Tim Cone takes blame for Goga Bitadze's own goal attempt late into Gilas-Georgia game

Goga Bitadze's own goal attempt suddenly became the talk of the town. FIBA
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--FIBA's tiebreaker rules have led to some of the weirdest clutch moments in national team play.

One of them took place on Thursday when Goga Bitadze really tried to dunk the ball to his own goal off an opponent's miss.

In a move uncharacteristic of someone who just signed a three-year contract to stay with one of the NBA's rising forces, the Orlando Magic, Bitadze attempted a putback slam after Chris Newsome's second free throw rattled out.

The reason: Georgia did not want to win by a close margin.

Just up two with 2.8 seconds left in regulation, Georgia could only hope that the game would go to overtime for them to have a chance to clinch a spot in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament semifinals.

The only way for Georgia to qualify is by beating Gilas Pilipinas by 19 points or more, and a two-point win, although it would still force a three-way tie in Group A alongside host country Latvia at 1-1 each, would not matter a lot.

Unfortunately for Bitadze, his own goal dunk also rattled out, and Georgia, despite winning, 96-94, was eliminated from contention on an inferior quotient.

Interestingly enough, it was Gilas coach Tim Cone who apologized for Bitadze's strange dunk attempt.

"[Goga] missed the dunk follow-up, and that was a bad coaching decision on my part. I should have had New hold the ball and just not even shoot the second free throw and get a violation. That would have been a smart move, but I just blanked out. I didn't think about it, and we were lucky we didn't go into overtime," Cone said.

He then implied that Gilas thought as well about adding five more minutes to the game in hopes of scoring a win that could have earned them the top seed in the group.

Cone, though, said that the consequences that would favor Georgia eventually prompted them not to go for it.

"We couldn't go into overtime. We had an opportunity to shoot a three at the end to try to get us into overtime, but we just felt we didn't want to give them an opportunity to try to extend the lead in overtime," he further said.

Goga Bitadze's own goal could have been nullified anyway

However, realizing that Gilas would just run the remaining 14.1 seconds, Giorgi Ochkhikidze fouled Newsome to stop the clock at 2.8, eventually leading to the bizarre Bitadze moment reminiscent of what former Gilas player Marcus Douthit did during the 2014 Asian Games.

With Gilas, up by two at that time against Kazakhstan in the quarterfinals, needing to win by 11 to advance to the semifinals, Douthit laid the ball up in their own goal in hopes of also forcing overtime in the weirdest way possible.

However, the own goal was nullified due to the FIBA rule on such occasions.

Unlike in football, FIBA has a distinguished rule regarding intentional own goals.

Only accidental own goals, like defensive rebounders mistakenly tipping the ball back in while trying to clear the board, would be counted as an officially made basket and would be credited to the opposing player nearest to the rim.

In the case of Douthit, an intentional own goal would just merit a violation and will just give the ball back to the opponent.

Bitadze's attempt would have been nullified as well since he also had the intention to score the own goal.

Goga Bitadze says Georgia 'wasn't locked in' vs. Gilas

Although he did not mention anything about his awkward clutch moment, Bitadze admitted that Georgia somehow underestimated Gilas.

"We weren't locked in. Sometimes, it happens when you're not locked in against these kind of teams. The Philippines is a great basketball team, so they came out. It was our fault," Bitadze said, adding that he believes Gilas took advantage of their errors in the third quarter that led to them climbing back from 20 points down to seal their semifinal place.

He also cited fatigue as a factor in why Georgia blew a 20-point lead, which was understandable since the team, with all the quotient factors in play for the game, had to start out strong to strengthen their bid but draining a lot of energy in the process too.

Despite missing out on the semifinals, Bitadze praised his teammates for their A-game against Gilas.

"We really fought hard. I can probably say that we did 100 percent, so thanks to the guys and the coaching staff. They've been doing an amazing job," he further said.

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