Team USA dominates Serbia to earn gold medal at 2014 FIBA World Cup

September 14, 2014

Led by 26 points from tournament MVP Kyrie Irving, and 23 points from James Harden, the USA (9-0) saved its best performance for the gold medal game, as the Americans captured a second-consecutive FIBA World Cup gold with a blistering 129-92 win over Serbia (5-4) on Sunday in Madrid, Spain.

“It’s the greatest feeling in the world right now,” Irving said. “Dealing with a group of guys that are my brothers. This means so much more to our country – three days after 9/11. A lot of pride, a lot of things we did to prepare for this trip. A lot of mental things and a lot of physical things that brought us closer together. I’m glad that the journey ends with a gold medal.”

The tournament will be remembered for several reasons, chief among them being the absence of the host nation from its expected showdown with the USA, as the Spanish National Team was upset earlier in the quarterfinals by France.

The USA, which distanced itself from Serbia early in the game with a 28-6 run to close the first quarter, became just the third country in FIBA World Cup history to capture consecutive titles, and earned the USA an automatic bid into the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.

Another memorable occurrence from this World Cup was the USA’s dominance over its opponents, as the United States' +33.0 points per game differential was the most of a U.S. men’s team in a FIBA World Cup or Olympic Games since the 1994 World Championship (+37.8).

“I think the results were dominant, but we had spurts of dominance in a lot of games,” said USA coach Mike Krzyzewski. “And, we had tough games, and then all of a sudden we’d have a spurt and it looked like we dominated. Tonight, we had like a 35-minute spurt. Tonight we played great. Tonight was a heck of a performance in those last 35 minutes.”

Irving shot a USA men’s World Cup record 6-of-6 from 3-point land, and the USA as a whole finished the game shooting 45-of-78 from the field (.577), 15-of-30 from 3-point (.500), and 24-of-29 from the free throw line (.828) to help record its highest scoring game of the tournament.

Kenneth Faried, who added 12 points and seven rebounds in the USA’s championship win, joined Irving on the five-member FIBA World Cup All-Tournament Team, along with France’s Nicolas Batum, Spain’s Pau Gasol, and Serbia’s Milos Teodosic.

“You always save your best for last, right?” Faried said. “That's what everybody says. It's a saying, we save the best for last, and that's what we did tonight. We saved the best for last to go home with this gold medal right here.”

A total of eight U.S. players reached double-figure scoring, including 12 points from Klay Thompson; 11 points and nine rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins; 11 points from Rudy Gay; and 10 points apiece from Stephen Curry and DeMar DeRozan.

Trailing 15-7 at 5:51 in the first quarter, an old-fashioned three-point play from Harden ignited a 15-0 USA run. Instrumental in the turnaround was Cousins who anchored the USA defense and posted a blocked shot and grabbed the USA’s first five rebounds of the game as the Americans sprinted ahead 22-15.

“Those first five minutes of tonight’s game they knocked us back,” Krzyzewski said. “I thought DeMarcus Cousins had about five plays in the middle of the first half that really turned a positive eight-to-ten points for us then our whole team gelled. Obviously, Kyrie (Irving) and James (Harden) were amazing. This has been a great group to work with. They always wanted to work, they were very well prepared and I am proud of them.”

The USA added six 3-pointers in the second period, from five different players, and the U.S. advantage grew to 31 points when Curry made two free throws at 59.3 seconds to bring the score to 67-36.

“In a big time game you just have to make plays,” said Harden, who scored nine of the USA’s first 13 points. “I kind of started it off, and Kyrie (Irving) kept it going and everybody else followed along. You have so many great players on this team that made the job easier.”

The USA continued to build upon its lead after halftime, despite a determined Serbian team that was whistled for an unsportsmanlike and a technical foul within the first two minutes of the third quarter. After going up by 39 points, 104-65, at 1:09 when Anthony Davis made two free throws, the USA took a 105-67 lead into the fourth quarter.

With six players averaging double figures, led by 14.2 points per game from Harden, the USA led the 24-team World Cup field in scoring offense (104.6 points a game), scoring margin (+33.0), field goal percentage (.524), rebounding (44.8), rebounding margin (+9.0), defensive rebounds (29.9), assists (20.4), steals (12.1) and turnover margin (+8.3).

“We improved every game,” said Krzyzewski. “All the guys. We got to know each other. I can’t single out one guy because Kyrie is deserving of MVP, but I think you could look at our games and we had a different star each game. Klay Thompson was so critical for this team. DeMarcus tonight, James Harden, Anthony Davis, especially at the start of our run. Kenneth (Faried) gave us a lot of energy. It was not like there was one star. They were a championship team, and it was kind of cool. In 2010 Durant just kind of took us. He had an amazing performance. Team-wise this is a heck of a team. This was a really good team.”

The USA National Team’s winning streak is now at 63 games (45 FIBA and FIBA Americas games, 18 exhibition games).

By Staff of and news services

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