Sun, Sep 09, 2007 - Page 23 News List

Spain blow out Greece in Euros

DEATH BY THREES The Spaniards buried their opponents in the first half with 3-point shots, racing out to a 45-24 lead as the Greek defense went soft


Spain routed Greece 76-58 on Friday in the second stage of the European Championship.

Guard Rudy Fernandez led Spain with 20 points and Memphis Grizzlies center Pau Gasol added 15 in a rematch of last year's world championship final, which was also dominated by Spain.

"This team doesn't really have individuals -- we always play as a team. That's why we can beat as strong a team as Greece," Fernandez said.

Earlier on Friday, Utah Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko had another double-double as unbeaten Russia became the first team to clinch a quarter-final spot thanks to a 78-63 win over Portugal.

Israel got closer to the quarter-finals by beating Croatia 80-75, boosted by strong 3-point shooting and another double-double from forward Yaniv Green, who finished with 17 points and 16 rebounds and three blocks.

Russia leads Group E with six points from three wins, Spain and Croatia have five, while Greece and Israel are on four and Portugal sits last with three.

First-round results against teams that progressed into the second group stage are carried over and the top four teams from each group will advance to the quarter-finals, which will begin on Thursday.

With a near capacity crowd of 10,500 in the Madrid Arena, Fernandez and Gasol got the crowd going after early jitters and Greece -- the defending European champions -- was already rattled as Spain pushed out to a 13-4 lead.

And then, just like in the 70-47 win at the worlds, the outside shooting took over.

Juan Carlos Navarro, Fernandez and Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon all made 3-pointers by the time Alex Mumbru's three gave Spain a 45-24 advantage as Greece's defense went soft.

Greece shot just 26 percent on their field goals in the first half, while Spain hit half of its shots.

"Basketball is a game where you have to forget your mistakes and just play the next game without any thought about it. We're going to enjoy the next game more," Greece coach Panagiotis Giannakis said.

Greece improved in the second half but it was too little, too late as Spain cruised, with center Felipe Reyes adding 10 points and eight rebounds.

Amir Tamir staked Israel to a lead it wouldn't lose, 53-51, with his second shot of the night -- another 3-pointer.

Mario Kasun's 3-point play for Croatia cut the deficit to 71-69 with 1:54 to go, but Israel's Matan Naor answered by hitting a three with Marko Popovic's hand in his face.

Two 3-point attempts from Croatia rattled off the front of the rim in the last 10 seconds as Israel went on to win another tight match.

Israel knocked Serbia out in its final first-round group game on Wednesday.

"The team has played very well; they have played with the heart," Israel coach Zvi Sherf said. "I hope that we don't get drunk on our success and that we can prepare for the next two games seriously."

A Nikita Morgunov jumper opened up a 16-point advantage for Russia before it closed the first half with a 40-33 lead.

After Portugal closed the gap to 47-38 at 7:07 of the third, Russia center Aleksey Savrasenko's jumper was followed by steal and slam dunk by Chicago Bulls forward Victor Khryapa to push the Russian lead back to double-digits to close out the game. Khryapa finished with a double-double of 11 points and 11 rebounds.

"We've been together for a long time and finally, we have come across the style in our game," Russia coach David Platt said.

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