Sofiklis - “the Greek Shaq” - adds to the pain as the European Champs knock out the USA 101-95 in the semi-final at the world championships tonight in Japan. The Greeks extended to six years the drought during which the US has failed to win a world or Olympic men’s basketball crown.
Greeks will play the winner of Argentina v Spain second semi.
By Alastair Himmer
SAITAMA, Japan, Sept 1 - European champions Greece shocked odds-on favourites the United States 101-95 to reach the final of the world basketball championship today.
Guard Vassilis Spanoulis led a surging Greek team with 22 points to leave the US shell-shocked and extend the Americans’ six-year world and Olympic title drought for at least another two years.
The final buzzer sparked scenes of pandemonium at Saitama Super Arena as the Greeks celebrated as if they had won the gold medal.
Greek coach Panagiotis Yannakis even received a congratulatory phone call from Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. The Prime Minister said 'congratulations' for the way we played,'' Yannakis said. I thank my players. They did something incredible. We had faith and we never lost concentration.’’
Olympic champions Argentina were playing Spain in tonight’s second semi-final.
The US suffered an astonishing second-quarter meltdown, blowing a 12-point lead with 6:15 left in the first half after a strong start.
Greece outscored the US 24-9 from that point to take a 45-41 halftime lead and some explosive long-range shooting made it 77-65 through three quarters.
Co-captains Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade led a US fightback but an off-balance three-pointer from Spanoulis with 1:58 remaining put Greece seven points clear to effectively seal the game. Obviously the Greek team did an amazing job,'' US coach Mike Krzyzewski said. It’s not surprising. We knew that they had great heart and togetherness. They deserved it.’’
Anthony scored a game-high 27 points and Wade added 19 but it was too little, too late to rescue the US team’s collection of big-name NBA stars. I congratulate Greece for coming back from 12 points down and going on a 14-0 run,'' a dejected Anthony said. I take my hat off to them for playing so well and so hard down the stretch.’’
Dwight Howard can do nothing to stop Sofoklis Schortsianitis dunking.
SAITAMA, Japan, Sept 1, 2006 (AFP) - It will be the Beijing Olympics before US National Basketball Association stars have another chance to reclaim global supremacy after losing Friday to Greece at the World Basketball Championship.
The 101-95 Greek victory means the US squad will not take an automatic berth going to the winner of Sunday’s final here and must try to reach Beijing by making the finals of the 2007 Tournament of the Americas in Venezuela. This is the start of the process,'' US coach Mike Krzyzewski said. We knew it was going to be a journey not a short trip. We have to learn from the international game. Our guys are well together. They played as one but they didn't play as one for a long time. We need continuity.'' Unlike past years when a selection committee appointed new teams every year, this US squad was picked from a pool of 24 NBA players who have made three-year commitments to be available through the 2008 Olympics in China. We’re going to go to Venezuela and try to qualify for the Olympics and then go to Beijing and bring home some hardware,’’ said US forward Shane Battier. We're disappointed. I wouldn't say we're ashamed. We represented our country with class. We showed we understand our place in the world of basketball.'' That place is no longer at the top as it was when Michael Jordan led a Dream Team’’ to 1992 Barcelona Olympic gold, or even in 2000 at Sydney when US stars struggled to subdue rivals but still went unbeaten to win gold. We just have to adapt to the international game,'' US forward Elton Brand said. We need shooters to hit their shots. We just have to get to know each other as a group, to keep this going.’’
Greek star Theodoros Papaloukas, Most Valuable Player of the European finals last year for champion Greece and the Euroleague final with winner CSKA Moscow, agreed that US players lacking the bonds his team built over years was crucial. It's hard for so many players to learn their roles in a month. They are used to being stars on their teams. I think it was the difference,'' Papaloukas said. Every time we step onto the court we know what we have to do and we’re been together for years. It’s a different style. In the NBA it’s different. It’s one-on-one. Here you have your teammates.’’
