World Basketball Championship: Schedule : Standings : Scoreboard | NBA
Greece 101, United States 95
SAITAMA, Japan (Ticker) -- Team USA is going back to the 
international basketball drawing board.  Greece is going to the
final of the World Championships.

In a damaging first loss of the tournament, the United States
squandered a 12-point first-half lead, fell behind by double
digits midway through the third quarter and never recovered in a
disheartening 101-95 setback to Greece.

With the loss, Team USA (7-1) was relegated to Saturday's bronze
medal game against Argentina and is assured of finishing no
better than it did in the 2004 Olympics - despite the overhaul
of USA Basketball by managing director Jerry Colangelo.

In addition, the U.S. must qualify for the 2008 Olympics through
its FIBA zone tournament next summer in Venezuela, a journey
every team member was looking to avoid.

"We lost to a team that played a great game, and I take
responsibility for the loss," Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski
said.

"We came in with a mentality that we wanted to win this game and
try to win the gold medal," Denver Nuggets forward Carmelo
Anthony said.  "At the end of the day, we need to get ourselves
together. It's not the end of the world for us.  We win together
and lose together."

The Americans appeared rejuvenated and re-energized early in
this tournament after embarrassing showings at the 2002 Worlds
and 2004 Olympics.  But they proved to be no match for the
offensive fluidity and pinpoint accuracy of the Greeks, who have
no players good enough to play for Team USA.

Nevertheless, Greece (8-0) is positioned to win its second major
international title in as many years.  The 2005 Eurobasket
champions will face Spain in Sunday's game for the gold medal.

"We knew that in this tournament, the United States (was)
playing a lot better than they had in other tournaments, which
is why I have to congratulate my players," Greece coach
Panagatios Yannakis said.  "I hope that people understand that
European basketball is not only about dribbling and shooting."

"The Greek team and their coaching staff did an amazing job
today," Krzyzewski said.  "It's not surprising.  I've known
Yannakis most of my basketball life.  His team plays like he
played."

Team USA held a 33-21 lead after Joe Johnson of the Atlanta
Hawks drained a 3-pointer with 6:32 left in the second quarter.
But Greece promptly went on a crisp 24-8 run to close to the
half as Sofoklis Schortsanitis scored eight points, Theodoros
Papaloukas added six and Dimitrios Diamantidis five in the
burst.

The Americans trailed, 45-41, at halftime but suddenly found
themselves down, 65-51, just over four minutes into the third
quarter after three consecutive 3-pointers by Greece.

In that stretch that broke open the contest, both Denver Nuggets
forward Carmelo Anthony and Cleveland Cavaliers swingman LeBron
James missed a pair of free throws.  In all, Team USA made just
20-of-34 from the line, including 7-of-14 between Anthony and
James.

From there, the United States missed free throws and struggled
to defend the pick-and-roll.  The Americans scratched away and
got as close as four points several times in the final minute,
but the Greeks held on.

"(Schortsianitis) was getting the ball off pick-and-rolls,"
Orlando Magic forward Dwight Howard said. "They were running the
same play the whole second half and he was getting in there
every time."

As he has been throughout the tournament, Anthony was by far
Team USA's best offensive option, finishing with 27 points on
9-of-15 shooting.  Miami Heat superstar Dwyane Wade added 19 and
James 17 for Team USA, which still has not won an international
basketball title since the 2000 Olympics.

The Americans shot 50 percent (33-of-66) but just 9-of-28 from
the arc, a hangover from their quarterfinal win over Germany in
which they shot 10-of-40 from long range.  3-pointers.  Once
again, a bulk of their offense came in transition and in other
situations where they could employ superior athleticism.

But when it came to half-court offense, Team USA could not keep
up with the Greeks, who continuously torched the Americans with
the pick-and-roll and dribble penetration.

"It's an unbelievable game," said Yannakis, whose team scored 87
points over the final three quarters.  "I think this game has
promoted basketball.  My team has great spirit, but above all,
they have great character.  They waited, they believed and they
never lost their confidence.  They didn't panic."

"They went out there and played hard," Howard said.  "They felt
like they were the underdogs.  They played hard the whole game
and had the fans behind them and won the game."

Vasileios Spanoulis, who will join the Houston Rockets this
season, paced Greece with 22 points.  Michail Kakiouzis
contributed 15 points for the Greeks, who had eight players with
at least eight points and shot nearly 63 percent (35-of-56),
including a blistering 14-of-18 in the third quarter.
 

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