Giannis Antetokounmpo was put on ice in Greece’s fiery 69-53 loss to the United States as the side banks on a last-ditch effort to keep their basketball World Cup hopes alive.
Kemba Walker scored 15 points and, on his 23rd birthday, Donovan Mitchell scored 10 as the US prevailed 69-53 in a clash with the NBA’s MVP in China that ended in a scuffle.
Antetokounmpo was rested in the final quarter but brother Thanasis provided the fireworks, his hard foul on Harrison Barnes leading to a heated post-game exchange.
There was no traditional post-game handshake, with USA coach Gregg Popovich holding his men on court to avoid further confrontation after USA forward Jaylen Brown and Giannis Antetokounmpo exchanged words and needed breaking up after the final whistle.
The result means the United States (4-0) can progress to the last eight even with a loss to Brazil on Monday, while Greece must beat the Czech Republic by 12 points or more and hope the US win to sneak through.
Even if Greece had beaten the USA, they would’ve still needed to topple the Czech Republic on Monday to advance.
“It was a decision we took jointly with Giannis,” Greek coach Thanasis Skourtopoulos said of his star’s final-quarter hiatus.
“We wanted to protect him and rest as we did with other players of our main rotation.
“We have a big game coming on Monday, and this is the most important thing for us now”.
The US lost to the Boomers in a Melbourne World Cup warm-up but have won 57 consecutive games in international tournaments with NBA players.
Providing they win again on Monday, the two-time defending champions would meet Australia in a quarter-final if the Boomers lose to France on the same day.
Meanwhile, beaming after three successive wins in the preliminary group stage, Brazil were brought crashing down to earth by a rip-roaring Czech side who notched their third straight win after an opening defeat by the US.
Serbia, Spain, Poland and Argentina reached the quarter-finals with a match to spare on Friday.
The Serbians face Spain in Sunday’s standout fixture while the Poles will clash with the Argentines to decide who will finish top in their respective pools.