SAITAMA (FIBA World Championship) - Greece booked their spot in the semi-finals of the FIBA World Championship with a convincing victory over France.
Five players scored in double figures for the European champions, who proved too balanced for the French in a 73-56 quarter-final win at the Saitama Super Arena.
"My players came out with a lot of concentration, and they really wanted to win this game," said Greece coach Panagiotis Yannakis, whose team will next meet the winner of the United States-Germany quarter-final.
"We put our egos aside for the team. And our respect for the opponent gave us an advantage."
Antonis Fotsis and Lazaros Papadopoulos each scored 14 points while Dimitris Diamantidis collected 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists.
"The first key for us is defense. All players know we must begin with this. After that, the offense comes easier," added Diamantidis.
Mickael Gelabale was the only French player to score in double digits with 12 points. Boris Diaw was held to nine points, 3.8 below his average coming into the game.
"The way we played on offense was not all down to Greece's defense. It was our inability to execute that got us in trouble and falling behind," said French power forward Ronny Turiaf, who saw the team shoot just 35 percent from the field for the game.
"It's not necessarily something they did. It's more something we weren't able to do because they struggled at the start of the game as we did but the difference is that they woke up eventually and we didn't," added Yannick Boloko, who contributed seven points in six minutes off the bench.
France failed to avenge their loss at the hands of Greece in the semi-finals of the 2005 EuroBasket.
Both teams started cold with Gelabale's bank shot opening the scoring nearly three minutes into the game.
Greece scored seven straight points and would open a 12-6 lead on Papadopoulos' hook shot with 2:05 left in the first. The score was 12-8 after the first period as the teams combined for just eight baskets in 29 shots from the field.
The complexion of the game changed when Yannakis brought in Sofoklis Schortsanitis for the second quarter.
French center Frederic Weis fouled the dominant big man on three of four possessions and Schortsanitis made five free throws. Power forward Antonis Fotsis added five points of his own in helping the Greeks open a 31-21 lead with 2:11 to go in the first half.
The lead remained 10 points at the break - 34-24.
After going scoreless in the first half, Theodoros Papaloukas took control early in the third quarter, scoring back-to-back baskets - his only four points of the game - to push the lead to 13 points - 42-29.
Schortsanitis also returned and continued to wreak havoc in the lane, getting to the foul line and putting the French inside players in foul trouble. Weis was slapped with his fourth foul at the 4:15 mark of the third with Schortsanitis converting one foul shot to make it 43-31.
In his 11 minutes, Schortsanitis scored 10 points, grabbed three rebounds and was fouled five times. His only problem was making just six of his 10 foul shots. And Papadopoulos made six of 11 shots in causing plenty of problems of his own.
"France were a very athletic team, and I was just trying to draw fouls to put them in trouble and give them second thoughts before jumping again," Schortsanitis said.
Diamantidis, who buried the three-pointer to beat France in the 2005 EuroBasket semi-final, gave Greece a 15-point advantage with a trey to make it 48-33.
Diaw's three-pointer sparked a 7-0 run to trim the lead to eight with 1:05 left in the third - 48-40. And it was 51-43 before Fotsis buried a long jumper on an inbounds play with 0.9 seconds remaining in the period for a 53-43 Greek lead going into the fourth.
Fotsis opened the fourth quarter with a trey and the lead was back up to 15 points - 58-43 - on Vasilis Spanoulis' long jumper with eight minutes to go.
Mickael Pietrus answered with a three-pointer but Greece responded with a Papadopoulos basket inside and a Spanoulis three-pointer for a 17-point advantage.
France could not get closer than 15 points the rest of the way as Greece never let down their pressure.
The victory could have been more convincing if the Greeks had done better from beyond the arc, making just seven of 24 three-pointers (29 percent).
France coach Claude Bergeaud said the Greeks showed they are a better team then France.
"We were very nervous and we lost our confidence too. I think we were scared, not by the opponent but by ourselves," he said.
"During the development of the game we saw the great team play of Greece. I was surprised to see our team, who normally play easy, play this way under pressure."
By David Hein