The United States got its proper comeuppance in China. On Wednesday evening in Dongguan, France defeated the U.S., 89-79, in the quarterfinals of the FIBA world cup, ending the American men’s team’s 58-game, five-title winning streak in major international tournaments that dates back 13 years.
The loss is embarrassing for the U.S., but it’s not a surprise. France took the world cup seriously, as four of its NBA players, including reigning two-time NBA defensive player of year Rudy Gobert, were in the starting lineup. During the 34 minutes that Gobert — who finished with the game with 21 points, 16 rebounds, and 3 blocked shots — was on the court, France outscored the U.S. by 26 points. That’s incredible.
The French team benefitted from prior international experience. Gobert, Nicolas Batum, who plays for the Charlotte Hornets, and Nando De Colo, a former member of the San Antonio Spurs and Toronto Raptors, all played together for a French team that lost by just three points, 100-97, to the U.S. in the 2016 Rio Olympics. That U.S. team featured Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and a litany of NBA All-Stars. This one had Derrick White, Marcus Smart and Mason Plumlee. Fine players all, but not exactly the type of premier NBA talent fans have grown accustomed to seeing.
Only two 2019 NBA All-Stars, Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton, made the trip to China. Many more top-name players, like James Harden, Anthony Davis, Eric Gordon, CJ McCollum, Damian Lilllard and DeMar DeRozan, either declined invitations or withdrew from the team. All-time players like LeBron James, Stephen Curry and Kawhi Leonard were never seriously in the picture.
This is America’s earliest exit from an international tournament since the 2002 World Championship, which was a low point in the country’s hoops history. That team fell in the quarterfinals before losing the fifth place game to Spain. After that disaster and an unbecoming showing at the O