The U.S. soundly defeated Serbia, 129-93, in the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup Final to become the first country to win four straight international tournaments (’08 and ’12 Olympics, ’10 and ’14 World Cups).
There were some doubts about whether this team – the youngest the U.S. has fielded since professionals began playing internationally – could bring home gold without the superstar players that have decorated the roster in years past. They silenced those doubters by defeating opponents by an average of 33 points and stretching the country’s winning streak to 63 games.
Quick take: Serbia jumped out to an early 15-7 lead, continuing a trend of slow starts for Team USA. However, tournament MVP Kyrie Irving caught fire for 15 of his team-leading 26 points to spark a resounding 28-6 run to end the first quarter. The U.S. continued the offensive onslaught into the second quarter and took a 67-41 lead into halftime, essentially ending any potential for an upset by the proud Serbian team.
Harden finished the game with 23 points on 73 percent shooting and Kenneth Faried capped his impressive tournament run with 12 points and seven rebounds, which could propel him to an All-star caliber season with the Denver Nuggets. The Golden State Splash Bros., Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry, combined for 22 points on an array of smooth pull-ups, curls and spot-ups.
For whatever reason, the U.S. struggled from three-point range during the tournament, despite having a roster of renowned shooters. But that changed in the championship game, as the squad went 15-30 from behind the arc en route to their highest scoring game of the World Cup. It was only a matter of time before the three pointers started falling for Team USA, and each make chipped away at the will of Serbia.
Rose report: One of the prevailing storylines during Team USA’s quest for gold in Spain was the performance of Derrick Rose, as the 2010-11 NBA MVP works his way back from injuries to both knees. In the finals, Rose finished with 0 points (his offense wasn’t needed) and six assists.
Rose predictably showed rust on the offensive end of the floor throughout the tournament, struggling with his jump shot and finishing at the rim. Fortunately for Chicago Bulls fans, he still has the speed, quickness and defensive tenacity that we expect from him. He may need to rely on his teammates to carry the offense early in the upcoming season while he regains his rhythm.
What’s next for Team USA?: As the winner of the World Cup, the U.S. secures a spot in the 2016 Olympics alongside the host nation, Brazil. It will be interesting to see who from this team cracks the 12-man roster when players like Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Chris Paul, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook and others are expected to participate. Whatever happens, the talent pool will be deep with international experience.
Photo via Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images