Heading into the FIBA World Cup, Greece was seen as a potential dark horse in a field opened by the apparent weakness of Team USA. The main (or only) reason why was it had quite possibly the best player in the world, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
It’s just too bad the team doesn’t seem aware of that fact.
Giannis Antetokounmpo mostly quiet again as Team USA tops Greece
Greece is facing elimination from the World Cup after losing Saturday in a 69-53 rout to the U.S. that saw tempers flare in the final minutes. The team must now beat the Czech Republic on Monday and hope the U.S. tops Brazil to advance to the quarterfinals.
Both Greece and the U.S. should be favored for each of their games, but the Czech Republic might have a chance if Greece doesn’t figure out how to use Antetokounmpo like he’s the reigning NBA MVP.
The Greek Freak’s usage has flummoxed observers throughout the tournament, and prompted some mocking from the coach of Brazil.
Greece has no clue how to use Giannis Antetokounmpo nearly as well as the Bucks do. And Giannis not playing a single minute in the fourth quarter is an absolute joke. We got robbed watching Giannis on this team.
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) September 7, 2019
What a shame for Greece (and basketball fans worldwide) having such a transcendent talent like Giannis and not knowing how to properly use him. US did a great job of taking him out of the game with junk defenses. Makes you appreciate the team Milwaukee built around him a lot more
— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) September 7, 2019
Giannis just standing in the corner as Greece refuses to give him the ball at the top will give me night terrors
— Alex Lasry (@AlexanderLasry) September 7, 2019
So I guess Greece has just given up here? Giannis has been on the bench forever.
They might leave this coach in China after the tournament ends. He's been awful.
— Keith Smith (@KeithSmithNBA) September 7, 2019
Antetokounmpo is still the team’s leading scorer at 15.5 points per game along with 8.8 rebounds and 54.1 percent shooting, but that has to come short of expectations for easily the tournament’s best player. He scored 15 points with 13 rebounds against the U.S., but was limited by the defense of Marcus Smart and benched for the fourth quarter.
Except for his brother Thanasis, Antetokounmpo is the only NBA player on Greece’s team. Yes, international basketball is a different game in many respects, but any success in China and beyond was always going to be dependent on him getting the space to blow through defenses. Right now, that’s not happening.
Even if Greece beats the Czech Republic, it will still have some work to do if it even wants to qualify for the Olympics. The top two finishers from Europe at the World Cup receive automatic Olympic bids, with the rest competing in a wild-card tournament for qualification later.
That means Greece needs to last longer than Serbia, Spain and France, who are all undefeated so far, otherwise its road to Tokyo is about to get a lot more bumpy.
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