The U.S. men’s basketball team entered their quarterfinal game Wednesday morning against France coming off five consecutive wins in group play against Greece, Brazil, Czech Republic, Japan and Turkey.
They beat the first four of the aforementioned quintet handily, looking like the dominant force the rest of the world has come to know. The American team destroyed the Greeks, Brazilians, Czechs and Japanese by a combined margin of 106 points. A stifling defense alongside the ability to have five playmakers on the floor at all times allowed the United States to overwhelm each team.
However, the Americans found themselves fighting for their lives against a surprisingly tough Turkish team that had already lost to the Czech Republic by 15 points. The Turks were up 92-91 against the United States with eight seconds left and star guard Cedi Osman of the Cleveland Cavaliers at the free throw line.
Osman is generally a good shooter, as he shot a well above average 78% at the free throw line during the 2018-2019 NBA season. Apparently, the pressure of clinching the greatest upset in FIBA basketball history got to him, as he proceeded to miss two consecutive free throws. The Americans capitalized on Osman’s mistake, as Milwaukee Bucks star Khris Middleton drew a foul on the next play and sank two free throws to seal a 93-92 victory for the American squad.
Osman and Ersan ĪIlyasova, Middleton’s teammate on the Bucks, combined for 38 points in the heroic losing effort. As a team, the Turks kept themselves in the game by shooting a blistering 61% on 3-point shots, while holding the Americans to a paltry 35% shooting from the field.
After their successful group play, the Americans moved on to face their biggest threat thus far in a 4-1 French team. Four quality NBA talents in New York Knick Frank Ntilikina, Charlotte Hornet Nicolas Batum, Orlando Magic Evan Fournier and Utah Jazz Rudy Gobert led the charge for France heading into Wednesday’s game.
The Americans proceeded to greatly underwhelm in an 89-79 loss to France, thanks primarily to Gobert’s monster game. The 7-foot-1-inch center, nicknamed the Stifle Tower for his impenetrable rim protection, scored 26 points, grabbed 16 boards and blocked three shots in a dominant display for the French team.
For the Americans, Donovan Mitchell led the charge with 29 points on 52% shooting from the field. His teammates were unable to muster much help around him, as they combined for 50 points at a pedestrian 45% clip.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Spain and Australia also made it to the quarterfinals. The Spaniards won their quarterfinal game to put them into the next round, as they beat Poland 90-78. Brothers Willy and Juancho Hernangomez led the charge for the Spanish team, combining for 32 points to knock off the Poles.
The Australians will have to knock off Czech Republic in order to face the Spaniards in the semi-finals. Australia has been led by a significant amount of NBA talent, mainly guards Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs and Matthew Dellavedova of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and now appear to be the odds-on favorites to win the tournament after the Americans’ early exit.
The United States will play the Serbian national team on Thursday for 5th place.