But US forward Antawn Jamison summed up the situation by saying everything is up for grabs among all 24 possible players after the latest US failure. Everybody who plays for us has a chance to make the team,'' he said. Should US players fail to reach the Americas final next year, they would still have a path to Beijing, although it would be a difficult one. A Venezuela failure would require a top-three finish at a last-chance qualifying tournament in July of 2008 - barely two weeks after the NBA Finals and six weeks before the Beijing Olympics. US forward Chris Bosh said the US players realize that the days of lopsided US routs all the way to a title are over and critics are waiting to rip them. World basketball is growing really competitive,’’ he said. Other countries can play now. It's not like it was in the past. Critics? We can’t really listen to that.’’
Lazaros Papadopoulos, another of the Greek “bigs” in action.
SAITAMA, Japan, Sept 1, 2006 (AFP) - Hot-shooting Greece humbled a team of US National Basketball Association stars 101-95 Friday to reach the World Basketball Championship final, leaving the Americans to deal with another Greek tragedy.
Two years after a disappointing bronze-medal finish at the Athens Olympics and four years after a shocking sixth at the worlds, elite NBA players are no closer to solving their top global rivals and reclaiming the basketball throne. To lose a game is a shock to us. It's not the end of the world,'' US scoring leader Carmelo Anthony said. We came with the mentality to win the title. Unfortunately, Greece came out in the second half and they never looked back.’’
The European champions, led by 22 points from Vassilis Spanoulis, opened the second half with 10-for-10 shooting, a Greek streak that left US players in a 69-55 hole with 4:40 to play in the third quarter. They never recovered. It hurts. It can't be worse than today,'' US forward Chris Bosh said. The unbeaten Greeks, who clinched their first medal in global competition, play Sunday for the title against the winner of a later semi-final between Spain and defending Olympic champion Argentina, both undefeated. We have a medal, but we want gold,’’ said Greece’s Theodoros Papaloukas, the Euroleague Most Valuable Player of champion CSKA Moscow.
The Americans, who had been unbeaten, will play the Spain-Argentina loser Saturday for third. I don't want to go home in fourth place,'' Bosh said. I’ll be welcomed home with a sandwich.’’
LeBron James and Kirk Hinrich sparked a late US rally within 95-91 on a Hinrich 3-pointer with 36 seconds remaining. But Mihalis Kakiouzis scored four of his 15 points from the free throw line in the last seconds to seal victory. It's a big day for us. Everybody said it's a dream it we beat USA,'' said Greek standout Dimos Dikoudis. The final buzzer touched off a joyous Greece celebration that ended with the entire Greek team dancing, arms draped around each other's shoulders, in a circle at center court. That’s the beauty of sport. It’s hard to believe for you but not for us. We were sure we could make it because we have a high-quality team,’’ Papaloukas said. They are better athletes. But we know how to play this game. We are clever. People knew us in Europe. Now I hope we will get more respect in the world. Our best weapon is faith.'' The next chance the NBA elite will have to capture gold against the world's best will be at the 2008 Beijing Olympics - provided they can qualify from the 2007 Tournament of the Americas in Venezuela. They guys are down. We’re definitely disappointed,’’ US forward Elton Brand said. We have to keep working. We can't give up. It's a three-year commitment. It's a step. We'll go back to our country and do what we have to do. We’ll get better and improve and see these teams again as we go - 2008 is still our target. It’s still our goal to prepare for the Olympics.’’
The Americans, coming off their worst shooting performance of the event in a quarter-final victory over Germany, hit only 20-of-34 from the free throw line and turned in their worst defensive showing. We didn't do a great job on defense,'' US forward Shane Battier said. You can’t expect to win a world championship letting a team shoot they way they did. They were tough and they showed why they are European champions. Give them credit. They play great basketball. They play like a champion plays. When they are executing that well they are a tough team to beat. They did a great job of making us pay for double teams. They moved the ball around.'' Anthony scored 27 points to lead the Americans while Dwyane Wade added 19 and LeBron James contributed 17. It’s a horrible feeling,’’ US forward Antawn Jamison said. We didn't underestimate this team. We just simply didn't play as well as we had to.'' Sofoklis Schortsianitis, nicknamed Baby Shaq’’, added 14 points for Greece.
