What happened to Team USA?

By Jalon, Dixon, Columnist

After starting the FIBA World Cup 5–0, Team USA’s run came to an abrupt end with consecutive losses to France and Serbia, followed by a win over Poland to finish in 7th place, their worst finish since NBA players were allowed to participate in 1992.

We knew coming into this Olympic tournament that we were not the team of years past. No Lebron James. No Kevin Durant. No Kyrie Irving. Even budding stars like De’Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III withdrew from the team before tournament play. 

With the lack of star power, it was definitely on the table that Team USA could lose, but we never thought it would really happen. It just did not seem possible. Then France and Serbia happened.

The beginning of the end started on Sept. 11. The day we now commemorate as one of the worst days in American history only got worse as France flexed its muscles all the way to an 89–79 win over Team USA. The loss snapped a 58-game winning streak in international play tournaments with NBA players playing. 

As if a historic streak ending was not enough, the way it happened is what should really turn heads.

Despite it only being a 10-point loss, the scoreboard only tells half the story. Donovan Mitchell harbored the scoring load putting up 29 points and six rebounds, but the rest of the team seemed to be out of rhythm as the next highest scorer was Marcus Smart with 11. It was clear that the loss of Jayson Tatum to injury was a big blow to the USA’s offense. It also does not help when your team captain in Kemba Walker underperforms by only scoring 10 points in 25 minutes of play. 

Led by Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and Nando de Colo, France dominated in nearly every facet of the game. They had three players score 18+ points, outrebounded Team USA 44 to 28 and won the fourth quarter 26 to 13 to close out the game. Hats off to the French defense as well as Gobert recorded three blocks and Frank Ntilikina showed his capabilities as a young NBA level defender.

Eliminated from medal contention and forced to settle for the consolation bracket, Team USA had already underachieved. At this point, the expectation was just to end the tourney on a high note. 

They could not possibly lose again, right? Wrong. On Sep. 12, they faced off against Serbia and it was not pretty.

Just when things couldn’t get any worse for Team USA, Serbia jumped out to a 32 – 7 lead to start the game. Team USA got things back under control going into the second half led by the one-two punch of Walker and Harrison Barnes who combined for 40 points. Unfortunately, the hefty lead was too much to overcome as team USA lost 94–89. 

Team USA showed a lack of experience, depth and star power. Now they leave the tourney empty-handed with their heads hanging as they watch someone else hoist up this year’s FIBA World Cup gold medal.

 

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