Tall, disciplined Greece proves a tough nut to crack for Gilas Pilipinas in Fiba World Cup
June Mar Fajardo was one of the few bright spots in the match against Greece, scoring 10 points, grabbing seven rebounds and blocking two shots for Gilas. Photo from Fiba.com

SEVILLE, SPAIN - A tall and disciplined Greece team methodically tore Gilas Pilipinas apart, 82-70, on Sunday night (Monday morning, Manila time) to remain unbeaten in the Fiba World Cup.

Although not physically as imposing as Croatia and not particularly sharp from the outside, the Greeks took the fight out of the Filipinos with a patient execution that kept finding the open men as well as a defense that rarely gave away an easy shot inside.

Giannis Bourousis, the Greeks' biggest threat inside, led the way with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds while Georgios Printezis had a team-high 25 points as the world No. 5 team won its second straight game to take the lead in Group B with Croatia.

On the other hand, Gilas dropped its second straight game on a night when its shooters just couldn't find their touch and naturalized player Andre Blatche limped around with a knee injury.

Still, Gilas coach Chot Reyes opted to stick with the positives after Gilas stayed with a Greece squad for the most part, a day after losing a 78-81 decision in overtime to Croatia. 

"If you told me before the start of the tournament that we would be able to stick with the No. 5 in the world in the Greek squad, I would've been very happy with that," said Reyes.

"I'm crushed by the loss but I'm still very happy with the effort of my players." 

Blatche still led the way for Gilas with 21 points and 14 rebounds, but he was just 6-of-18 from the floor before he was finally pulled out by Reyes with a little over a minute left.

The one bright spot for the Filipinos was back-up big man June Mar Fajardo, who had 10 points and seven rebounds in 10 minutes off the bench in a game that ended with a commotion at midcourt.

Interestingly, the 7-1 Bourousis and Gilas guard LA Tenorio were in the middle of the argument over three-point shots Greece took after Reyes had already thrown in the towel by pulling out Blatche.

In turn, Hellas players accused Gilas of 'dirty plays.'

Still, Gilas couldn't come close enough in the endgame to rattle the composed Greeks, who opened an 18-7 lead after the first nine minutes and kept a safe distance from the Filipinos the rest of the way.

Blatche, playing on one good foot, led several runs that stirred excitement among a crowd of  Filipino fans that far outnumbered the travelling fans of the Hellas.


But each time Gilas stepped on the pedal, Greece always found an answer.

Making matters worse for Gilas, no one among its battery of shooters caught fire in the game, so unlike the 78-81 loss to Croatia in the opener when Jeff Chan hit four three-pointers for 17 points.

This time, Gilas went 24-of-68 from the field (35 percent) and just 6-of-22 from beyond the arc, with Blatche going 0-of-3 and Chan 1-of-5.

The scores:

Greece (82) - Printezis 25, Bourrousis 12, Calathes 9, Papanikolaou 9, Zisis 8, Vasileiadis 6, Kaikakoglou 5, Antetokounmpo 3, Vougioukas 2, Mantzaris 0, Glyniadakis 0

Gilas Pilipinas (70) - Blatche 21, Fajardo 10, Pingris 7, Castro 5, Lee 5, Norwood 5, De Ocampo 4, Chan 3, Tenorio 3, Alapag 3, Aguilar 2, David 2

Quarterscores: 20-10; 37-27; 58-48; 82-70.

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