SALT LAKE CITY — What’s a world championship without a little bit of controversy?
Rudy Gobert found himself in the middle of one Saturday.
With 30 seconds remaining, Lithuania’s Jonas Valanciunas had a free throw to tie the game. The shot bounced off the right side of the rim slightly, looking as if it was going to find the bottom of the net. But before it could drop, Gobert jumped up high and swatted it out of the cylinder.
That led to a French rebound and eventually a French bucket — a bucket that delivered the final dagger in France’s 78-75 win over Lithuania at the FIBA World Cup in China. It also led to plenty of Lithuania protests.
In FIBA play, players are allowed to rebound the ball off the rim — they just can’t touch the rim. But when Gobert rose up and swatted the bouncing free throw attempt away, the Jazz center appeared to make contact with the cylinder.
No whistle was blown, though. No violation was called.
On France’s ensuing possession, Nando De Colo hit a fadeaway jumper and Lithuania’s desperation 3-point attempt on their final possession was well off the mark.
Gobert finished with 9 points on 3-of-4 shooting, eight rebounds and one block in 23 minutes. And maybe he should have played a little more. France outscored Lithuania by 17 points during Gobert’s time on the court — it won by just three.
Gobert, though, helped set up the controversial finish.
With 1:54 left and France up by one, Gobert split a pair of free throws. A little over 20 seconds later, and the French up by two, he missed two more freebies.
So good thing he got it done on the defensive end down the stretch.
In the final minutes, the Jazz center had a block, a deflection and the tap that will likely become infamous in Lithuania. That non-call effectively eliminated Lithuania from the tournament.
France improved to 4-0 in World Cup play and earned a spot in the quarterfinals with the win. The only question now is whether or not they will go into the quarterfinals as a group winner. France and Australia will play on Monday to determine the group's winner.
Here's how Gobert's Jazz teammates played Saturday.
USA 69, Greece 53
The last time Donovan Mitchell faced off against Giannis Antetokounmpo, he scored 19 fourth-quarter points on his way to setting a new career-high of 46 and leading the Jazz to a thrilling comeback victory.
So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that it was Mitchell who stepped up and made a fourth-quarter 3-pointer just as Greece was thinking about making things interesting on Saturday.
That was the closest thing to heroics that the United States would need on Saturday in a 69-53 win over Greece.
The USA took a 13-point lead at halftime and never looked back, using a variety of small-ball lineups to help reduce Antetokounmpo’s impact.
Mitchell’s 3-pointer with three minutes remaining made it a 14-point game and took away any intrigue that was left in the game. If there even was any at that point.
The Jazz star had 10 points on 4-of-10 shooting (2-for-8 from the 3-point line) to go along with five rebounds and three assists. For the second straight game, Mitchell led the USA in plus/minus. The Americans outscored Greece by 21 points during Mitchell's 28 minutes on the court.
The United States (4-0) will play Brazil (3-1) on Monday to finish group play.
Australia 82, Dominican Republic 76
Jazz fans are well aware that Joe Ingles can sometimes defer a little too much. But when the rest of the team is hitting shots, it’s not the worst thing.
That was the case for Australia on Saturday.
Ingles had a modest line in the Boomers' 82-76 win over the Dominican Republic. He scored just 2 points while taking only four shots, he handed out a tournament-low three assists and had seven rebounds. That was a far cry from the near triple-double he had in the second game of the tournament and was well off the numbers that had him leading the World Cup in assists heading into Saturday’s game.
But make no mistake, the Jazz small forward was still a key cog in an Australia attack that relies on crisp ball movement.
The Boomers handed out 30 assists on Saturday as they improved to 4-0 in World Cup play. Australia will play France on Monday to determine the winner of Group L.
Regardless of that result, the Boomers will be playing in the quarterfinals.