Quarter Finals Men: ARG 69 - GRE 64
Argentina see off Greeks in tense finish
ATHENS (Olympics) - Argentina spoiled the party for Greek basketball fans by eliminating the Olympic hosts from medal contention on quarter-finals day.
Greece were looking to make it three European teams in the last four with Lithuania and Italy already in along with the United States.
But Panagiotis Giannakis' team blew an 11-point lead in the second half to Argentina, the team that finished runners-up at FIBA's 2002 World Championships.
Argentina missed some key free throws in the final minutes to give the Greeks hope.
They closed to 65-64 as Nikos Chatzivrettas made his fourth three-pointer of the game.
Greece would end up fouling Luis Scola with 23 seconds remaining and he made both from the charity stripe for a 67-64 advantage.
With plenty of time to go for a quick two, captain Fragiskos Alvertis, who had missed five shots from behind the arc on the night, instead launched another three and it was off target.
Greece fouled Ginobili in desperation to stop the clock and he made both free throws for the final scoreline.
Neither side shot well from the line in this game.
Greece were an appalling 12 of 21 (57%) while Argentina sank just 18 of 28 (64%).
Argentina were in position in the first half to take a stranglehold, however, the hosts went on a 14-2 run for a 35-29 advantage.
They extended that margin to 11 with 5:55 left in the third quarter as Dimosthenis Dikoudis made one of two at the line.
Walter Herrmann, the most valuable player of the 2004 South American Championships and one of the last players to make the Olympic squad, then emerged as a key figure.
He came off the bench to replace an out-of-sorts Andres Nocioni.
Herrmann scored eight points over the next four minutes as Argentina pulled to within 49-43. Inexperience then cost Greece.
Young point guard Dimitrios Diamantidis fouled Emanuel Ginobili when the San Antonio Spur was shooting a three-pointer with 1:44 to go in the third.
Ginobili made all three shots from the line to close the gap to 49-46.
Two possessions later and Diamantidis, just after Theodoros Papaloukas scored on a drive for a 52-46 advantage, was called for a technical foul for an apparent elbow and Ginobili made the free throw.
Pepe Sanchez immediately scored down low to leave Greece with a 52-49 advantage.
Sanchez would later bury a three-pointer to pull Argentina level at 53-53.
Scola's basket in the paint at the start of the fourth quarter put Argentina in front at 55-53 and they led for the remainder of the game.
Lithuania were too powerful for China, beating the Far East giants 95-75.
Lithuania got a 32-point explosion from their shooting guard, Arvydas Macijauskas, in the victory.
The Baltic side was 11 of 20 from three-point range, with Tau Ceramica star Macijauskas a perfect four of four.
Massimo Bulleri had 20 points as Italy defeated Puerto Rico 83-70 to reach the semi-finals.
And Spain, despite 29 points from Pau Gasol, lost to USA 102-94.
The United States will play Argentina today in the semi finals.
From Jeff Taylor, PA International, Athens
Walter HERRMANN (ARG), Forward
On the game:
"It was a very tough game for us. At the beginning we were very nervous, but we managed to overcome. The key point was when Alvertis lost the final shot."
On the future of the team:
"We know that Dream Team is a very tough team, still we can fight them and why not win the game."
Fabricio OBERTO (ARG), Forward
On the game:
"Greeks are fighters and a very difficult team. In the beginning we were not very concentrated. The key point on winning this game is our good defense especially when the game was 63-60."
On the future:
"Nothing is impossible. We can manage it with United States. We are better and better game by game."
Theodoros PAPALOUKAS (GRE), Guard
On the game:
"The game was not decided in the last offence. Everyone of us was trying to give something more. We were over-enthusiastic. We gave our soul. "
On the future of the team:
"This team is consisted of young players. It has a lot of future, as long as we keep the good things from these experiences."
On the next game against Puerto Rico:
"Since we lost this game, we have to focus and concentrate to the coming game. It is harder now, since we are out of our initial goal, the semi-finals."
|Press conference quotes:|
Dimosthenis NTIKOUDIS, Forward (GRE)
"I feel disappointed. We wanted a medal, but we didn't succeed. It will take time to forget this day, at least for me. We missed a big chance and now we must raise our heads and go on. We were not stressed, maybe a little overpassionate and it turned against us. It's not the time to discuss it, but I don't feel we are losers at all. I am looking forward to the day we will meet again and try to achieve something more."
Walter HERRMANN, Forward (ARG)
"The game was as we had expected, tough and tight. We reacted well to the home team's run and now we have the win. It's very important, and it's what we came here for. Some years ago we used to play against the US for the fun of it, trying to lose by as few as possible. But now we have a chance if we are focused and stick to our plans, although the US still have a very good team."
Panagiotis GIANNAKIS, Head Coach (GRE)
"We knew we were playing against a very experienced team, we were ready and we showed that we could win. We controlled the boards, did not make many mistakes and we were holding the game in our hands. Then we missed some easy baskets that were converted by our opponents. Our fans were fantastic in both good and bad moments, and that was our biggest gain from this tournament. Greek Basketball has a present and a future, but the lack of patience of people who love it puts a lot of pressure on the team. We have to be patient and the medals will come too. Basketball doesn't stop whether we finish first, fifth or tenth."
Ruben MAGNANO, Head Coach (ARG)
"It was a game played between equal teams, and either one could have won. It had the taste of a final. We won, and now we have two shots at a medal. I had the honour to play against the US original Dream Team, and today's Team USA is far away from it. But it's clear they have very good players. Against Spain they played really well and got the result. The key element of this team is Tim DUNCAN."
Source: Athens news service