Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert and France benefited from a missed call in their World Cup bout with Lithuania on Saturday.
With Utah Jazz teammates Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles set to go toe-to-toe when France takes on Australia and star guard Donovan Mitchell leading USA Basketball to Round No. 2 of group play as well, it’s safe to say that hoops fans along the Wasatch Front have a vested interest in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
However, the success of our World Cup Jazzmen hasn’t come without a small measure of controversy, specifically as relates to the Stifle Tower.
Gobert and Les Bleus battled Jonas Valanciunas and Lithuania on Saturday and, in the end, Gobert’s gang escaped with the win. But they definitely got a big assist from the officials in the game’s waning moments.
With 30.8 ticks left and France clinging to a two-point lead, Valanciunas took to the line with a chance to tie the score. He made the first attempt, cutting the lead to just one, but his second free throw fell off the rim with a little help from the Jazz center.
That would be all well and good, except for the fact that Gobert made contact with the rim in the process, which should have resulted in a goaltending call and a tie score.
Check it out —
Instead, no whistle was blown. On the ensuing possession, Nando De Colo knocked down a jumper to push the lead to three and the Lithuanians were unable to close the gap on the final possession.
That was the big news on Saturday; one day later, it became official — Gobert got away with one. On Sunday, FIBA copped to the mistake in an official statement about the play. In doing so, they also indicated that the game’s officiating crew have been removed from the roster of referees for the remainder of the competition —
Unfortunately, it’s too little, too late for the Lithuanian squad. The fact that the no-call was wrong doesn’t alter the end result; France is moving on and Valanciunas’ team — which had a solid chance at getting to the quarterfinals — is officially out of the medal picture.
Now, in fairness, there’s still no telling whether Lithuania would’ve taken the game even if the play had been whistled appropriately. But to have it end the way it did cheapens Gobert and company’s accomplishment and muddies the World Cup waters slightly.
We still get a Jazz-on-Jazz second-round match, which is great, but the incident still serves as yet another example of how FIBA still has work to do despite the strides it has made as an organization in recent years.
There should be no doubting the validity of game results at the highest level of international competition, even if our guys are the benefactors.