Team USA has had its share of relatively sluggish starts throughout the FIBA World Cup. Not that any of their games were ever ultimately in doubt, of course, but they take everyone’s best shot for anywhere from one to three quarters before athleticism and talent takes over. Eventually, the boys in Red, White and Blue pull off a couple 10-0 runs that no team in the world can counter, and put the game away. Sunday’s FIBA World Cup final started in similar fashion, except the USA onslaught began not even midway through the first quarter.
Serbia jumped out to a 15-7 thanks to two quick fouls on Anthony Davis, but after that, it was an unstoppable barrage of three-pointers and dunks. Team USA closed out the first quarter on a 29-6 run and never looked back, building a 67-41 advantage by halftime. The teams played back and forth to reach the final score of 129-92. Kyrie Irving, the tournament’s MVP, notched 26 points thanks to a perfect 6-of-6 from deep. While defensive non-ace James Harden also poured in 23 points, it was DeMarcus Cousins’ interior play that helped put Team USA that much further ahead. The Kings big man scored 11 points to go along with 9 rebounds, but his day included eight trips to the free throw line.
Some other items of note:
Point differential: The 2014 edition of Team USA became the first iteration of the national team to win all of its games by 20 or more points since Dream Team III at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. Of course, nobody is going to entertain a discussion comparing the two squads on an overall talent level (Faried, Cousins, Drummond, Plumlee and Davis ain’t exactly Hakeem, Robinson, Shaq, Malone and Barkley), but the 2014 squad’s average margin of victory (32.5 points) is slightly higher than the 1996 team (31.8). In an era of much-improved international basketball, that’s no small feat. Avoiding Spain probably helped those margins, but still.
Derrick Rose: It was not a good tournament for him. He shot 15-59 overall, and 1-19 from three-point range. And, he still ain’t got time for your dancing (third from right). At least he’s consistent in that regard.
James Harden: Had a good tournament stat-wise. Had an especially good tournament for anyone who likes to poke fun at his defense.
What’s next: Winning the gold medal automatically qualifies Team USA for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which is excellent news, considering if they hadn’t won, they’d have to play another tournament — FIBA Americas — in 2015 in order to qualify. Outside of reconvening for a week-long mini-camp in Vegas next summer, an entire summer off is good news for the Kevin Durants and Kevin Loves of the world, who don’t even have to think about national team commitments for two more years.