The U.S. hasn’t even played for a world championship since winning the last of its three titles in Toronto in 1994. Mike Krzyzewski — who was looking for gold after winning bronze with the 1990 team — and a few American players walked to midcourt to congratulate the Greeks, while most of the U.S. roster quickly headed to the locker room.
The Americans, who put together a national team program this year for the first time, now will be forced to qualify for the 2008 Olympics next summer in the FIBA Americas tournament in Venezuela.
“This one hurts,” said Colangelo, who assembled the team. “We had the gold medal as our goal and anything short is disappointing. We go back to work and get ready for qualifying next summer.”
The U.S. seemed in control after Joe Johnson’s 3-pointer gave the Americans a 33-21 lead with about 6½ minutes left in the second quarter. It was around then that James told his teammates on the bench: “They don’t know what to do.”
Well, they figured it out in a hurry.
Greece scored nine straight points, pulling within three on Papaloukas’ drive with 3:51 left and forcing Krzyzewski to call a timeout. Dwight Howard converted a three-point play, but the Greeks answered with a 13-2 surge, featuring eight points from Schortsianitis, to open a 43-38 lead and force Krzyzewski to call a second timeout.
Greece hit nine straight shots — its only miss in the last 5 minutes was a heave from halfcourt as time expired — and led 45-41 at halftime. The Greeks shot 56 percent (15-of-27) in the half.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
Greece kept it up in the third quarter, hitting 14 of its 18 shots, including all four 3-pointers in the first 5 minutes. Kostas Tsartsaris’ 3-pointer with 5:45 left in the period gave the Greeks a 65-51 lead — the biggest deficit the U.S. faced in the tournament.
After shooting 4-of-12 in the first quarter, Greece was 25-of-33 (76 percent) in the second and third and led 77-65 heading to the final period.
“It seemed like they didn’t miss the whole third quarter,” Wade said.
Anthony, Wade and James combined for the first 18 U.S. points in the quarter, and the Americans eventually got as close as 95-91 on Kirk Hinrich’s 3 with 36 seconds to play. But the U.S. missed its final two attempts from behind the arc, capping a 9-of-28 night.
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