There were two questions going into this one. Which was the real Greece? The one in the group phase or the one that tore Lithuania apart. Also, how would Greece match up with Timofey Mozgov? We got the answer to that from the off with Georgios Papagiannis put on him right away. The latter approach seemed less than ideal early as Mosgov quickly got to the line before easily bustling between Papagiannis and Sloukas for a score. He was in disruption mode from the off and happy to let the undersized Greeks throw themselves at him.
Both offences were just in full flow from the off, Sloukas and Nick Calthes finding room for Greece and Mosgov bulldozing it for Russia. You’d swear these sides had watched Slovenia vs Latvia and decided that scoring is fun.
Ioannis Bourousis moved on to Mozgov after Papagiannis picked up a couple of quick fouls, opening up the game even more. He slapped an errant Dmitry Khvostov pass that turned into a breakaway Calathes score before getting off the mark by easily hooking one over Andrey Vorontsevich. He kept finding gaps as Greece moved into a lead with Mozgov sitting. For only the second time this tournament, Russia looked a bit disjointed. The focus that had defined their run this far simply wasn’t there in the first quarter. At the end of a spritely first frame, Greece led 24-17.
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Alexey Shved was in a hole. He was on the floor and having no impact, missing all 5 of his shots in the first quarter. There was help around him but we were seeing the worst of what happens when you have a Shved on your side. Sometimes those buckets don’t drop and the other team makes a bunch in between. Finally, on the seventh attempt, he made one to the relief of his comrades.
Calathes was running free as he saw this pace was suiting those around him. A three, a transition lay up, and plenty of quick passes. He was trying to force this into a shootout and make Shved fight him. The faster this game went, the more Mozgov could be taken out of the action. The chances kept coming and Sloukas pushed the lead out to 13 before Sergey Bazarevich stopped to have a chat with his lads.
Russia went back down the Mozgov route. Feeding him on two straight possesions to put some order on things. It was basic, predictable, and Greece had been countering it fine through the first half. Bazarevich could take that. He just wanted his side to get to the break in a situation that was manageable. The other guys started to step up for Russia, Nikita Kurbanov was going to work on D and Vitaly Fridzon was presenting something different on the outside. It was enough to stop the bleeding but Greece still led 37-31 at the half.
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Russia were telegraphing their plays. Greece could see they were hunting threes and kept rotating to make them think to long about it before forcing the stop or turnover. Back to Mozgov again. It was the only reliable thing working for Russia but it was giving Greece plenty of room for error. They could bide their time while Printezis leisurely made a couple of threes. Kostas Papanikolaou starting doing more creating in the paint to give Calathes more time to focus on shutting down Shved.
Printezis taking over here, having gotten to 18 points in the quietest manner possible, he was ghosting around the court before taking his chance to hurt Russia. While the Russian offence continued to flounder, he and Calathes picked apart the D casually.
Shved got the message and began to pick up his game. Russia needed points, he scored them. They needed D, he brought it. They needed assists, he dished them. A quick feed to Andrey Vorontsevich roused the Russian offence as they closed in on a Greek side that was getting too comfortable.
The boss was back and he was bringing the whole crew with him. Russia’s D got sharper, making Greece rush more, as they moved the deficit down to a single possession. Bazarevich went smaller. He wanted to run it at the Greeks after his side had been the ones struggling against speed throughout the game. Shved had scored 13 in the third and done plenty more on top of that. Greece still led going into the fourth, 53-51.
Shved squared matters again on the first possession and gave Russia the lead from the line next time dwon the floor. THe small ball was working. Now it was Greece staring down the man with the hot hand.
As Shved sat for Russia, Calathes took the offensive load for Greece, getting a pair of and-1 buckets in succession. Russia’s other options were however ready to keep things cooking while their leader took a breather. The D got nastier again as Greece struggled to penetrate. A Dmitry Kulagin injury brought Shved in sooner than planned and immediately to the line.
Now he was getting crafty, hanging back just long enough so Calathes caught him with his leg as he pursued a ball going out of bounds. That sent him to the line and Russia were up 6, their biggest lead of the game. Nothing was dropping for Greece, not even free throws, and their D looked devoid of the energy required to fight this one. A might swat from Mozgov put Printezis down. Russia had this one in their hands.
Just like that they dropped it. Shved started hitting iron and Calathes went to work. Shved took a seat while Greece gobbled up the lead he had built. Finally here returned inside the final minute. Russia rallied and an onions grade shot from Khvostov proved decisive. Russia, a team nobody fancied coming into this, had made the medal rounds.
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