Thu, Sep 22, 2005 - Page 19 News List

Parker leads France to surprise win

AP , BELGRADE, SERBIA-MONTENEGRO

Tony Parker had his best game of the European Championship as France beat Serbia-Montenegro 74-71 on Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals.

Parker, of the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, had 13 points and Antoine Rigaudeau added 14 to beat the world champion in Novi Sad.

Dirk Nowitzki scored 33 points and Germany beat Turkey 66-57 to move into the quarterfinals.

Croatia also reached the last eight by beating Olympic runner-up Italy 74-66 in Podgorica.

Greece beat Israel 67-61 after holding the Israelis to 14 points in the first half.

Nickos Zisis led Greece with 23 points and Lazaros Papadopoulos added 19 points and 10 rebounds. Yaniv Green had 11 points for Israel.

The quarterfinals in Belgrade today pits France against defending champion Lithuania while Greece faces Russia.

Tomorrow, also in Belgrade, Germany will play Slovenia and Croatia will face Spain.

Serbia-Montenegro, once the ruling power in European basketball, suffered its third straight setback at a major championship. Sixth two years ago, it finished 11th at last year's Olympics and now dropped out of the tournament with a 2-2 record.

Serbia-Montenegro and the team formerly known as Yugoslavia has won eight European titles, but it now fell to its worst finish since a ninth place in 1967.

Parker had been a non-factor in the first three games as France squeezed into the playoffs with a 1-2 record. But he raised his game considerably and his lay-up gave France a 58-57 lead to put his team back into the game.

Serbia-Montenegro had led by as many as 14, and when France threatened to close the gap, Vladimir Radmanovic of Seattle hit a pair of 3-point shots to keep his team safely ahead in the third quarter.

Radmanovic shot 4-for-4 from 3-point range and finished with 14 points, but Serbia-Montenegro coach Zeljko Obradovic inexplicably kept him on the bench in the fourth quarter although his team was struggling against the French zone defense.

Marko Jaric of the Minnesota Timberwolves also had 14 points; nine in the first half.

The host team made only 18 of 30 free throws.

Rigaudeau made one free throw with 15 seconds left for the final lead of 74-71. Jaric missed one free throw with 10 seconds left. Obradovic then sent in Detroit Pistons center Darko Milicic for the first time in the game. Jaric intentionally missed the second free throw, Milicic grabbed the rebound but missed a short jump shot.

With six seconds left, after Zeljko Rebraca also missed one free throw and threw the second against the board, France put it out of bounds. With one second left, Serbia-Montenegro inbounded the ball but Vlado Scepanovic missed a desperate, off-balance 3-point attempt.

"My mistake was not throwing 5 to 6 of them off the team," said an angry Obradovic. "They don't even talk with each other, everyone only looks after his own interest. I've never seen such people before."

Nowitzki, the tournament's leading scorer and rebounder, added 10 rebounds. No other German player scored in double figures against a Turkish team which shot poorly in Vrsac.

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