For the first time in 13 years, there will be a new men’s FIBA World Cup champion.
In a shocker, Team USA will not medal, losing to France 89-79 in the quarterfinals in Dongguan, China. It ends the 58-game winning streak the US – using NBA players during that stretch – had in international tournaments.
It’s the first time the US men won’t medal at a major international competition since the 2002 FIBA World Championship.
“Any loss hurts,” Team USA head coach Gregg Popovich said. “And in this situation it hurts more, but life goes on. This is very important, and we would have loved to have won just like any other team. We’d love to win their games in this tournament. But we’re all grown. We all have families and lives, and life will go on.”
The last time the Americans lost in international tournament play was in 2006, when the US fell to Greece in the semifinals of the FIBA World Championship. The US was aiming to be the first nation to win three consecutive World Cups after winning three Olympic gold medals in a row during that stretch.
France, who led Team USA at halftime, went on an 11-0 run late in the fourth quarter, taking an 82-76 lead. France never trailed again.
Evan Fournier, who also plays for the Orlando Magic, had 22 points while Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had 21 points, 16 rebounds and three blocked shots to lead France. Donovan Mitchell, who also plays for the Jazz, led all scorers with 29 points for the US.
France will face Argentina in the semifinals. But getting this far isn’t enough for Gobert.
“We don’t just want to be in the semifinal,” Gobert said. “We want to win the gold.”
The best the US can finish is fifth. The Americans will face Serbia in the consolation round on Thursday.
The US qualified for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo after defeating Brazil on Monday. But the Americans did that without many of the biggest NBA stars, as several of the top players in the league opted out of playing for the FIBA World Cup this summer.
“If they didn’t want to come here, it’s on them,” Mitchell said. “We have 11 other guys in this room that want to compete, on top of that guys who didn’t make it that wanted to compete, too. So I’m going to ride for these guys.
“They don’t want to play, they don’t want to play. I know how I feel. I know how those guys feel, and that’s where my head is at. You guys are going to go on and say who we didn’t have, but why don’t you all focus on who we do have? Our seasons have ended, and we came ready to work for Coach Pop, for all of these coaches.
“It’s not about who’s not here. I’ve been saying that for a while.”
Added Popovich: “I think it’s a disrespectful notion to even bring something like that up, that, ‘Hey well you guys didn’t have this guy and that guy.’ That’s disrespectful to France or whoever else is in the tournament.
“France beat us. It doesn’t matter who was on the team. I couldn’t be more prouder of these 12 guys who sacrificed their summer to come here having never played together before, and they put themselves in the arena and competed, and they deserve credit for that just like France deserves credit for winning.
“It’s not about, well the United States didn’t have their other guys. There’s no such thing as other guys. These are the guys that were here, and they did a great job, and I’m very proud of them.”