Israel send Serbia home

EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP: Portugal open against Russia as the second round of group play starts in Madrid today, while Spain face Greece and Israel play Croatia

AP , MADRID

Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 22

Israel rallied behind Yaniv Green's 26 points and 12 rebounds to beat Serbia 87-83 on Wednesday, sending the Serbs to their earliest exit from the European Championship in 60 years.

At Sevilla, Portugal surprised Latvia 77-67 and reached the second round in its tournament debut, advancing when Marko Tomas' three-pointer with three seconds left lifted Croatia over Spain 85-84 in Group B.

At Alicante, Andrea Bargnani and Marco Belinelli led Italy over Poland 79-70 and enabled it to avoid its worst finish in tournament history. Also in Group C, Slovenia won its third, beating France 67-66 when Tony Parker missed a game-tying free throw with two seconds left.

And in Palma de Mallorca, Saraunas Jasikevicius scored 15 points and had 10 assists to help Lithuania hold off Germany 84-80 and finish unbeaten atop Group C. Turkey joined its two rivals in the next round thanks to an 80-72 win against the Czech Republic.

Also, Russia topped Group A with a 61-53 win over Greece.

A second round of group play begins today in Madrid, with Portugal opening against Russia, Spain facing Greece, and Israel playing Croatia. Tomorrow, Italy plays Lithuania, France takes on Germany and Turkey is against Slovenia.

First-round results against fellow qualifiers carry over, with the top four from each group moving into the quarter-finals, which begin on Thursday.

At Granada, Israel trailed Serbia 45-33 with a minute to go in the first half, but started the third quarter with a 23-11 run, capped by Meir Tapiro's running jump shot for its first lead -- 59-58 with 3:07 remaining.

Guy Priny hit three consecutive field goals in 1:42 to rally Israel from a one-point deficit to a 68-62 advantage -- a lead it never surrendered.

It was Serbia's worst finish at the Euros since 1947, when it finished 13th in its debut.

At Sevilla, Pau Gasol led Spain with 26 points, but picked up his third foul with 6:09 remaining in the third, forcing him out of the game and enabling Croatia to rally from a nine-point deficit.

The Croatians went on a 18-5 run and took a 65-61 lead, and even with Gasol's return to the floor, extended the advantage to 77-70 with 7:08 remaining. Then it was Spain's turn to rally, surging with a 14-2 run and an 84-79 lead, paced by seven straight points Rudy Fernandez while Croatia went scoreless for 5:33.

Four players scored in double figures for Portugal, which won its first ever championship game as Latvia shot only 28 percent from the floor.

Inside the Centro de Tecnificacion, Bargnani had 19 and Belinelli 20 as Italy rebounded from late stumbles in its two previous games to win its first, beating Poland 79-70.

Earlier, a Matjaz Smodis jumper and three free throws by Domen Lorbek had Slovenia ahead 67-65 and the game appeared headed for overtime when Uros Slokar fouled Parker with two seconds remaining. Parker converted the first of two to give him 11 points, but left the second short for France's first loss.

At Palma de Mallorca, Germany cut a 17-point halftime deficit against Lithuania to 11 by the start of the fourth, and Nowitzki -- the tournament's leading scorer with 29 points per game -- reduced it to 81-78 with a three of his game-high 28 points.

Turkey controlled its game against the Czech Republic from the outset. The Czechs closed with 31-28 with 5:25 left in first half, but with guards Hidayet Turkoglu and Ibrahim Kutluay leading the way, Turkey went on a 15-3 run to take a commanding 46-31 lead by halftime.

At Granada, Andrei Kirilenko recorded a third straight double-double -- 12 points and 17 rebounds -- and Russia won its third straight to top Group A.

US-born point guard John Robert Holden scored 17 for Russia while Vasileos Spanoulis led Greece with 12 points.