Basketball: Greece fury after NBA MVP Antetokounmpo exits World Cup, US beat Brazil to seal Olympic spot

SHENZHEN, CHINA (AFP) – Greece are calling for the officials who oversaw their final game at the Basketball World Cup to be banned, after NBA Most Valuable Player Giannis Antetokounmpo and his team exited the tournament amid rancour on Monday (Sept 9).

Their coach said that their star man had been the victim of a lack of “respect” from referees after being fouled out in an 84-77 victory over the Czech Republic.

The Milwaukee Bucks standout picked up a fifth foul midway through the fourth quarter and even though Greece won, it was not by the 12 or more points they needed.

A team spokesman confirmed to AFP that the Greeks were writing to governing body Fiba seeking a ban for the three referees in charge.

“Also (a ban) for those who nominate the referees and also watch the video and announce the results,” the spokesman said in a text message.

Greece, chasing the big win they needed to reach the quarter-finals, were up by 10 points with just over eight minutes left.

They reached the magical 12-point lead, only for the Czechs to immediately hit back to narrow the deficit once more, then came the loss of the 24-year-old “Greek Freak”.

He was seen remonstrating with the officials after his team’s fate was sealed, but overall the reigning MVP was not at the top of his game in China.

Antetokounmpo had 12 points, nine rebounds and four assists before his afternoon – and Greece’s tournament – came to an early end.

“He came every day to fight on the court, of course he did not get the respect he wants and I mean about the two fouls he received today, the third and the fifth (both offensive fouls),” said Greece coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos.

“You cannot call these kinds of fouls on this kind of player.

“That’s finished because I don’t like to talk about the referees too much.”

It is not the first controversy involving referees at this World Cup.

Fiba on Sunday removed from the competition match officials who made an error in the dying seconds of Lithuania’s tournament-ending loss to France, but the result was allowed to stand.

The crucial mistake occurred with the French leading 76-75 at the time.

US qualify for Tokyo

In one of the two night games, reigning two-time champions the United States are building a head of steam and dismissed Brazil 89-73 to set up a quarter-final with France.

Victory also sealed their spot at the Olympics in Tokyo, where they are also the holders.

Gregg Popovich’s young team were already assured of a place in the last eight in China but they still made it five wins in a row to top Group K.

Wednesday’s clash with France, beaten 100-98 by Australia, will be a tougher proposition.

But having struggled to defeat Turkey in overtime in the first round, this US team missing their megastars seems to be warming to the task of taking home three World Cup crowns in a row.

“We picked it up defensively in the second half and that’s what changed it for us,” said coach Popovich.

Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers led the US with 16 points and eight rebounds.

Brazil saw their coach Aco Petrovic ejected in the first half and they refused to attend the post-match press conference.

In a thrilling encounter between two already qualified teams, Australia made it five wins out of five by battling past France.

The Boomers will be strong favourites when they play the Czech Republic in the quarters.

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