Giannis Antetkounmpo showed his grit as he fought through incessant D from a battling Czech Republic side to finally guide Greece to the quarter finals
At halftime every Greek journalist was either dead silent or nervously muttering. Everyone knew this wouldn’t be a pushover but the same group that had been chatty throughout the group stage had good cause to feel uneasy.
The big surprise was in how Greece opted to start. Georgios Papagiannis had come of the bench in spells since the start of the tournament and had yet to look his full self yet here he was, at the 5 with Giannis Antetokounmpo playing the 4. A pair of early buckets from Papagiannis made it look like a smart call and it wasn’t as if Giannis wasn’t still the focal point of the offence still.
The Greek line-up of those two bigs along with two comfortable ball handlers in Tyler Dorsey and Nick Calathes as well as the do-everything Kostas Papanikolaou was a new enough look in this tournament and presented a far more explosive style to get things under way as Greece raced into an early lead.
Then things got an awful lot slower as the Czechs settled and worked their way into a brief lead. This had already been one of the wilder days in EuroBasket history. Italy had stunned pre-tournament favourites Serbia, Finland had made the quarter finals for the first time since 1967, and all three previous games had ended on the same 94-86 scoreline.
Giannis had not been his usual self to start. Maybe he was still baffled after being hugged by Gianmarco Pozecco in between games. Whatever the case the Czechs were living with Greece comfortably and looked far more up to the pace of the game than one of the favourites to win it all.
Back to back threes from Kostas Sloukas and Ioannis Papapetrou settled some nerves as Greece opened the second without the Milwaukee Bucks superstar. The other Antetokounmpo that saw early action however was not having a good night as he picked up 3 fouls including a technical early to send him to the bench for an extended spell.
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The Czechs weren’t intimidated, with or without Giannis on the floor. Jan Vesely was in can’t miss mode and whatever pain Tomas Satoransky had from his hand injury, it didn’t seem to bother him in this one. By the end of the…