Giannis Antetokounmpo made sure his first meaningful game for the senior Greek national team was also a memorable one.
After three weeks of exhibition tune-ups, Giannis scored 11 points (2/2 fg, 7/8 ft) and added five rebounds and three steals to help Greece annihilate an overwhelmed Senegal 87-64 on day one of the FIBA World Cup Saturday, putting Greece tied atop the Group B standings ahead of their Sunday game against the Philippines (1 pm CT).
Giannis entered at the start of the second quarter with Greece leading 18-9, and he wasted no time announcing his arrival by stripping a Senegalese player and racing for an end-to-end flush. Look familiar? This time he needed a whopping three dribbles to cover 70-ish feet, but we'll take it.
Giannis then put the punctuation mark on a dominating 27-8 second quarter with another transition slam just before halftime, this time weaving past a pair of defenders before thundering home another one-handed slam. By now we're getting used to Giannis delivering a couple highlight reel plays per game, but this one was probably the filthiest we've seen from him in a Greek uniform. A quick right to left crossover to blow past a guy at midcourt, then an inside-out mini-hesitation dribble to fly past the last man. It's one thing to be quick and long, but to also have the swerve and wiggle to juke guys at speed in the open court? Now that's special.
Giannis didn't even take another official shot from the field in the second half, but he added 7/8 from the stripe and generally looked comfortable while mostly deferring to teammates and picking his spots to attack. All in all it was a very measured performance and one reflective of the role he's being asked to play by coach Fotis Katsikaris. While he handled it in transition a number of times and also saw the ball a fair bit in halfcourt sets, he was generally eager to keep the ball moving for a Greek attack that buried 13/24 threes, including 5/7 threes and 17 points from Kostas Kaimakoglu.
The Greeks figure to get a much stiffer test on Sunday against the Philippines, which gave Croatia all they could handle in an 81-78 overtime loss on Saturday. Andray Blatche led the Filipinos with 28 points and 12 boards in 41 minutes, which might be surprising since Andray Blatche is, you know, not from the Philippines. But he is technically now a Filipino citizen, and as such will need to be dealt with by Greece's front line on Sunday.