The USA basketball team lost against Serbia 89-94 today, in the classification round of the FIBA World Cup in China. After suffering an elimination against France in the quarterfinals, Gregg Popovich’s team experienced another devastating blow which will, for sure, damage the reputation of both the head coach and the team in general.
In the match, which according to the majority of experts was supposed to be the finals of this tournament, Team USA didn’t have single lead throughout 40 minutes. It was all about Serbia on the floor, and despite having several solid sequences, Popovich’s boys couldn’t play against the rival.
A humiliating first quarter after which the Serbs had a 32-7 lead was, in fact, the determining factor of this event. Despite a good performance in the second period, in which they almost caught the opponent, the US team couldn’t get the momentum and turn the contest around.
That was mostly because of Bogdan Bogdanovic. The Sacramento Kings sharpshooter finished the event with 28 points but opened it with four straight three-pointers, which stunned the American crew. In the initial 10 minutes, Serbia had missed just one out of 9 attempts behind the arc.
Meanwhile, the USA was looking disorganized and without any concept at the attacking part of the court. Walker was struggling, and there wasn’t any threat to the rival under the rim.
As soon as the second quarter started, things on the floor were much better. Donovan Mitchell brought in a much-needed spark, and the American side scored 33 points allowing just 12 on the other end. Team USA shot 72% from the field in this one, while Serbia only 31%.
At the halftime, the result was 44-40 for Serbia, and it seemed that Popovich boys are bound to come back. But it really wasn’t like that. Serbia continued to play strong, and they made a lot of trouble to the American side, especially in the last quarter with fantastic defense. Both Mitchell and Walker suffered a few very nasty rejections, and it appears that it disturbed them in some way.
Boban Marjanovic had a nice role, in the decisive moments. The Dallas Mavericks big man posted several points, and along with shutting down the paint, he brought in the safety to the Serbian team. Although the result was near, Serbia was running things on the floor.
Bogdanovic ended the match with 28 points, while All-NBA center, Nikola Jokic had 9 with 7 assists. Nemanja Bjelica from the Sacramento Kings added 8, while Vasilije Micic whose mother died three days ago, and decided to stay with the team added 10. Vladimir Lucic scored 15.
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With the American team, Barnes had a team-high 22 with 5 boards, Walker 18 with 8 dimes, while Khris Middleton delivered 16.
This is going to be the worst FIBA World Cup for the USA basketball team ever, as they are going to finish 7th or 8th. Previously, the biggest blow came in Indianapolis in 2002 when they ended 6th.
The decisions of all the big names to skip this competition was the biggest problem for Gregg Popovich. San Antonio’s coach received cancellations one by one and got into a tough position to create a team in a short period of time. The difference between the US and the rest of the world isn’t that big like it used to be, and to win a medal, only the best players have to appear in intercontinental tournaments.
The American team will play next against the loser from the match Poland vs. the Czech Republic.