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Czech Republic lose the battle but maybe win the war
SHENZHEN (China) - It came down to this for the Czech Republic; win and they're in to the Quarter Finals of their first FIBA Basketball World Cup. Lose by less than 12 and they are halfway there, needing a USA win over Brazil to seal the deal.
They did the latter, falling to Greece by just seven points, 84-77.
Advancing even further in this World Cup would be a remarkable accomplishment for this nation of just 10.7 million, about 2 million less than the city of Shenzhen where they put themselves in position for greater glory.
The Czechs had been a high scoring team in their last three games, averaging 91 points a game but Greece held them to just 33 at the half. But they were leading 33-32.
Then Greece went on a run, sparked by Thanasis Antetokounmpo's 11 points in a 4:50 span, that took them to that needed 12-point margin. But the Czechs have been a strong and resilient team in this tournament and they do not want the last sentence to be written yet.
Turning Point: The finish was frantic as all of Greece and the Czech Republic were calculating the spread. Down 12 at 65-53, the Czechs cut the lead to five and it looked comfortable, but Greece kept hitting shots and flirting with advancement. Nick Calathes's three pushed the margin to nine points with only five seconds left but Bohacik hit two free throws to close the game.
TCL Player of the Game: Jaromir Bohacik has been a sharpshooter all tournament and this game was no different. 25 points on 53 percent shooting (8 of 15) including 4 of 7 three-pointers.
Stats Don't Lie: Five fouls. Giannis Antetokounmpo fouled out with 5:32 to play with the score 67-57 and that limited the Greek options on the attack.
Bottom Line: A USA win will put the Czech Republic into the World Cup Quarter-Finals for the first time… but everything here is a first as they write their history. Were Brazil to upset the United States, the Americans would go through with the already qualified USA.
Now it's up to USA and Brazil to sort it all out.
They said: "First of all, we are not celebrating yet because we need for America to win. I hope they will do the job. I believe in them. About the game, I am speechless. I don't have the words about my players. Every game they come and show more and more, effort and character. The motto of this national team over the years is to fight like a lion. And that is what they are doing. We played against one of the best teams in the world. We did some tactical things but in the end, the heart won the game. I am proud of all my staff, all my players." - Czech head coach Ronen Ginzburg
"What can I say, we lost but we still have some chances to advance. Right now, we really don't know. But we believe that the United States is going to win, and we will be happy after this game." - Czech forward Jaromir Bohacik
"The Czech team deserves to go to the next round. They have played well throughout the tournament and I wish them good luck. About our game, we tried a lot today. We played tough, more than usual. We tried to keep the score within the points we needed, but we didn't make it. Of course the problem was the game against Brazil. In the second half we lost our confidence, we lost our concentration and that hurt us a lot. This is life, we have to look forward. I would like to congratulate my players also. We worked together a month and a half and they were very good in this time. I'm sorry because we disappointed a lot of fans in Greece and the fans who came here to support us. But we did the best we could." - Greece head coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos
"Congrats to the Czech team. They made it to the next round. They did a great job in the last game against Brazil. Unfortunately for us you cannot control every aspect of the game. Our first objective was to win, and then to win by 12. We paid for the game against Brazil in the first round. But this is basketball. Sometimes you are on top, sometimes you’re on the other side." - Greece forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo