ATHENS, Aug. 26 -- Argentina earned a semifinal matchup against the United States by defeating Greece, 69-64, Thursday night in the quarterfinals of men's basketball.
Denying the Greeks a chance at their best Olympic finish ever and quieting a partisan crowd, Argentina used its defense to hold Greece to just six points over the final six minutes.
China's Yao Ming goes for a slam dunk under pressure from Lithuania's Robertas Javtokas, left, and Saulius Stombergas.
(Adrees Latif - AFP)
This will be the first Olympic semifinal appearance by Argentina since 1952. That's 50 years before they made basketball history at the World Championships in Indianapolis by becoming the first team to defeat a U.S. squad comprised of NBA players.
The other semifinal will feature Lithuania against Italy.
Argentina held Greece without a field goal for 5 1/2 minutes until Nikolaos Chatzivrettas made a three-pointer with 35 seconds remaining to cut Greece's deficit to 65-64.
Argentina's Luis Scola, whose NBA rights are owned by the Spurs, was fouled and skinned his right elbow as he fell to the floor with 23 seconds left. Wearing a bandage over the cut, he swished both free throws and then got his hand on Fragkiscos Alvertis's three-point attempt.
Manu Ginobili grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to lock up the win.
Ginobili and Fabricio Oberto led Argentina with 13 points apiece.
LITHUANIA 95, CHINA 75: With a different star but the same team concept, Lithuania reached the semifinals for the fourth straight Olympics.
The Lithuanians, who have won bronze the past three Olympics, remained unbeaten in setting up a semifinal game against Italy.
Reserve guard Arvydas Macijauskas had 32 points for Lithuania (6-0), which used its defense and rebounding to get its fast break going and stop the surprising run by China (2-4) and star center Yao Ming.
Lithuania entered the game with six players averaging nine points or better. In its biggest win so far -- the 94-90 victory over the United States in the preliminaries -- Sarunas Jasikevicius had 28 points, 16 of them in the fourth quarter.
Seven players had at least seven points on Thursday for Lithuania.
Yao had 29 points and 11 rebounds for China, which reached the quarterfinals with a 67-66 victory over two-time defending world champion Serbia and Montenegro. Longtime NBA coach Del Harris, who took over the China national program in May, called it the best win in his 45-year career.
On Thursday, Macijauskas had 19 points in the first half as Lithuania took a 53-37 lead, more than doubling his average. He finished 11 for 16 from the field and made all four of his three-point attempts.
China closed within 55-45, but the 7-foot-6 Yao, who plays for the Rockets, picked up his third foul less than 20 seconds later and went to the bench. The teams exchanged three-pointers before Lithuania went on a 9-2 run to take a 67-50 lead with 1:54 left in the third quarter.
After Yao returned, China couldn't get closer than 74-61.
With a win over Spain on Friday in the seventh-place game, China -- the eighth-place team in 1996 -- would have its best finish in eight Olympic appearances. It would be an upbeat ending as the country prepares to host the Olympics in 2008.
ITALY 83, PUERTO RICO 70: Massimo Bulleri scored 20 points to send the Italians to their first Olympic semifinal in 24 years.
Gianluca Basile added 18 points for Italy, including the three-pointer that capped a 13-5 run to open the second half and give his team a 54-42 lead.
Elias Ayuso had 24 points and backcourt mate Carlos Arroyo, who plays for the Utah Jazz, added 23 for Puerto Rico, which got no closer than six points after the opening run.
Puerto Rico opened the tournament with a shocking 92-73 victory over the United States. It couldn't get any momentum from it, however, losing to Lithuania and Greece in the preliminary round while beating Australia and Angola, neither of which advanced to the quarterfinals, by a total of eight points.