ISTANBUL – The most anticipated round-of-16 matchup at the FIBA World Championship lived up to its billing for the most part. It was a close game that Spain turned it around with a zone defense that Greece just couldn’t solve in the final 13 minutes of the game.
Except for a few too many turnovers, the first quarter was a thing of beauty, as the two teams combined to score 41 points on 33 possessions. Then Spain went to zone early in the second quarter and took control. Greece went scoreless on five straight possessions before closing to within one and getting Spain out of the zone with four straight scores. But they scored just 12 points on 16 possessions in the period and trailed by six at the half.
Greece took the lead with a 7-0 run to start the third quarter, and after a stretch where they scored 13 points on five possessions, they were up six, 51-45, with 2:49 let in the period. That’s when Spain went zone again, holding Greece to just six points on 13 possessions spanning the third and fourth quarters.
Missed shots and turnovers from Greece turned into a handful of fast-break points for Spain. Their half-court offense was also clicking, with Rudy Fernandez hitting a pair of threes and getting Dimitris Diamantidis to foul him on another.
It was a 22-6 run for Spain, giving them a 10-point lead with less than two minutes to go. Greece gave themselves some life with a Vassilis Spanoulis three, a Sofoklis Schortsanitis 3-point play, and another Schortsanitis and-one. But they missed four free throws in a 45-second span and chose to foul when they were only down four with 54 seconds left. Spain hit their free throws and moved on to the quarterfinals, where they’ll play Serbia on Wednesday.
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