DONGGUAN, China — No gold. No medal. No more winning streak.
The U.S. reign atop international basketball has ended — this time, thwarted by France at the World Cup.
For the first time since 2006, the U.S. sent NBA players to a major international tournament and won’t win gold. Evan Fournier scored 22 points, Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 16 rebounds and France beat the top -ranked U.S. 89-79 in the World Cup quarterfinals Wednesday, rallying from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull off the upset.
“Any loss hurts,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “And in this situation, it hurts more. But life goes on. This is very important and we would have loved to have won … but we’re all grown, we all have families and lives and life goes on.”
The U.S. had won 58 consecutive tournament games in FIBA and Olympic competition, starting with the bronze-medal game at the 2006 world championships and continuing through every FIBA Americas, World Cup and Olympics event since. It was bidding to become the first nation to win three consecutive World Cups, after winning three straight Olympic golds in that span.
The best the Americans can do now in China is finish fifth, and they’re assured of their worst finish in a big tournament with NBA players since placing sixth at the 2002 world championships. They’re going home with a berth in the 2020 Olympics secured but no medal.
Photo: Ng Han Guan / Associated Press
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Donovan Mitchell scored 29 points for the U.S., all of them coming in the first three quarters. The Americans came up scoreless on six consecutive possessions down the stretch, the drought that allowed the French to take control of a back-and-forth game for the final time.
“Just got to take it like a man at this point,” U.S guard Kemba Walker said. “We lost. There’s nothing we can do. We competed. We’ve been competing since Day 1 that we got to training camp. But we gave it everything we’ve got. I know we’re Team USA and things of that nature and they’ve been winning for a lot of years, but you know, we didn’t get a chance to pull it off.”
Nando De Colo scored 18 for France. The French held the U.S. to 4-for-15 shooting in the fourth quarter — and benefited from the Americans going 4-for-11 from the foul line in the final 10 minutes.
France was up 10 early in the second half. The U.S. went on a 31-14 run over the next 10 minutes to go up by seven. And then the French responded with a 15-2 run over the next five minutes, going up 82-76 on a long jumper by Frank Ntilikina with 2:05 left.
Mitchell had a chance to cut the Americans’ deficit to two with about a minute left, driving against Gobert — but the Utah center read what the Utah guard was going to do perfectly, swatting away the shot.
France had been 0-9 against the U.S. in major international play, most of those outcomes one-sided affairs. The previous meeting between the nations was a 100-97 U.S. win at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics three years ago, and France returned three players — Gobert, De Colo and Batum — who got minutes in that game.
None of the U.S. players who played that afternoon in Rio is on this year’s World Cup team.
Gobert said beating the Americans wasn’t the goal — winning gold is.
“It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t win in the end,” Gobert said.
France will play Argentina in semifinals at Beijing on Friday. In the other semifinal, second-ranked Spain will play Australia, which beat the Czech Republic 82-70 in Shanghai on Wednesday behind former St. Mary’s guard Patty Mills’ 24 points, with former Warriors center Andrew Bogut adding 10.
Tim Reynolds is an Associated Press writer.
This post was originally posted at https://www.sfgate.com/sports/article/A-shocker-US-beaten-by-France-in-World-Cup-14432907.php.