The United States men’s basketball team met its match this week, playing in four games and losing two. Fortunately for spectators, the improved competition results in a game with similar intensity to an NBA playoff game. This year, the United States team just couldn’t keep up with that intensity.
The week started with the U.S. game against Brazil on Monday. This was the final game of the group stages for Team USA, and they beat Brazil 89-73 in a pretty simple game. Brazil put up a fight the first half, staying within a couple of baskets of the United States. In the third quarter, this small gap grew and by the fourth quarter, things weren’t looking good for team Brazil. When the final buzzer sounded, the leading scorers for the United States were the Boston Celtics’ point guard Kemba Walker and Indiana Pacers’ center Miles Turner with 16 points each. This game put team USA in a good place going into the quarterfinals undefeated.
The next game was far more exciting, with both teams going back and forth all the way until the fourth quarter. This contest, the quarterfinals game against France, a talented team with athleticism and unity, gave team USA the challenge it needed. With the U.S. up in the beginning of the fourth, they just needed to maintain their lead, something that is much easier said than done. The French slowly began to pick up momentum early on and with five minutes left in the contest, they tied up the game. France went on a run on offense, while also locking down the United States on defense, for the remainder of the game. The United States only managed to score three points to France’s 13 in these final minutes of play. This gave France the win by a score of 89-79. Despite this loss, the United States had a chance to redeem themselves in the loser’s bracket.
The United States took on Serbia on Saturday, Sept 14, a team with both Denver Nuggets’ center Nikola Jokic and Sacramento Kings’ shooting guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, to start their push through the loser’s bracket. Both players gave the United States’ team a huge challenge, combining for 37 points against their typical NBA opponents.
Sacramento Kings forward Harrison Barnes and Walker were the United States’ leading scorers with a combined total of 40 points. This wasn’t enough to beat Serbia, as they came out on top with a score of 94-89. The game started out very tough for the United States, as they were seemingly unable to get to the basket early, and couldn’t stop Serbia from shooting beyond the arc. At one point in the first quarter, Serbia was up a whopping 23-5. After this, the United States slowly began to come back, but they were unable to take a lead.
This second loss meant that team U.S. had to compete for seventh place in the tournament. Their trial for placing faced off against Poland. The United States dominated the game, aside from the third quarter, and walked away on top with a final score of 87-74, with the leading scorer for the United States in this game being the Utah Jazz’s point guard Donovan Mitchell with 16 points.
The United States’ seventh-place title was a hard-fought one considering their young team lacking all-star players. Fans of the sport can only hope that the next basketball world cup will see a win for the United States.