In a thrilling display of international basketball prowess, Greece secured a triumphant start to their FIBA Basketball World Cup campaign, outplaying Jordan in an exciting Group C matchup at the Mall of Asia Arena on Saturday evening, August 26. With the absence of NBA superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Greek team rallied together, led by Giannoulis Larentzakis, to secure a well-deserved victory.
Larentzakis emerged as the standout performer of the game, contributing 19 points and three assists. Displaying a balanced and cohesive offensive strategy, Greece showcased the depth of their roster as seven teammates each tallied at least seven points. Thomas Walkup’s impactful performance of 13 points and seven assists set the tone for the Greek team’s dominance, while Ioannis Papapetrou added 13 points and four rebounds to bolster their efforts.
Throughout the match, Greece managed to maintain the lead, though Jordan fought hard to remain competitive. In the third quarter, Jordan narrowed the gap to a mere three points, 61-58, sparking hopes of a comeback. However, Greece quickly regained control in the final quarter, orchestrating a run that culminated in Giannoulis Larentzakis’ layup, solidifying their victory and establishing their largest lead of the game.
Greece’s success was not solely attributed to their offensive prowess; their defensive efforts played a crucial role in dictating the tempo of the match. Coach Dimitrios Itoudis acknowledged the team’s initial challenges but praised their resilience and commitment to defense: “We opened the game not good, but we took over from there with our defense and the mindset of getting a boost we need from our hustle.”
The Greek team’s determination was evident in the contributions of various players. Nikos Rogkavopoulos emerged as another key contributor with 10 points, including a momentum-shifting slam dunk that extended their lead. Thanasis Antetokounmpo, part of the starting lineup, exhibited his trademark energy, recording nine points, five rebounds, three steals, one block, and one assist in just 18 minutes of play.
For Jordan, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s remarkable performance could not prevent his team’s defeat. Hollis-Jefferson, who recently played as TNT’s import in the 2023 PBA Governors’ Cup, showcased his skills with 24 points, nine rebounds, and three assists. However, foul trouble in the first half hindered his impact, as he accumulated three fouls.
Greece’s victory not only marked a successful debut in the FIBA Basketball World Cup but also served as a testament to their resilience and collaborative spirit. As the tournament progresses, fans eagerly anticipate the continuation of Greece’s journey on the global basketball stage.