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United States Wins FIBA World Cup Title in a Rout of Serbia

United States Wins FIBA World Cup Title in a Rout of Serbia

Posted by Juan Gavasa on September 14, 2014

Kenneth Faried preened from atop a folding chair. Anthony Davis grabbed the assistant coach Monty Williams in a bear hug. James Harden leapt onto DeMarcus Cousins’s back. The names may have been considerably different than at the London Olympics, but the result here was the same for the United States national basketball team: another championship.

This time it was the basketball World Cup and, when the Americans’ 129-92 pasting of Serbia in Sunday’s final was complete, the players gathered together and danced. The United States became just the third country ever to win consecutive world titles (it also won in 2010 in Istanbul) and extended its winning streak in international play to 63 games.

The Americans shredded their way through this tournament, dominating all nine games and never winning by fewer than 21 points. In the final, they did not need even three full quarters to top 100 points. It was an offensive explosion that many observers did not foresee, if only because the United States was without so many of its most-recognizable stars.

LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul, who were mainstays in London, decided early on they were going to sit out this event; other big names like Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant also pulled out, while Paul George sustained a horrific leg injury during training camp that ruled him out, too. Talk of the United States possibly being knocked out, as the Americans were in the 2006 World Championships, percolated. At the very least, it was assumed that the presumed matchup with hosts Spain in the final would be a dodgy proposition.

As it turned out, the Spanish did not even make the final — they were upset in the quarterfinals by France — and the Americans cruised. Kyrie Irving, the tournament’s most valuable player, led the way in Sunday’s blowout of the upstart Serbs, scoring 26 points — 2 fewer than Durant’s total in the 2010 final — and adding four assists. Harden had 23 points while Cousins picked up nine rebounds.

In addition to winning a shiny trophy, the United States also earned an automatic berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Some, if not most, of the missing American stars may return to the roster for that tournament — the world championships team has traditionally skewed younger — but Coach Mike Krzyzewski certainly saw plenty of positive performances from this team to give him selection options two years down the road.

Sunday was a typical performance: the Americans started slowly and struggled with fouls early on, just as they did against Lithuania in the semifinal. Anthony Davis picked up two fouls inside three minutes and Serbia led by 15-7. The crowd, which largely cheered for the underdog Serbs, roared at a timeout while Krzyzewski stamped his foot and shouted at the officials.

He needn’t have worried. The Americans steadied themselves quickly and Irving scored 7 straight points as the United States finished the first quarter on a 28-6 run to lead by 14.

The game was never really close after that, though Serbia, which did not have a current N.B.A. player on its roster, was scrappy throughout. The Serbs were just 2-3 in pool play but pulled off knockout-round victories over Greece, Brazil and France to win a surprising silver medal. Point guard Milos Teodosic was silky with the ball and 10 points and seven assists. Nemanja Bjelica and Nikola Kalinic each finished with 18 points.

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