Team Greece is the top-ranked team in its FIBA World Cup group and features easily the tournament’s best player in Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
And yet, the team lost any chance of winning first place in its group on Tuesday after blowing a double-digit lead against Brazil and falling 79-78.
The upset loss saw former NBA center Anderson Varejo post 22 points and nine rebounds as Brazil erased a 40-30 halftime lead. Surprisingly quiet was Antetokounmpo, who fouled out with 13 points and four rebounds on 3-of-7 shooting.
Brazil coach Aleksandr Petrovic had some fun with the Greek star’s struggles after the game, pointing to 39-year-old Alex Garcia as the team’s top defender against him.
"Why this sport is wonderful," Brazil coach Aleksandar Petrovic said. "You have a guy who won MVP, he's 23 years old, and who stops him tonight? The guy who is 40 years old and kicks his ass."
Garcia has posted only 159 career minutes in the NBA, split between two seasons with the San Antonio Spurs and New Orleans Hornets. His most recent NBA minutes came on Dec. 12, 2004, six days after Antetokounmpo’s 10th birthday.
Antetokounmpo was also somewhat unproductive in Greece’s opener against Montenegro, with only 10 points (4-of-9 shooting) and eight rebounds.
Instead of the Greek Freak, Greece’s top scorer has been Greek League veteran Georgios Printezis. The 34-year-old has an average of 18.0 points per game on 61.1 percent shooting through two games. Another top performer against Brazil was Kostas Sloukas, who had 11 assists.
"We showed that we have several players who can stop Antetokounmpo," Petrovic said. "But yesterday I was more occupied with Sloukas and [Georgios] Printezis, and that's what happened today. When I was preparing this game, a lot of people talked and joked about how to stop Antetokounmpo. I had for six months in my head, since the semifinals between Toronto and Milwaukee, how to stop Antetokounmpo. The problem tonight for us was Sloukas and Printezis."
With the loss, Greece is now in danger of being bounced from the tournament unless it wins its final group stage game. The odds are still in their favor as they’re playing 38th-ranked New Zealand, but the bigger worry might be how they have an NBA MVP who just hasn’t produced like an NBA MVP so far.
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