SHENZHEN, China (AFP) — Greece is calling officials who oversaw its final game at the FIBA Basketball World Cup be banned after NBA Most Valuable Player (MVP) Giannis Antetokounmpo and his team exited the tournament amid rancor on Monday.
Greece’s 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 for basketball to seek a ban on the three referees in charge.
“Also, a ban on those who nominated the referees and also watched the video and announced the results,” the spokesman said in a text message.
Chasing the big win it needed to reach the quarterfinals in China, Greece was up by 10 points with just over eight minutes left.
They erected a 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 Antetokounmpo.
He was seen remonstrating with the officials after Greece’s fate was sealed, but overall the reigning MVP was not on top of his game at the World Cup.
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 were 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 also 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.
Meanwhile, reigning two-time champions United States is building a head of steam after it dismissed Brazil, 89-73, to set up a quarterfinal battle with France.
Victory also sealed Team USA’s spot at the Olympics in Tokyo, where it its also the reigning champion.
Gregg Popovich’s young team was already assured of a place in the Last Eight in China, but it still has to come up with 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 Team USA that is missing its 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,” Popovich said.
Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers led the US with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Brazil saw its coach Aco Petrovic ejected in the first half and 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.
Australia will be a strong favorite when it plays the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.