Greece Wins European Basketball Title
By NESHA STARCEVIC, AP Sports Writer
Sun Sep 25, 6:36 PM ET
Greece beat Germany 78-62 Sunday to win its second European Championship, frustrating Dirk Nowitzki with strong defense and getting 22 points from Theodoros Papaloukas.
Nowitzki, the tournament's MVP, scored 23 points but was only 1-for-8 from 3-point range. The Dallas Mavericks star had nine rebounds but four turnovers.
Earlier, France won the bronze medal, with San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker scoring 25 points in a 98-68 victory over Spain. It was France's its first medal at the European Championship since a silver in 1959.
Greece won the title for the first time in 1987 at home and this time if felt as if it were playing at home as well. Seven planeloads of Greek fans arrived Sunday to join those already in the Serbian capital, and Belgrade Arena was awash in blue-and-white Greek colors. After the buzzer, the winners broke into "Zorba the Greek" dance.
"It was a dream final for us, we showed a great team spirit and tonight I don't think that any team in Europe could have beaten us," said Papaloukas, whose team did not include any NBA players.
In Greece, thousands of fans poured into the streets of Athens. The celebrations echoed Greece's triumph at the European soccer championship in Portugal last year. Greeks paraded down avenues draped in flags while car horns blared as fireworks lit the sky. Some fans wept; others jumped up and down as they sang the Greek national anthem.
The game was decided in the third quarter when Greece made three straight 3-pointers at the start of the period, two by Papaloukas. When Papaloukas hit another with 1:53 left in the third, Greece had a 17-point lead and the game was all but over.
Nowitzki, who had carried Germany to the final, left the game with 3:22 remaining to a standing ovation. He finished the tournament averaging 26.1 points.
"We are happy with what we achieved," he said. "Greece was simply the better team."
Germany won its first medal since winning the title at home in 1993.
"They were just a step quicker," Germany coach Dirk Bauermann said.
Center Patrick Femerling added 11 points for Germany. Nikolaos Zisis had 13 points for Greece and Michail Kakiouzis added 11. Greece was 7-for-21 on 3-pointers while Germany went 3-for-16.
"Now I am on top of Europe, not as a player but as coach," said Greece coach Panagiotis Yannakis, who played on the 1987 team.
In the third-place game, Mickael Pietrus of the Golden State Warriors added 23 points for France. Juan Carlos Navarro had 17 points for Spain.
Parker ran into the stands after the buzzer to celebrate with about two dozen singing French fans.
Associated Press Writer Paris Ayiomamitis in Athens contributed to this story.