to determine the top spot in the group, while Finland could put pressure on France with a win over Iceland and a French loss.