HAMAMATSU (FIBA World Championship) – Greece remained unbeaten on Wednesday night after surviving an impressive fightback by Brazil who suffered yet again due to abysmal free-throw shooting.
Panagiotis Yannakis’ team, who edged Lithuania in overtime and also beat Australia with a Nikos Zisis three-pointer in the closing seconds on Tuesday, blew a 20-point lead against Brazil but ultimately won the Group C clash in Hamamatsu, 91-80.
The Greeks looked to be cruising with a 46-26 lead just three minutes before half-time but the Brazilians played hard and started to chip away with three-point shooting from Marcelinho, who made seven of 11 on the night and finished with a game-high 25 points.
It was a line-up of Murilo, Alex Garcia, Tiago Splitter, Marcelo Huertas and Nezinho that seized the momentum for Brazil.
Brazil outscored Greece 20-2 over a six-minute stretch, capped by Splitter’s jump shot, which left the South Americans with a 72-69 lead with 3:33 to play.
Nikos Hatzivrettas buried a three-ball to tie the game at 72-72, though, and after Nezinho’s pass was intercepted by Dimitris Diamantidis, the Greek guard was fouled and made two free throws to put his team back in front for good.
Marcelinho’s last three-pointer brought Brazil to 76-75 with 2:01 to play, but Greece then went to the line and made 11 straight free throws to seal victory.
The outcome means that Brazil, who have also lost to Australia and Turkey, must now beat Lithuania on Thursday to have a chance of reaching the eight-finals in Saitama.
"Most of the game we played very well offensively and defensively," Yannakis said.
"We had a few bad minutes but in the end we controlled the game I think we won because we were better."
They were better at the free throw line.
Greece finished 29 of 24 (85%) at the line, while Brazil were 10 of 23 (43%).
"Now we have only one game to win to finish first in this very difficult group," Yannakis said, looking ahead to the game against Turkey.
"Yesterday and today we learned a lesson that it doesn't matter if we are up by 20 or down by 20.
"The most important in basketball is that you have to watch it ball-to-ball and game-by-game."
Remarkably, Brazil still have a chance of going to Saitama but they must beat a Lithuania team that is improving game-by-game.
"We have a chance to qualify tomorrow and we need to play very good to win," said Alex.
Victory came at a cost for Greece, though, when Zisis had to leave the game after catching an elbow in the face from Anderson.
Greece star Theo Papaloukas confronted Anderson on the court but calm was restored and play resumed.
By Jeff Taylor