SAITAMA, Japan - Fed up with its recent failures, USA Basketball assembled a new program with a new plan and a new coach in Mike Krzyzewski.
The end result was all too familiar.
Greece used a sizzling stretch of shooting across the middle two quarters to turn a 12-point deficit into a 14-point lead, and beat the Americans 101-95 Friday in the semifinals of the world championships.
“To lose any game is a shock to us,” U.S. star Carmelo Anthony said. “We came in with the mentality to win the game and the gold medal.”
Instead, the best Anthony can do now is add another bronze to his collection.
Greece (8-0) can earn a world title to go with the European championship it won in 2005 with a victory over Spain in Sunday’s gold-medal game. Spain (8-0) beat Argentina 75-74 on Friday night.
“They played like a champion plays,” U.S. forward Shane Battier said of Greece.
The Americans will have to wait at least two more years to remember what that feels like.
The Greeks — with no current NBA players on their roster — danced in a circle at halfcourt after their victory.
“Big players play big games,” said guard Theodoros Papaloukas, the MVP of the European final who had 12 assists Friday. “And today I think we played very good.”
The U.S. (7-1) will return to the court Saturday against Argentina (7-1), hoping to match the bronze medal it left Athens with in 2004.
“Those guys are hurting,” said USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, who was put in charge of the program after a sixth-place finish in the 2002 worlds preceded the disappointment in Athens. “It’s probably a better thing we have to come back tomorrow and play again instead of sitting on this for two days.”
Dusan Vranic / AP
U.S. head coach Mike Krzyzewski reacts during the defeat.
Vassilis Spanoulis, bound for the Houston Rockets, scored 22 points for Greece. Mihalis Kakiouzis added 15 and 6-foot-10 Sofoklis Schortsianitis — nicknamed “Baby Shaq” — added 14, shooting 6-of-7.
“Basketball is not just about dribbling and shooting,” said Greece coach Panagiotis Yannakis, who took a congratulatory call from Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis after the game. “You can come off the bench with a clear mind and give the best of your talent and that’s what our players did today.”
Continuously burning the Americans’ poor defense against the pick-and-roll, the Greek team shot 63 percent (35-of-56) from the field and made 31 of 44 shots over the final three periods.
“We didn’t make the right adjustments,” U.S. center Chris Bosh said. “They ran the same play. We made it easy for them.”
LeBron James took over the 4th quarter, Ray Allen hit a huge three to force OT and the Heat forced a Game 7.
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