Greece remains perfect at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, and I'm happy to report that everyone's favorite 19-year-old phenom remains a big reason why.
Bouncing back from an 0/3 shooting night on Sunday, Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 15 points in 23 minutes to help propel Greece to a 90-79 win over Puerto Rico on Monday, moving the Greeks to 3-0 in group play and assuring them a spot in the round of 16 (four out of six teams from each group advance). Point guard Nikos Zisis led Greece with 19 points on 7/9 shooting, while Giannis Bourousis added 12 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Kostas Kaimakoglu 11 rebounds, nine points and five assists.
Giannis' night wasn't without its rough edges, but ultimately his energy and penchant for making plays convinced coach Fotis Katsikaris to stick with him for the entirety of the fourth quarter, even as Puerto Rico trimmed the Greek lead to single-digits. With few opportunities to create off the dribble in the halfcourt, Giannis once again did all of his damage with off-ball cuts and transition finishes, twice running the baseline for finishes early in the fourth before sealing the game with a steal and finish through contact with less than two minutes remaining:
It was a similar story in the first half, as Giannis got on the board thanks to a pair of quick diagonal cuts through the paint--the first leading to free throws and the second an open layup. He then brought the traveling Greek fans to their feet with a two-handed transition slam (check the video at the top), helping Greece to a 41-33 edge at intermission.
On the down side, Giannis' struggles from deep continued, and he also had some nervous moments when he did get chances to put the ball on the floor. He missed three more triple attempts to leave him 0/6 for the tournament, and had a couple near-turnovers around midcourt that fortunately went out of bounds off Puerto Rican players. The one turnover he was credited with came on a lazy bounce pass that Renaldo Balkman took the other way (remember when we started the O.J. Mayo Memorial Lazy Perimeter Pass that Leads to an Opponent Fast Break Award? Yeah, one of those), though he somehow managed to disrupt Balkman's dunk attempt in typical Giannis chase-down fashion--a foul was called, but Balkman was at least forced to earn his points from the line. Even without an official block in the box score, it's worth noting that he swatted two shots after teammates were called for fouls and picked another Puerto Rican shot off the rim after it appeared to be going in (the beauty of FIBA's lack of basket interference rules).
All of which sort of sums up where Giannis is in a broader sense. Even his mistakes seem to toe the line with the spectacular--like a Ferrari being thrown into a corner at high speed, the results are often breathtaking even when they go sideways.