Greece stumble, fall short against France
EUROBASKET 2017 - GROUP A (GAME 2)
|Greece||87 - 95||France|
|(15 - 27)
(36 - 55)
(57 - 75)
(87 - 95)
Greece were handed a wake-up call in Group A on Saturday as France ultimately prevailed for a 95-87 win.
France, who lost in overtime to Finland in their opening fixture at Eurobasket 2017, exposed Greece’s lack-luster defense early and often but were forced to hold-on late as Greece fell just short of a miraculous comeback.
Greece forward Georgios Printezis led all scorers with 22 points, while Evan Fournier was France’s leading scorer with 21 with a few of those points coming with the help of Joffrey Lauvergne’s 11 assists.
Despite a 5-0 run by Greece to start the game, it was France who stamped their authority in the first quarter as Les Bleus quickly built a lead of their own.
Greece’s defending, which wasn’t tested in their opening game against Iceland, wasn’t up to the task as France’s NBA-caliber offense opened up a double-digit lead midway through the first quarter. Lauvergne quickly established himself a main outlet for the French offense as he exposed holes in Greece’s defense as France raced out to a 27-15 lead after the first quarter.
Greece were slightly better at both ends of the court in the second quarter, but France’s well-oiled offense kept Kostas Missas’ men in check. France has a response for every Greek attack, with the likes of Fournier and Lauvergne keeping the Ethniki at bay before extending the French lead to 19 points (55-36) by half time.
The interval seemed to energize Greece, and there was an early foundation in place for an improbable comeback as Greece cut into the French lead with key shots coming from Printezis early in the third frame. Despite how efficient Greece was offensively, turnovers and weak defending kept the Greek comeback out of the question through three quarters. If matter weren’t already worse enough, Greece’s problems were only compounded when starter Kostas Papanikolaou fouled out with his fifth foul on the night.
Staring down an 18-point deficit (75-57) to start the fourth quarter, Greek looked for a spark. After Kevin Seraphin extended the French lead to 20 points with the opening basket of the final frame, Greece came back firing with the likes of Printezis and Kostas Sloukas the protagonists in a 12-0 run.
Seraphin interrupted the Greek resurgence with a single free throw, but Nikos Calathes answered back with a clutch three-pointer to cut the French lead to six (78-72). Both sides exchanged baskets as France certainly felt the pressure from Greece’s suddenly awoken offense.
Unfortunately for Greece, just as quick they were able to cut into the French the same troubles that saw them fall behind earlier in the game arose once again. Sloppy ball-handling, poor execution on defense, and a lack of rebounding on both boards allowed France to re-establish its lead.
A second ejection for Greece saw Thanassis Antetokounmpo foul out late in the fourth quarter, but by that time it was quite clear that Greece’s comeback was going to be a case of too little too late.
Greece certainly had France on the ropes as the game headed towards its conclusion, but the deficit was just too much to overcome as Greece’s impressive 30-point fourth quarter couldn’t re-write a sloppy opening half.
Elsewhere in Group A on Saturday, Poland dispatched Iceland 91-61 while the late game sees group hosts Finland and Slovenia tip-off for the early lead in the group.
Now sporting a 1-1 record in Group A, Greece will look to rebound against Slovenia on Sunday. Meanwhile, France, who share the same record with Greece will look to continue their winning ways against Iceland.