United States lost 94-89 to Serbia at the Basketball World Cup on Thursday, just a day after surrendering their 13-year unbeaten race.
Team USA was made up of second-tier NBA stars, which were defeated 89-79 in the quarter-finals by France on Wednesday, ushering in unexpected end to their World Cup defense.
It was the reigning world and Olympic champions’ first defeat in a major competition since the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup. Thursday’s “classification” game in Dongguan was the final that never was: the holders against the favourites.
The United State were down with an unbelievable 32-7 after the first quarter and moved for a huge defeat, before clawing back some of the deficit. Harrison Barnes of the Sacramento Kings, who was the only remaining member of the triumphant 2016 Rio Olympic roster, said:
“There are no regrets from our group in terms of what we’ve given, what we’ve sacrificed. The commitment everyone has made away from their families, their teams, their organisations.”
There are no medals available for them, and the US have already qualified for next summer’s Tokyo Games.
But there was added goodness after Serbia’s coach said prior to the World Cup that if the Americans met his team, “May god help them”.
Sasha Djordjevic dismissed the comment as motivational irony but said he could see the United States were still very much shocked after France beat them in the first quarter.
Gregg Popovich’s team didn’t score a point during one barren five-minute period. A rout was on the cards for Serbia, whose game was brought to an unexpected quarter-final end, by Argentina.
The 70-year-old Popovich could not believe was his eyes saw and had to chew his lip and brooded. Though the US team fought back in the 2nd quarter and slashed down the defeat margin to just four points at half-time.
Right into the fourth quarter of the game, Serbia continued to lead by the Sacramento Kings’ Bogdan Bogdanovic and were only three points ahead. Meanwhile, the United States bounce back didn’t work and they have another classification match on Saturday to finally decide who seats on seventh and eighth positions.
Bogdanovic, who has been one of the players of the tournament in China, head all scoring with 28 points. Barnes seats on 22 points and said that the Americans would give it their all in their tournament closer, when they will face the loser of the Czech Republic versus Poland.
“On Saturday we have that opportunity to go out once again, play a game, represent our country,” he said. “For some of us, potentially all of us, it could be our last time we wear a USA jersey, or the beginning of many. We will just savour that opportunity,” he added.
In Friday’s semi-finals, Spain play Australia and France take on Argentina.