Spain loses; Russia, Greece win
WARSAW, Poland -- Serbia used a stingy defense to upset world champion Spain 66-57 on Monday on the opening day of the European basketball championship.
Looking like one of the formidable Yugoslav teams of old, the young Serbian squad without any NBA stars thoroughly outplayed a lackluster Spain, clamping down on a Spanish attack led by Los Angeles Lakers center Pau Gasol.
"I think tonight my team absolutely deserved this victory," coach Duzan Ivkovic said. "We won with extremely great defense."
The Serbs used a 14-4 run in the last five minutes of the first half to open a 38-23 lead at the break.
After a cold first half, Spain still couldn't find its shooting touch after the break, making just just 2-of-19 from behind the arc and 54 percent from the line for the night. Serbia's lead was never less than eight points in the second half.
"They played a very good game, especially on the defensive end," Spain coach Sergio Scariolo said. "Our shooting percentages were tonight really low. So offensively we struggled, part due to the good defense of our opponent, and part we missed very, very open shots and free throws."
Gasol, who is coming off minor surgery on his left index finger after injuring it last month, struggled all night to find his range. The Lakers star shot 4-of-10 from the field, and hit just 1-of-8 free throws to finish with 9 points.
Serbia tops Group C along with Slovenia, which beat Britain 72-59 earlier Monday.
Defending champion Russia also won its opener, jumping out to an early lead against Latvia and then holding off a late challenge to win 81-68 behind 24 points and nine rebounds from American-born Kelly McCarty and 22 points from point guard Sergey Bykov.
Latvia cut Russia's lead to 65-63 with 4:08 to play on a pair of free throws from Kaspars Kambala before the Russians closed with a 16-5 run.
Germany sorely missed its NBA star, Dirk Nowitzki. The Dallas Mavericks forward led all scorers at the 2007 championships with 24 points per game, but Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has refused to allow him to play in the tournament.
Greece, the 2005 European champion, jumped to an 18-5 lead in the first five minutes to open the tournament with an easy win over Macedonia in Group A. Point guard Vassilis Spanoulis led Greece with 17 points, and center Yannis Bourousis chipped in with 11 points and eight rebounds.
"We didn't really know them and we'd heard that they could cause us trouble," Bourousis said. "But in the game, we started strong and stayed that way throughout."
Hedo Turkoglu scored 19 points to lead Turkey to an 84-76 upset of Lithuania in Group D.
Also, host Poland beat Bulgaria 90-78 in Group D, and Croatia downed Israel 86-79 in Group A.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press
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