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Greece destroy U.S. title dreams

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SAITAMA, Japan -- European champions Greece shocked odds-on favorites the United States 101-95 in Japan on Friday to reach the final of the world basketball championship against Spain.

Athenians poured onto the streets to celebrate and Sports Minister George Orfanos told state NET television: "Nobody could believe this. The Greek team made the Americans kneel to them."

Spain later beat Olympic champions Argentina 75-74 in a bruising Latin showdown to make the gold medal game for the first time in their history.

Guard Vassilis Spanoulis led a surging Greek team with 22 points to leave the U.S. shell-shocked and extend their six-year world and Olympic title drought.

The final buzzer sparked scenes of pandemonium at Saitama Super Arena as the Greeks celebrated as if they had won the gold medal.

Office workers in Greece were glued to TV screens during the game and trading on the Athens stock exchange almost ground to a halt.

"This historic victory has made Greeks all over the world proud. It has proven that when Greece can do anything when it believes in itself," Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said in a statement.

The U.S. suffered an astonishing second-quarter meltdown, blowing a 12-point lead with 6:15 left in the first half after a strong start.

Greece outscored the U.S. 24-9 from that point to take a 45-41 halftime lead and some explosive long-range shooting made it 77-65 through three quarters.

Co-captains Carmelo Anthony and Dwyane Wade led a U.S. fightback but an off-balance three from Spanoulis with 1:58 put Greece back up by seven and effectively iced the game.

Anthony scored a game-high 27 points and Wade added 19 but it was too little, too late to save the U.S. team's collection of big-name NBA stars.

Memphis Grizzlies forward Pau Gasol and Jorge Garbajosa had 19 points apiece as Spain held off a late Argentine surge.

Argentina raced to a 13-2 lead to start the game but Spain stormed back to go into halftime with a 40-38 advantage.

Spain led by seven midway through the fourth quarter but Argentina almost produced a stunning late comeback after two Luis Scola free throws tied the game at 74-74 with 21.9 seconds left.

However, Toronto Raptors guard Jose Calderon made one of two from the foul line with 18.6 seconds remaining and Andres Nocioni missed a three just before the final buzzer as Spain squeezed home.


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Shane Batter of the USA attempts to block out Theodoros Papaloukas.

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