Greece's national team started hot for the second straight game, riding a suffocating defense and timely baskets to an 82-70 win over the Philippines in Sunday's FIBA World Cup group-stage battle.
Georgios Printezis was the star offensively, leading the Greeks with 25 points and eight rebounds. Giannis Bourousis added a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, leading the way for a 43 percent shooting performance as a team.
Just like in their opener against Senegal, Greece doubled their opponent's points in the opening quarter. The Philippines faced a 20-10 deficit after 10 minutes and couldn't ever fully overcome from digging themselves in that double-digit hole.
The Philippines held their own on the boards and didn't struggle with turnovers, but poor shooting led to their demise. The team shot 35 percent from the field as a whole, and it was lurking below 30 percent until some late shooting success from behind the three-point line.
A number of NBA names stood out on Sunday. Andray Blatche, who has emerged as Gilas Pilipinas' unquestioned star in Spain, was active yet again in taking almost 30 percent of his team's field-goal attempts and finishing with 21 points.
Blatche proved his worth in the team's opener in a 28-point performance, and Zach Harper of CBS Sports observed how the Philippines could test Greece with their prized big man:
Philippines need to get some open shots on the perimeter so they can open up the floor inside for Blatche. Only way to battle Greece.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) August 31, 2014
Instead of taking the pressure off of Blatche early, they went right to him, but he was unable to replicate his 10-of-24 performance from the day prior. Instead, he finished 6-of-18 and couldn't kick it out to his shooters with success.
The NBA notables were more noticeable on the other side, with three total players in the league—Kostas Papanikolaou, Nick Calathes and Giannis Antetokounmpo—on the Greece national team. Calathes, the team's starting point guard and floor general, finished with nine points but ruffled feathers all game long, as journalist TJ Manotoc noted:
Calathes throws an elbow at Castro called for the charge. Throws ball at board. Warned by refs. 12-7 GRE 4m— TJ Manotoc (@tjmanotoc) August 31, 2014
The Memphis Grizzlies guard emerged in the second half, but had trouble early on with the play of the Philippines guards. With more lenient rules in FIBA, physical, on-ball defense is emphasized more than in the international competition.
PBAonTV5 noticed Calathes taking exception:
Antetokounmpo came off the bench again and finished with just three points and six rebounds, but was exposed by coming off the three-point line on a couple of occasions as Harper illustrated:
Why is Giannis helping off the strong side corner shooter? Good of Philippines to capitalize on that mistake.— Zach Harper (@talkhoops) August 31, 2014
Greece were able to maintain their double-digit lead on into halftime, going into the locker room with a 37-27 advantage. Although the Philippines kept it around the double-digit mark throughout the second half, they never mounted much of a run.
Coming out for the second half, Greece had a different mindset that allowed them to build on their lead as Gilas Pilipinas' Twitter noted:
7 straight points by Greece to start the 3rd quarter, 46-29— Gilas Pilipinas (@smartgilasph) August 31, 2014
As the game wore on, the Greeks began to take more and more of a command over the glass and negated any offensive success the Philippines could muster.
The Philippines' deficit only increased throughout the closing stretches of the game, but they nearly received another crushing blow when Blatche went down with a knee injury. But as Manotoc observed, he came back in to finish the game:
Blatche about to come back in. He's limping in. He's really gutting this out. Huge heart— TJ Manotoc (@tjmanotoc) August 31, 2014
Blatche is fouled driving and spinning in mid air. Comes up hobbling again. Limps to the FT line. Wow what heart for his team— TJ Manotoc (@tjmanotoc) August 31, 2014
Blatche's team can feel decent about sticking around against a Greece team that looked strong through two games, but the reality is the Philippines are now 0-2 to start out the FIBA World Cup. And it doesn't get any easier for them. They face Argentina, who look to be one of the favorites in Group B.
They will be in serious trouble if Blatche is unable to go on Monday. He generated more than half of their trips to the charity stripe, and his presence will be needed against Argentina's Luis Scola.
As for Greece, it wasn't as easy at it initially looked, but they got it done. Winners by 23 points the day before, they now have another lopsided victory to claim and will move on to face Puerto Rico on Monday in the hopes of improving to 3-0.