France to face Greece in semifinals

Updated: September 22, 2005, 5:16 PM ET
Associated Press

BELGRADE, Serbia-Montenegro -- France beat defending champion Lithuania 63-47 Thursday to reach the European Championship semifinals behind Boris Diaw's 18 points and 11 rebounds and a strong game from Tony Parker.

The French will next play Greece, which defeated Russia 66-61 on 23 points by Theodoros Papaloukas. Greece advanced to the Euro semifinals for the first time since 1997.

In Friday's quarterfinals, Slovenia plays Germany and Croatia meets Spain.

Parker, the point guard for the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, finished with 11 points and five assists.

"I did everything with the Spurs, two rings," he said. "Now I want to do something with the national team."

France eliminated world champion Serbia-Montenegro in the previous round.

"With every new match we've picked up our game," said Diaw, who plays for the Phoenix Suns. "This was our fourth and this was our best."

Center Frederic Weis added 11 rebounds and five points for France while Antoine Rigaudeau scored 11 points.

France led 32-16 at halftime. Lithuania, usually a high-scoring team, missed all nine 3-point attempts.

"We played great defense," Parker said. "I cannot recall when Lithuania scored only 47 points in a game."

Twins Ksistof and Darjus Lavrinovic provided some scoring for Lithuania after halftime. Ksistof hit the team's first 3-pointer and Darjus scored eight straight points at the end of the third quarter as Lithuania pulled within eight.

But Diaw scored on a jumper and Parker made the next five points as France drew away. Rigaudeau and Parker made four free throws each for the final score.

Earlier, Papaloukas scored the last 10 points for Greece, which rallied from an 11-point deficit. The point guard shot 6-for-7 from 2-point range and was 2-for-3 from beyond the arc.

"We were a bit afraid of the Russians before the game," he said. "But when we saw that we could beat them during the match, we shifted into a higher gear and tightened our defense in the third quarter."

Russia's Andrei Kirilenko, who stars for the Utah Jazz, finished with 20 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. Jon Robert Holden, an American-born, naturalized guard, added 15 points. Dimosthenis Ntikoudis had 11 points, the only other Greek player in double digits.

Russia did not score for nearly 10 minutes at the end of the third and the start of the fourth quarter. A 3-pointer by Papaloukas gave Greece its first lead since the start of the game at 42-40.

Russia's Vitaly Fridzon made a 3-pointer to reduce Greece's lead to 61-58. Papaloukas then took over by converting four free throws.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press