Team USA Loses Again At FIBA World Cup, This Time To Serbia

Serbia v USA: Games 5-8 - FIBA World Cup 2019
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The Serbs shot 15-for-31 from 3-point range, while Team USA was 11-of-31, getting a game-high 22 points from Harrison Barnes. Jayson Tatum missed his fifth straight game due to a sprained ankle.

Marcus Smart also did not play.

It was clear that the Americans were still stunned by their loss from a day earlier when they were outscored 32-7 in the first quarter ... although they bounced back in the second quarter by outscoring the Serbs 33-12.

It was a four-point game with 20 seconds left, but Nikola Jokic was fouled by Myles Turner, and he made both to wrap up the victory.

The United States will now play Poland on Saturday for seventh place .... marking an even lower finish than the infamous 2002 team that lost three time in Indianapolis.

"It's tough to come back the way we did, and for us to do that it shows a lot of heart and a lot of pride," U.S. guard Donovan Mitchell said. "But at the end of the day we want the win. That's where we are at. We're not here to get moral victories - that's not why we're here. We're here to win. And to lose two in a row stings.

The matchup between the U.S. and Serbia was a rematch of the 2016 Rio Olympics gold-medal game and one that was anticipated for a World Cup gold here. But the Serbs lost back-to-back games to be relegated to the classification bracket, while the U.S. fell to France 89-79 Wednesday, snapping a 58-game winning streak in international competition with NBA players.

"They're good character guys," U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said of his team's recovery from the early deficit. "It was a tough turnaround and I guess it showed. If you miss that many shots, it's a lot of defensive transition and at the same time Bogdan was on fire. So, we got him to hold but, I can't tell you how much I have been impressed the whole time by their character, their stick-to-itiveness and persistence as they learn how to play together. Tonight was a great example of that."

Serbia jumped out to leads of 11-2 and 26-5 before finishing the first quarter with a 32-7 lead, the largest of the game. Behind four 3-pointers from Bogdanovic, the Serbians made eight treys and shot 9-of-15 in the opening 10 minutes.

"They're a great team," Middleton said. "We knew that coming into the tournament. I think both teams would rather play each other in a different type of round or setting. They were a great team tonight. Their guy got hot early and kept it going all night long."

"I think that's the beauty of competition," Barnes said of having to play so quickly after a tough loss to France. "We signed up, Aug. 6, whenever that was, we made that pact that we were going to do whatever we could to win basketball games. To go out there and try to win gold medals. On the flip side of that is that there's a chance that we may not win. And, I think there are no regrets from our group in terms of what we've given, what we sacrificed, the commitment that everyone has made away from their families, teams, organizations, all of that.

"For us, we have to sit with that, get some rest and, on Saturday, we have that opportunity to go out there once again, play a game, represent our country. For some of us, potentially all of us, it could be the last time we wear a USA jersey, or the beginning of many, so I think we just have to savor that opportunity."

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When it rains it pours, so they say. And that is the lesson today as Team USA recovers from another loss at the FIBA World Cup, this time to Serbia in the relegation round.

Bogdan Bogdanovic was the primary weapon for the Serbs, who were co-favorites with the United States to compete for the gold medal. The Sacramento Kings forward scored 28 points and made seven 3-pointers, and Vladimir Mucic of Bayern Munich contributed 15.

The Serbs shot 15-for-31 from 3-point range, while Team USA was 11-of-31, getting a game-high 22 points from Harrison Barnes. Jayson Tatum missed his fifth straight game due to a sprained ankle.

Marcus Smart also did not play.

It was clear that the Americans were still stunned by their loss from a day earlier when they were outscored 32-7 in the first quarter ... although they bounced back in the second quarter by outscoring the Serbs 33-12.

It was a four-point game with 20 seconds left, but Nikola Jokic was fouled by Myles Turner, and he made both to wrap up the victory.

The United States will now play Poland on Saturday for seventh place .... marking an even lower finish than the infamous 2002 team that lost three time in Indianapolis.

"It's tough to come back the way we did, and for us to do that it shows a lot of heart and a lot of pride," U.S. guard Donovan Mitchell said. "But at the end of the day we want the win. That's where we are at. We're not here to get moral victories - that's not why we're here. We're here to win. And to lose two in a row stings.

The matchup between the U.S. and Serbia was a rematch of the 2016 Rio Olympics gold-medal game and one that was anticipated for a World Cup gold here. But the Serbs lost back-to-back games to be relegated to the classification bracket, while the U.S. fell to France 89-79 Wednesday, snapping a 58-game winning streak in international competition with NBA players.

"They're good character guys," U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said of his team's recovery from the early deficit. "It was a tough turnaround and I guess it showed. If you miss that many shots, it's a lot of defensive transition and at the same time Bogdan was on fire. So, we got him to hold but, I can't tell you how much I have been impressed the whole time by their character, their stick-to-itiveness and persistence as they learn how to play together. Tonight was a great example of that."

Serbia jumped out to leads of 11-2 and 26-5 before finishing the first quarter with a 32-7 lead, the largest of the game. Behind four 3-pointers from Bogdanovic, the Serbians made eight treys and shot 9-of-15 in the opening 10 minutes.

"They're a great team," Middleton said. "We knew that coming into the tournament. I think both teams would rather play each other in a different type of round or setting. They were a great team tonight. Their guy got hot early and kept it going all night long."

"I think that's the beauty of competition," Barnes said of having to play so quickly after a tough loss to France. "We signed up, Aug. 6, whenever that was, we made that pact that we were going to do whatever we could to win basketball games. To go out there and try to win gold medals. On the flip side of that is that there's a chance that we may not win. And, I think there are no regrets from our group in terms of what we've given, what we sacrificed, the commitment that everyone has made away from their families, teams, organizations, all of that.

"For us, we have to sit with that, get some rest and, on Saturday, we have that opportunity to go out there once again, play a game, represent our country. For some of us, potentially all of us, it could be the last time we wear a USA jersey, or the beginning of many, so I think we just have to savor that opportunity."

I first covered an NBA game in 1992 between the Milwaukee Bucks and the New York Knicks, and things were different back in those days. Media members actually sat on pres...