Team USA couldn’t get rebounds, couldn’t get stops, and in the end — couldn’t get to the FIBA World Cup gold medal game.
The Americans fell short in the semifinal with a 113-111 loss to a German national team that pummeled Team USA on the glass, in the paint and from behind the 3-point line.
And American arrogance is to blame: Team USA sent its C-Team to the World Cup, led by Minnesota Timberwolves star Anthony Edwards, Knicks star Jalen Brunson, Nets star Mikal Bridges and reigning Defensive Player of the Year Jaren Jackson Jr.
New Orleans Pelicans star Brandon Ingram did not play in the semifinal due to an upper respiratory illness.
“Yeah we’re expected to win,” Brunson said after an admittedly poor performance. “I guess year-in and year-out, we’re expected to win because of the history USA basketball has had. That’s just the outside opinion. I think for us, we obviously didn’t come ready to play from the start.”
It was an ill-constructed roster lacking the size needed to compete against the basketball world outside of the country’s borders.
Size and skill is the name of the international game.
Germany out-rebounded Team USA, 30-28, a margin Team USA chopped into when rallying from down double-digits in the fourth quarter. Team USA allowed Germany to score 35 points in the third quarter alone. Again, American arrogance, assuming a comeback victory is always on the table.
“The game has been globalized over the last 30 years or so and these games are difficult,” head coach Steve Kerr said after the loss. “This is not 1992 anymore. Players are better all over the world. Teams are better. It’s not easy to win a World Cup or an Olympic Games.”
Team USA completed the double-digit comeback against Germany in the Showcase exhibition, but the Americans fell short Friday morning.
After the USA rallied back from down 12 to make it a one-point game late in the fourth quarter, German sharpshooter Andreas Obst hit a game-swinging corner 3 on an inbounds play that sent star guard Tyrese Haliburton skidding to the ground. Obst scored a game-high 24 points on 4-of-8 shooting from downtown.
NBA big men Franz Wagner and Daniel Theis combined to score 43 points and Toronto Raptors point guard Dennis Schroder finished with 17 points and nine assists after a 4-of-26 shooting performance in Germany’s quarterfinal.
Edwards scored a team-high 23 points but shot just 2 of 7 from downtown. He hit a 3 late to make it a 106-103 game, but a miscommunication with Jackson on a pindown screen effectively ended the game when Edwards chose to pass instead of shoot, while Jackson was crashing the glass.
Bridges played an almost perfect game on paper, making his first six shots and finishing with 17 points and two blocks. He was largely absent when it mattered most, however, as he scored 15 points on a perfect 5-of-5 shooting from the field in the first half, but scored just two points in the entire second half.
Team USA will now compete in the bronze medal game against a Canadian national team loaded with NBA talent. Canada lost early Friday morning to Serbia, with Serbia and Germany advancing to compete for FIBA World Cup gold.
How fitting for the two teams stocked with NBA talent to meet each other — but not for gold.
“I think it’s an amazing experience for all these players,” Kerr said. “Not only to represent this country but also to advance their own individual careers. This is great high-level competition on the world stage. I think everybody on this team has loved being part of this, and part of competition at this level is you put your neck on the line. I couldn’t be prouder of our guys for how hard they played.
“This team is very worthy of winning a championship, and we just didn’t get it done.”
Brunson finished with 15 points and seven assists but did much of his damage in the fourth quarter after a slow and sloppy start to the game. Brunson turned the ball over three times and shot 4 of 9 from the field.
Asked to describe his performance, the Knicks’ star said: “Terrible. Plain and simple.”
Knicks star Josh Hart scored nine points on 4-of-4 shooting from the field and grabbed three offensive rebounds and three steals.
Nets star Cam Johnson clanked his only shot — a wide-open corner 3 — off the right side of the rim and did not score in five minutes of play.
Bridges emerged as Team USA’s second-best player with his prowess on both ends of the floor. His World Cup performance is only sullied by Friday’s loss, and the international competition should serve as a springboard when he returns to Brooklyn to lead the Nets this season.
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