TWEET (14) SHARE (531) SHARE 2 COMMENTS
No Kevin Durant, no Kevin Love, more reason to believe Team USA's basketball program is alive and well. Coach Mike Krzyzewski's team might have avoided 2014 World Cup host Spain, but in a 129-92 championship game win against Serbia flexed its muscle in front of the international basketball world.
The win margin of 33 points through nine games turned said it all. The Americans are the first national team to win by more than 20 points in any previous FIBA championship event.
Team USA hit the 100-point mark just more than 28 minutes into the game on Sunday, and Kyrie Irving only needed 25 minutes to lead the way with 26 points while hitting all six of his three-point shots. Irving ultimately won the MVP for his solid play throughout the tournament and his explosion in the championship game.
James Harden's aggressiveness was also on display, and he finished with 23 points while going 8-for-11 from the floor.
Briefly, it looked like Serbia would give the Americans a game. Serbia made sure not to get out to a slow start, building a 15-7 lead and attacking Team USA's defense at its weakest points.
But the Americans seemed to shake out of a slump after seeing that deficit on the scoreboard — and by inserting more size by going to DeMarcus Cousins at center in place of Anthony Davis, who was in foul trouble. Cousins played his most impactful basketball of the tournament, finishing with 11 points and nine rebounds to go with a steadying defensive presence.
USA responded to the slow start with a confidence building 28-6 run to end the first quarter thanks to a hyper-aggressive Irving. The Cavaliers point guard had 15 points by the end of the first 10 minutes. Harden added nine more, which did a bit to absolve the his usual defensive miscues.
Team USA shot 38 percent from three-point range coming into the championship game on Sunday, but in the first half alone it shot 11-for-16 from deep and led 67-41. USA finished hitting 15-of-30 from three-point range.
The third quarter got off to a testy start, as Serbian center Miroslav Raduljica picked up an unsportsmanlike foul and the referees needed to separate the teams, but it wasn't enough to shake Team USA's focus. The majority of the second half played out like garbage time.
The Serbian team got 18 points from each of Nikola Kalinic and Nemanja Bjelica. Leader Milos Teodosic scored 10 points and handed out seven assists, and Suns draft pick Bogdan Bogdanovic added 15 points in the loss.
As for the United States, there's momentum and positivity heading into the 2016 Olympics. In a summer where Paul George's gruesome injury cooled the excitement and Durant and Love pulled themselves off the team, the win means even more for the red, white and blue.