GIANNIS, GREECE MAKE PARIS OLYMPICS AS SPAIN, BRAZIL ALSO QUALIFY

Giannis Antetokounmpo steered Greece to an Olympic berth on Sunday as he overcame a slow start to score 23 points in an 80-69 qualifying tournament victory over Croatia in Piraeus.

The game was one of four finals on Sunday to determine the last qualifiers for the Paris men’s basketball tournament.

In Riga, Brazil beat hosts Latvia 94-69. In Valencia, Spain edged the Bahamas 86-78.

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In the Olympic tournament in Lille, Greece and Spain will play in Group A with Australia and Canada. Brazil will line up in Group B with France, Germany and Japan.

The final place in the Olympics went to qualifier hosts Puerto Rico, who upset Lithuania 79-68 in San Juan.

Puerto Rico advanced into Olympic Group C with the United States, South Sudan and Serbia.

Before the qualifying tournament started, Antetokounmpo had not played competitively since injuring a calf on April 9 playing for the Milwaukee Bucks.

He returned for the tournament opener in Piraeus on July 2 and, even though he was rested for Greece’s second game, ended up collecting the tournament most valuable player award.

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On Sunday, Croatia, with 7-foot-1 Los Angeles Clippers center Ivica Zubac at the heart of their defense, packed the paint to deny Antetokounmpo.

Croatia led by as many as four points in the first quarter. As Antetokounmpo began to penetrate and Greece went 12-of-32 on three-point attempts, the hosts took control. Antetokounmpo finished as the top scorer and also grabbed eight rebounds to ensure his first Olympic appearance.

‘One step at a time’

“It’s incredible. I don’t think the scenario could have been better. Being in your house, with people that support you. It’s an incredible feeling,” Antetokounmpo said. “Since I was a kid I always wanted to play the Olympic Games.”

“I don’t want to get ahead and be talking about medals,” he said at the press conference. “The last time we went to the Olympic Games was 2008. One step at a time.”

Zubac had 19 points and 13 rebounds for Croatia.

In Riga, Brazil hit eight out of eight three-point attempts as they took a 34-11 lead at the end of the first quarter and then cruised to victory.

Forwards Leo Meindl and Bruno Caboclo each scored 21 points.

Caboclo, who plays for Red Star in Serbia, was voted tournament MVP.

“I’m so excited, I’m so happy. These are the best plans I could imagine,” he said looking ahead to the Games.

In Valencia, Spain took the lead for the first time against Bahamas midway through the second quarter and nursed their advantage the rest of the way.

Guard Lorenzo Brown top scored for Spain with 19. He was matched by NBA guard Buddy Hield for Bahamas.

Rudy Fernandez scored nine points for Spain to book a record sixth trip to the Olympics at the age of 39. He is tied with six other men and four women on five Olympic basketball tournaments.

At Puerto Rico, New Orleans Pelicans guard Jose Alvarado scored 23 points and grabbed six rebounds while guard Tremont Waters, who played 45 NBA games from 2019-2022, added 18 points to spark the hosts to victory.

Rokas Jokubaitis led Lithuania with 16 points while Sacramento Kings star center Domantas Sabonis had 10 points, nine rebounds and four assists.

2024-07-08T02:56:58Z dg43tfdfdgfd