HAMAMATSU (FIBA World Championship) – Greece survived a nightmare at the free throw line and defeated Lithuania 81-76 in overtime for their second consecutive victory at the FIBA World Championship.
The Greeks, who came from 16 points down to defeat Qatar on Saturday, trailed 44-37 at half-time against Lithuania after shooting 10 of 23 from the line. But Panagiotis’ men, behind the awesome defensive play of Dimitris Diamantidis, came storming back in the third quarter and eventually won in the extra period.
When the game had finished, Greece had made 21 of 41 (51%) of their shots from the line.
Lithuania lost despite out-rebounding the Greeks 46-29.
“We didn't play good defense in the first half, but in the second half we took better control of the game, and we played better,” said Greece coach Panagiotis Yannakis..
“It was a very nervous game, and that's the reason it went so close. The team with most concentration and passion will win the game.”
Diamantidis had three steals and forced three turnovers in the third quarter and he had a chance to win at the end of regulation after Greece forced one of 25 Lithuania turnovers on the evening.
Greece ran the game clock down from 20 seconds to eight before Vassilis Spanoulis began his move and penetrated into the lane.
He hit a wide-open Diamantidis in the right corner, but the Panathinaikos guard’s shot drew iron and Darius Songaila, who had a game-high 18 points in defeat, rebounded for Lithuania before missing with a desperation heave at the buzzer.
In the overtime, after Darjus Lavrinovic game Lithuania the lead at 70-69 by splitting two free throws, Lazaros Papadopolous scored in the lane with a soft jump hook.
Linas Kleiza again put the Baltic giants in front with a short jumper, but Papadopolous made it 72-72 by sinking another of two attempts at the line.
Lithuania then fell asleep.
After Arvydas Macijauskas missed a shot in the lane, Theo Papaloukas rebounded and hit Antonis Fotsis up the floor for a breakaway dunk and a 74-72 lead.
Michalis Kakiouzis then came up with a steal and fed Papaloukas for a lay-up for a four-point advantage.
Songaila baskets sandwiched a Diamantidis free throw to make it 77-76, but Spanoulis sank two from the line with 18 seconds remaining to give the Greeks a 79-76 lead.
Macijauskas had plenty of time at the other end but took a wild three-point attempt and missed badly, and the Greeks rebounded to clinch victory.
Sinas Jasaitis, who made three three-pointers in the first half to help Lithuania take the lead, said: "We needed to win this game, especially after we lost yesterday.
“Everything went pretty well until we made a lot of silly mistakes in the end.
“We have three more games and we have to win all three of them and hopefully go to the next round."
Lithuania were edged out 76-74 by Turkey in their first game and now face a big task in trying to reach the eight-finals with games remaining against Australia, Brazil and Qatar.
Spanoulis, a member of Greece’s EuroBasket gold-medal winning side last year in Belgrade, had 15 points to lead his team.
Lithuania coach Antanas Sireika said. “I agree with Yannakis that it was a very important game for the qualifying of the next round. I think we did a decent job on defense, but when the game was on the line we didn't play as we should.”
By Jeff Taylor