Team USA’s hopes of winning a third consecutive FIBA gold medal — and sixth consecutive international gold medal — are now over.
The United States lost to France, 89-79, in the quarterfinals of the 2019 FIBA World Cup on Wednesday, snapping a streak of 58 straight wins in international competition. It also marked the United States’ first loss in the FIBA World Cup since 2006 when it lost to Greece in the semifinals. With the loss, the U.S. will fail to get a medal for only the second time in the last 10 editions of the tournament.
The win sends France to the semifinals where it will face Argentina, which scored an impressive upset victory over Nikola Jokic and Serbia. Those two teams will go head-to-head on Friday, while Team USA will face off against Nikola Jokic and Serbia in a consolation game on Thursday.
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell led the way for Team USA with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, while Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart (11 points, two assists) and Kemba Walker (10 points, three rebounds) added some production of their own, but ultimately it wasn’t enough. Jazz center Ruby Gobert had a double-double for France (21 points, 16 rebounds), and Orlando Magic guard Evan Fournier added 22 points and four assists of his own. Frank Ntilikina also added 11 points and played some solid defense on both Walker and Mitchell for France.
If there’s any silver living to this year’s FIBA World Cup for the United States, it’s that it was able to qualify for next year’s Olympic games in Japan before being eliminated from medal contention. The U.S. will clearly have to make some major tweaks to the roster before the Olympics get underway.
Here are some key takeaways from the contest:
Donovan Mitchell was a man on a mission
Team USA ultimately came up short against France, but it wasn’t due to a lack of effort on Donovan Mitchell’s part. The Utah Jazz guard came out focused and determined for the United States, and he did all that he could to keep the team afloat over the course of the contest, despite the lack of other consistent offensive contributors.
Mitchell finished the contest with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, and he had 14 points in the third quarter alone to help the U.S. bounce back after it fell behind by double digits for the first time. Ultimately, Mitchell couldn’t lift the U.S. to a win over France (and his Jazz teammate Rudy Gobert) on his own, but he did get some great experience over the course of the tournament — both as a leader and go-to guy. Mitchell and the Jazz could both be in store for a special year if he is able to carry over the momentum from this summer into the upcoming season.
Additionally, Mitchell showed that he could be a valuable contributor to Team USA in future international competitions.
Some major roster tweaks are in order for the U.S.
While Team USA is not going to walk away with any medals in China, it was able to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Japan. But, it’s clear that major changes are going to need to be made to the roster if the Americans plan to avoid another early elimination next summer. The team will need to add more floor-spacers and versatile big men, as both were areas of weakness for the ’19 iteration of the team that were exposed against France.
A lot of the NBA‘s top-tier talent passed on participating in the World Cup this summer, but at least some of those stars (James Harden, Steph Curry, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Dame Lillard, Kevin Love, Tobias Harris, Trae Young, and Andre Drummond) will need to be on the roster next summer to give the U.S. its best chance of securing a fourth straight Olympic gold medal.
Jazz fans should feel good, Celtics fans not so much
If any NBA fanbase should feel especially good about the upcoming season based off the 2019 FIBA World Cup to this point it should be Jazz fans. Donovan Mitchell looked really good against France as he was able to score in a plethora of ways, and he appears poised to take a major step forward this season. The experience he gained as a leader and top option for Team USA could prove to be invaluable as he continues to develop into an All-Star-caliber player in the NBA.
Mitchell wasn’t the only Jazz player that turned heads at the World Cup as Rudy Gobert was a major reason that the U.S. is headed home. As he does in the NBA, Gobert has protected the paint, controlled the glass and found efficient ways to score for France. He has already established himself as one of the best defensive players in the NBA, and like Mitchell, he appears primed for a big-time season in Utah.
On the other side of the coin are Celtics fans, who might understandably feel slightly concerned following the United States’ elimination from the World Cup, considering the fact that four of Boston’s key contributors were on Team USA’s roster. Jayson Tatum missed a bulk of the tournament nursing an ankle injury, which isn’t ideal heading into the season, while Kemba Walker looked overwhelmed at times as the focal point of Team USA’s offense — a role that will be similar in Boston. While Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart were productive, neither jumped out in a way to indicate that they were on the verge of a breakout season. If a team comprised of four of Boston’s top guys couldn’t advance past France, one can wonder exactly how they will fare against the top teams in the NBA.
Recap all the action and highlights between Team USA and France below: