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Saturday Review: Greece stun Lithuania; Germany advance as France's long streak ends
ISTANBUL (FIBA EuroBasket 2017) - An inspired Greece produced a major boil over upsetting Group B winners Lithuania 77-64 to advance to the Quarter-Finals.
After struggling in the Group Phase and needing a victory over Poland to secure a spot to Istanbul, an energetic Greece dominated the Round of 16 clash from the get go, through hot shooting and tenacious defense.
Lithuania made a run in the final quarter clawing back the deficit to just 4 points midway through the period but Greece would not be denied to cap off a remarkable turnaround after their campaign was hanging by a thread just days ago.
Greece was led by Kostas Sloukas' 21 points and they are suddenly oozing with confidence ahead of a Quarter-Final clash with either Croatia or Russia. It is the first time Lithuania miss out on the Quarter-Finals since 2009 and it was their first loss to Greece in a FIBA EuroBasket since 1997.
In the closest game of the day, powerhouse France missed out on a Quarter-Final berth for the first time in 20 years after a heartbreaking 84-81 loss to Germany to headline Round of 16 action on Saturday.
Sparking the rivalry between two traditional foes, the game was a nail-biter with little separating them throughout. Germany got hot from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter to gain a buffer but a heroic performance from Evan Fournier (18 of 27 points in the fourth) kept France alive. However, Germany hung on with Nando de Colo missing a game-tying three pointer on the buzzer.
Germany was inspired by Daniel Theis, who was electric with 22 points, 7 rebounds and clutch shooting. His brutal dunk on France captain Boris Diaw in the third quarter was a highlight play but, more importantly, sparked his team and ensured France would not be on the podium for a fourth straight EuroBasket.
"We played as a team for 40 minutes," Theis said in the press conference after the game. "We attacked the basket more and knocked down open shots. We played fast. We got the win and are happy. It was nice (the dunk on Diaw). Maybe it gave us a push as a team."
Germany will meet the winner of Spain and Turkey in their first Quarter-Final in 10 years.
The game between Finland and Italy loomed as a mouthwatering clash but, unfortunately, was an anti-climax after scorching shooting early from the Azzurri stunned the Susijengi.
Italy star Marco Belinelli was the catalyst hitting his first 5 shots from deep and he finished with 22 points to lift his team to the Quarter-Finals with a 70-57 victory.
After being in a major hole early, a gallant Finland kept fighting but were never close enough to seriously threaten. It was a disappointing end for Finland, who had won 4 of 5 games during the Group Phase in front of their loud fans in Helsinki.
Young Finland star Lauri Markkanen struggled to reproduce his Helsinki heroics scoring just 4 points on 2-of-6 shooting.
Italy will play the winner of Hungary and Serbia in the Quarter-Finals.
Dominant performances from Luka Doncic and Anthony Randolph led unbeaten Slovenia to a convincing 79-55 victory over Ukraine and into the Quarter-Finals.
Doncic dominated early to set up a big early lead for Slovenia. Randolph then took over in the second half as Slovenia cruised into the last eight, where they will play the winner of Latvia and Montenegro.
Doncic finished with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists in just 24 minutes, while Randolph had 21 points in his best game of the tournament, offsetting captain Goran Dragic's shooting struggles.
Maksym Pustozvonov was the only Ukrainian in double figures with 11 points.