Giannis Antetokounmpo plunges dagger as Greece hold off Croatia
MILAN (Italy) - The chants of M-V-P rang out in Milan as Giannis Antetokounmpo spurred Greece to begin their campaign at FIBA EuroBasket 2022 with a 89-85 victory over Croatia on Friday.
It was a game of two halves, with a dramatic conclusion. An early 17-2 run propelled Greece as much as 40-21 ahead in the second period. Then a rally from Croatia, who were a perfect 6-for-6 from the field in a 15-0 run in the third, as their rivals were pressurized into six consecutive misses.
Krunoslav Simon’s jumper cut the gap to 62-60 before the Croats’ momentum briefly stalled in the fourth. Turning to Antetokounmpo, who contributed 27 points and 11 rebounds, and Tyler Dorsey, who scored 27, the title contenders raised the pace to race 75-64 in front.
Turning Point: In a tense finale, it was Greece who held its nerve with Antetokounmpo scoring five critical points and pulling out two blocks in the closing 57 seconds after Croatia had closed to 84-82 on a Simon floater with 92 seconds left. The Greek triumph was sealed when Antetokounmpo – in a tour de force in the last minute - blocked Jaleen Smith before conversing a three-point play at the other end.
TCL Player of the Game: After trailing 10-5, Greece embarked on a 35-11 run that lasted just shy of ten minutes. During that spell, Giannis Antetokounmpo either scored or assisted on all but two of his team’s made field goals. Despite Croatia’s rally, his influence was omnipresent.
Stats Don’t Lie: Or perhaps they do. Croatia shot 61 per cent from the field compared to Greece’s 45 and were more accurate on free throws and three-pointers. Except Greece took 14 more field goals attempts and got to the foul line 12 more times. Simple efficiency does not always prevail.
Bottom Line: Greece will take a lot from their first half, Croatia from their second despite leaving themselves with too much to overcome. But there were positives for both teams going forward.
"I love playing with Giannis. He causes so much attention and havic every time he drives every time he does something and for me, I just try to be ready to shoot. For me it's amazing to play with him in the pick and roll - he can pop and hit the mid-range, he gets to the rim and or he just gets me open because he sets great screens. So I can't complain." - Greece guard Tyler Dorsey
"There were moments we were so static. We've got to come with a bit more mobility. Croatia's strategy was to beg the players to shoot. I'm not saying that's wrong. But we had prepared things for that, other than isolating and shoot." - Greece coach Dimitrios Itoudis
"We were trying to trying to catch catch the lead for all the second half. I did we did a we gave a great effort but in the end, we came up short. But compared to the last two games we played - we played against one of the best teams in the tournament - we improved and we are moving in the right direction." - Croatia forward Bojan Bogdanovic