Friday, September 14, 2007

Greece: The Gods of Comebacks

Greece pulled off a miracle comeback to knock off Slovenia 63-62 in the quarterfinals of Eurobasket on Friday (Read Jay Aych's game analysis). After managing just 49 points in the game's first 37 1/2 minutes, Greece put together a 14-1 run in the last 2 1/2 minutes to win it.

The Greeks trailed by 12 with 2:40 to play and then by 7 points with a minute left. Theo Papaloukas was huge as usual in the clutch, with a wild 3pter, a steal, and then a driving game-winning bucket with about 6.7 seconds left. What a winner that guy is.

Here's the final minute, with the crazed broadcast call almost as entertaining as the comeback itself (and what's up with Slovenia jacking up a jumper with a 1-point lead and :10 on the shot clock with :15 left overall?):

As Jay Aych pointed out to me, this Greek comeback was eerily similar to their rally in the Eurobasket 2005 semis, when they trailed France by 7 with :40 left (Game story). Here are the video highlights of that one (the clip gets to the final minute of the game at about the 2:00 mark):

If that's not enough, watch this one - Greece came back from down 5 with a minute left vs. Australia in the 2006 Worlds, with Papaloukas contributing a beautiful poke steal and then Nikos Zisis nailing the buzzer-beater:

And remember that Greece also came back from a 13-point second-half deficit vs. Croatia earlier in this tournament, winning on this buzzer-beating three by V. Spanoulis:

All in all, Greece is 6-0 in games decided by 3 pts. or less and/or OT in the 2005 Eurobasket, the 2006 Worlds, and the 2007 Eurobasket.

And one thing I noticed is that a different guy hit the game-winning shot each time in the four clips above: in order, it was Papaloukas, Diamantidis, Zisis and Spanoulis.

Great stuff. Too bad it's not on U.S. TV. Looks like it's only for the medal round - it's Spain v Greece and Lithuania v Russia in the semis on Saturday.

Spain has to be a big favorite as a) they've handled Greece easily in recent meetings, b) are at home, and c) had a day of rest while Greece fought for its life today.

That should set up an all-important bronze medal game between Greece and the loser of Lithuania-Russia, with a bid to Beijing on the line.

The Lithuania-Russia game looks like a tossup. All things being equal, Lithuania would probably be a slight favorite, but they had to work for a 74-72 win over Croatia today while Russia had a rest day, and Lith. leader Saras Jasikevicious looks less than 100% with his leg injury.


At 9:09 PM, Blogger Athan said...

Really enjoy the blog. I've loved Hubie Brown since we got cable and the Hawks (with Dan Roundfield, John Drew, Armand Hill, Charlie Criss, etc.) in the late 70s.

I wish Papaloukas would come to the NBA (but he just resigned w/ CSKA). The guy is the kind of stone cold clutch point guard a team like the Lakers or Cavaliers or practically anyone could use.

I'm a Greek American so obviously biased, but I love the Greek squad.
Just a fantastic collection of talented players and gamers lead by a Dean Smithesque coach.

At 9:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great compilation of thoughts and videos!

At 1:23 AM, Blogger Tas Melas said...

WOW! That was a phenomenal compilation of some ridiculous come from behind moments. Greeks are procrastinators. Did you see how they go ready for the Olympics in '04? That was some great footage!

At 3:04 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Once again, your blog sets the standard for an entertainin and informative hoops posting. I have been watching hoops fanatically for 20 years, including every single game of the Greek national team since its monumental Eurobasket upset in 1987; I have seen dozens of comebacks, but these guys (from 2005-2007) are unique. Yannakis' team (btw, one of the greatest clutch players himself) is a true hoops fan's dream: they aren't that athletic or that skilled, but have an incredible bball IQ; Papaloukas and Diamantidis (who sank the three in 2005) are without doubt the best defensive guards of the past 3-4 years - Diamantidis was voted Defensive Player of the year from 2005 to 2007, watch (defense from 1:20 to 3:40, clutch shots starting at 6:05). Their defense is as much devotion as it is cunning apprehension - see Papaloukas' two steals in the final seconds (yesterday and against Australia). And they just simply overwhelm the opponent with their "no f*** way we're losing this game" attitude. Thanks, guys.

At 3:06 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Sorry, that's

for Diamantidis highligts.

At 3:15 AM, Blogger rod higgins said...

Great stuff, I can't wait for the 08 Olympics, when hopefully Baby Shaq, who is now completely out of shape, will rejoin the team, along with Ohio State freshman Kosta Koufos. It is true that Spain is the favourite and Greece has not been able to match its performance at last year's World Championship, but it's time they played a great game in this tournament. Btw, there's some quality basketball played in Spain (the Lithuania - Croatia quarterfinal also cam down to the last shot) and if anyone has the opportunity, they should watch both semifinals.The game is different than the NBA, but very exciting nonetheless. Ela mwri elladaraaaa!!!

At 5:40 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

Papaloukas' comments after the game, simply beautiful:
"We weren't the better team tonight. Slovenia was much better, they played with more passion, but in the end we managed to open up the game and press them full-court. And we were lucky: some shots went in, they turned the ball over, and now we're in the semis. As the Americans say, it's not over until the fat lady sings."
When a reporter asks him why the team is not playing that well, Theo asks back: "What country are you from?" The baffled guy says he comes from Lebanon, and Papaloukas, smiling: "Because your attitude reminds me of a Greek reporter" (famous for their nagging and too high expectations). While everyone is laughing, he continues: "We're in the semis now, so what does it matter if we didn't play well. I you start doubting and nitpicking now, you won't achieve anything".
On his last-minute heroics: "I don't know, it must be a blessing. I'm getting grey hair with everything that's going on. But a coincidence that repeats itself is no coincidence anymore."
Classy and witty

At 7:18 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great job. Loved all the videos!

At 11:28 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

maybe nice for you... My life will be 10 years shorter after this loss...

regards from slovenia

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