Greece depart Milan unbeaten after rapid Giannis blitz
MILAN (Italy) - Greece ruthlessly defeated Estonia 90-69 to head into the Last 16 of FIBA EuroBasket 2022 unbeaten.
It was yet another freakish masterclass from Giannis Antetokounmpo as a final treat for the fans in Milan, not just as unstoppable scorer but with as a facilitator and defensive disruptor.
He reached his game-high tally of 25 points before the interval as the Greeks raced to a 51-36 lead at half-time, setting the tone with an 8-0 start and then surging clear late in the second period.
Kostas Papanikolaou took up the mantle in the third, with a three that began an 18-4 run and extended the gap to 49-43, one including a three and a precision block from Thanasis Antetokounmpo whose younger brother Kostas made his tournament debut following a knee injury.
Estonia, fueled by a team-high 19 points from Siim-Sander Veve and by yet another extraordinary display of support from their huge continent of traveling fans, fell as much as 29 behind before a late rally, bowing out of EuroBasket with a 1-4 record and ample respect earned.
Turning Point: Kostas Sloukas had 5 points in a 13-2 run midway through the second period that opened up a 46-30 lead and broke Estonia’s dogged resistance and gave head coach Dimitris Itoudis a perfect present on his 52nd birthday.
TCL Player of the Game: Giannis Antetokounmpo left the game with 6:10 remaining in the third with a mild ankle sprain, following a 9-for-10 shooting performance from the field, plus 5 rebounds. On the court for 15 minutes and 10 seconds of the first half, Giannis scored or assisted on all but five of Greece’s field goals while he was on the floor. He finished this preliminary round with an average of 30 points per game, the most by any player in this phase of a EuroBasket tournament since his countryman Nikos Galis finished the 1991 group stage with a 30 point-per-game average.
Stats Don’t Lie: The frenetic pace at which Greece played brought them 28 points on fast breaks with their defense limited Estonia to a mere 8. Greece also had 15 steals - the last team to have made more steals in a EuroBasket game was Italy in 2005: 16 v Croatia.
Bottom Line: Greece top Group C with a 5-0 record and will face the Czech Republic, the fourth-placed team from Group C, in Berlin for a place in the quarterfinals. Estonia head for home.
"We respect the team of the Czech Republic. They have some quality players who have played at NBA level or Euroleague level. This is a knockout game. We're going to approach this game as a final. Because that's the tournament: you have five games, that's the pool. You can construct something and we did this. Now it's the finals." - Greece head coach Dimitris Itoudis
"It feels great. These were tough games. Everything was amazing. Estonia are young running guys, they were great." - Greece forward Thanasis Antetokounmpo
"We're a super-young team and we need these games against the world's top players and for us, it's gaining experience. Maybe we can see we lost four games, but we deserve three wins right now. And I think we gained a lot.
"There is a lot of frustration because of these wins. We couldn't close out the games against Ukraine and against Croatia. It's still not in our mind but it's in our heart because we gave everything and we were just unlucky and this is frustrating. But otherwise, it's been a super experience. We feel as a young group, there's a lot to build on now. The next EuroBasket is in three years. So in three years, we can get so much better. The sky is the limit for our potential." - Estonia forward Henri Drell