In its final 2019 FIBA World Cup game, the USA men (6-2) had five players score in double-figures and recorded 29 assists in an 87-74 win over Poland (4-4) on Saturday afternoon at Wukesong Sport Arena in Beijing, China.
The USA finished the tournament in seventh place and now is 129-29 all time in FIBA World Cup action. As one of the top two finishing teams from the FIBA Americas zone, the USA also qualified for the 2020 Olympics.
“There are wonderful teams and wonderful coaches all over the world, so there’s no surprise in any of that,” said Gregg Popovich (USA and San Antonio Spurs head coach). “You go compete, and you know the best teams win. I was thrilled with the group of guys that we were able to coach. They made the sacrifice. They worked hard. They let us coach them, and we got them to a certain point in a short period of time. I wish I could have gotten them closer, but it didn’t happen.”
Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz) was the USA top scorer with 16 points, including 4-of-4 from 3-point, and a USA men’s World Cup record-tying 10 assists.
“You know, obviously, we didn’t get the result that we had wanted, but to be able to go to war with a bunch of guys who really sacrificed not only their time, their bodies, there’s not a lot more you can ask for,” Mitchell said. “I’ve never been a part of USA Basketball, and this was an incredible experience. Obviously, with the game today we showed a lot of character, because even after losing some teams can go the other way and say whatever, and that wasn’t the case with these guys. I’m really happy and blessed to have this opportunity.”
Joe Harris (Brooklyn Nets) finished with 14 points; Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks) added 13 points and six assists; Derrick White (San Antonio Spurs) contributed 12 points and seven assists; and Harrison Barnes (Sacramento Kings) tallied 10 points.
“It was a good win here today,” White said. “We wanted to go out winning. I mean, obviously, we fell short of our goal, but overall I think it was special to play with these guys in the locker room, and we had a great group of guys. I think we all learned a lot from it.”
The USA got off to a strong start and shot 57.9% from the field in the first quarter, including 10 assists on 11 field goals, while its defense held Poland to 0-of-7 from 3-point.
With the USA leading 18-14, the Americans closed on a 10-0 run and went ahead 28-14 after the first 10 minutes.
Seven scorers contributed for the USA in the second period, which increased its advantage by three points and headed into the halftime locker room with a 47-30 lead.
The third quarter was Poland’s strongest effort, and they outscored the USA 25-16 in the period, including a 14-2 stretch that cut the lead to seven points, 54-47, at 4:07. The USA pushed its cushion back to 63-49 at 1:17, but Poland sank two 3-pointers and made it to 63-55 with 10 minutes to play.
Twice early in the fourth quarter, Poland again narrowed the gap to seven points, but each time the USA responded, outscoring Poland 24-19 in the fourth period to earn the 87-74 win.
“We came out here, and we checked a couple boxes, but we didn’t get everything accomplished,” said Myles Turner (Indiana Pacers), who collected eight rebounds to go with his seven points and four blocked shots. “We qualified this team for the Olympics coming up, but we didn’t get that gold medal – something that is going to stick with us for a very long, shoot, the rest of our lives. And, you know, it hurts a little bit, but we came out here, and I think we did the best we could, given the circumstances.”
For the game, the USA shot 50.8% (31-61 FGs) from the field and 48.0% from 3-point (12-25 3pt FGs), and it held Poland to 39.7% shooting (29-73 FGs) and just 25.9% from 3-point (7-27 3pt FGs).
Photo/courtesy: USA Basketball