Team USA can now check gold off their wish list as they defeated Serbia Sunday afternoon 129-92. Team USA went through the FIBA World Cup undefeated, which is a tough thing to do with the variety of talents each country has to offer. Nonetheless, the U.S. was victorious and in doing so, can shut down all the critics who did not think this team could bring home the gold. Coming into the tournament, Team USA heard it all from being too young to having no star leader. Team USA gladly proved those critics wrong.
The Golden State Warriors’ Klay Thompson said in an interview with NBA analyst Sekou Smith, “We wanted to prove a lot of people wrong. They said we were undermanned and that we lacked the so-called stars. But this isn’t a game of stars. This is a game about team. It’s FIBA, so it’s different from what we’re used to. You really have to play well as a team and that’s what we did. I’m proud of every one of these guys because you have to sacrifice so much. We had a young team, probably the youngest team in the tournament. But it’s all about sacrificing and sacrificing for a common goal. And that was to get this gold medal.”
Although Serbia vs. USA wasn’t the matchup everyone expected, it was still one with much excitement. Milos Teodosic, Serbia’s star point guard, was the man to watch. On the other side, all eyes were on Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard Kyrie Irving to see how he would do going against such a hot and productive player. He exceeded expectations. After one quarter of play, Irving had made all three of his shots from the field and it was apparent that he was going to have a great game. Irving finished the game with 26 points and went 10-13 shooting, including 6-6 from beyond the three-point arc. Irving’s productive play won him the FIBA World Cup MVP.
Team USA’s Captain James Harden also had a productive game, as he did throughout the tournament. Harden finished with 23 points, second only to Irving. Contributions came from everywhere, as center DeMarcus Cousins had a huge effect on the game with his defense and energy. A total of seven players finished the game in double figures in points. If this FIBA World Cup tournament showed us anything, it opened our eyes to the many young stars on Team USA. It was a group of young stars, most under the age of 25. These young stars came into camp not knowing what to expect and came out of it with an experience of a lifetime.
As Irving stated in a post-game interview, “It’s the greatest feeling in the world right now, [winning] with a group of guys that are my brothers.” We seem to forget how this journey to the gold began. Paul George, who suffered a horrific leg injury during an exhibition game, remained in the minds of the players of Team USA. Team USA Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski celebrated by calling Paul George. “PG, this is for you,” forward Rudy Gay said while holding the trophy. Team USA’s journey is now complete, and the FIBA World Cup belongs to the United States.