Anthony scored six of his 13 first-half points in an 11-2 spurt that gave the US their biggest lead at 33-21 just 3:33 into the second quarter, but Greece responded with a 22-5 run and never trailed again.
What an embarrassment. I am glad that LeBron, Melo, and Wade have league maximum contracts (~$16million per year) and we can’t even beat Greece. I guess we need to select better big men. Where is Shaq when you need him?
Who wants to buy an NBA franchise with me and hire all of these so-called “not in the NBA” players from other countries who kick our asses?
I agree with mort. There is no reason why the US team should ever be outside of the top 2 (I only say this for a possible choke in a final). Where are these other players from other countries? The league minimum is huge and I am sure they would get more than that if they are this good. Mort–if I can get some cash, we will do this one day. For some reason though, I see the rest of the NBA trying a little harder when they can’t get that $1mil bonus for their new cars.
IMHO, the U.S. team’s failure to do well has less to do with not having years together as it does with the lack of team mentality in the NBA. How many NBA teams really play team basketball? The sports media went on and on about how the Pistons played so much D, and played team ball – noteworthy because they were about the only team to do so. NBA ball is less about defense and a whole-team offense than it is about flashy plays and stars getting their points. The dream team format can work if you have little opposition, but now Int’l teams aren’t intimidated and have a plan to beat the Americans.
so many theories. the one i’m going to talk about is us not sending over our BEST players. you can’t tell me that we truly sent our BEST players overthere. they said they were trying to get players fit for international ball. wade and lebron are not fit for international ball, they aren’t the greatest shooters. and if we are talking about the BEST. i think we ought to send off kobe, ray allen, shaq, jason kidd, and others.
I’m sure the best players don’t want to go for various reasons. Besides lebron, wade, and melo our team was made up of mediocre NBA players…even so… hell melo didn’t even make the all-start game in the NBA and he was killin people in this tourney.
I disagree with the Pistons being the only team-team rather than superstar-team.
Sure other teams have bigger superstars but they also played well as a team. Every player contributes. This year for example: Jason Williams had the game of his life to help the Heat shut out the Pistons. Antoine Walker (who I abhor) hit some big shots along with Payton’s big lefty floater. Miami had the 2nd best D in the playoffs.
Spurs are the dominant force of recent years and that team is the epitomy of team and selflessness. Tim Duncan learned much about this from his mentors David Robinson and Avery Johnson and it infects his teammates.
Then even the Lakers did a complete turnaround in the playoffs and played beautiful ball for a few games. They would not have even won that game 4 if Smush Parker didn’t get that steal on Nash or Walton forcing the other turnover. And the 3-peat Lakers could not have done what they did without Glen Rice’s shooting, Rick Fox’s defense, Derek Fisher’s shooting/defense, and of course Big Shot Bob (Robert Horry).
The Suns with the sefless Nash running the ship are another example. Everyone on the team had career years and they lead the playoffs in assists. Noone cares who gets the glory or the points either. And they did this all without Amare which shows great character. Of course their defense is not so good…
I think basketball is as exciting as it’s been since MJ retired (the second time).
Greece just played an incredible game and deserved the win. They never let up, took every advantage, and just kept sticking daggers in the hearts of the US. Things aren’t looking too good for the US 5 mins into this Argentina game either lol.
While you’re right that there are a few other teams to play as a team, I think it kind of underlines my point that NBAers generally aren’t team-oriented. To say, no, there’s a few . . kind of points out that most don’t do it.
Some big time coach, I can’t remember who right now, said awhile back that players should be invited to try out for a spot on the team rather than be selected for it. I wonder if this will help.