Gold Medal Game Preview: USA vs. Serbia
Date: Sept. 14, 2014
Gold Medal Game: USA vs. Serbia
Palacio de los Deportes de la Comunidad
3 p.m. ET, ESPN2
When the USA National Team assembled in Las Vegas back on July 27 to begin preparations for the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, the USA contingent, as is always the case, focused on preparing properly for representing their country and winning gold.
Over the 50 days since then, the 12 players representing the USA have been chosen, the 2014 USA National Team played an intra-squad game, won four exhibitions against international opponents, and the group has impressively captured wins in its first eight games at the World Cup.
What is left on the USA MNT to-do list is to take to the court and emerge victorious one final time.
Thanks to its dominating 96-68 win over Lithuania in Thursday’s semifinal game, the USA will play in the FIBA Basketball World Cup gold medal game on Sunday in a 3 p.m. EDT game that will be broadcast on ESPN2. The USA’s opponent Serbia punched its ticket to the championship game by eliminating France 90-85 on Friday night.
The USA’s march into the World Cup gold medal game marks a second straight appearance in the title game for the Americans and is the eighth time all-time that the U.S. has played for gold. In the seven previous games played to decide the gold medal, the USA has a 4-3 record, having won gold in 1954, 1986, 1994 and 2010, while winning silver in 1950, 1959 and 1982.
History has shown that capturing consecutive world titles is no easy chore. Only two countries, Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (consisting of the then two remaining republics of Yugoslavia -- Serbia and Montenegro) (1998 and 2002), have earned back-to-back FIBA world titles since the event was initiated in 1950. Although the United States has won the world crown four times, it has never won consecutive titles. Having claimed the championship in Turkey in 2010 and advanced to the 2014 World Cup gold medal game, the U.S. now one win away from repeating for the first time.
Also on the line is the USA National Team’s 62-game winning streak (44 FIBA and FIBA Americas games, 18 exhibition games), which has been achieved under the leadership of USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and USA head coach Mike Krzyzewski. The streak started on Sept. 2, 2006, with a 96-81 win over Argentina in the 2006 World Championship bronze medal game and includes perfect performances in the 2007 FIBA Americas Championship, 2008 and 2012 Olympics, and 2010 World Championship.
“I think Serbia is really as good as anybody in the tournament, and probably is the hottest team, and they are playing a high level,” said Krzyzewski. “They have stars on their team, and (Milos) Teodosic is … I loved him when I saw him in the World Championship in 2010. (Bogdan) Bogdanovic is a rising star. Their big guys are good. They are well coached, and they are strong. They can hurt you from many different positions, but they are just playing great basketball right now.
“Actually it’s beautiful to see. I hope I don’t see that beauty tomorrow night,” joked Krzyzewski, “They’ve been playing lights out basketball.”
The USA and Serbia have never met in World Cup play although both participated in 2010 when the USA won gold and Serbia finished fourth with a 6-3 mark.
Yugoslavia, which Serbia competed under, competed in World Championships between 1950-90 and won three gold (1970, 1978, 1990), three silver (1963,1967, 1974), and two bronze medals (1982, 1986). The USA compiled a 4-5 record versus those Yugoslavian teams in World Championship play.
Due to Yugoslavia’s United Nations embargo, Yugoslavia was not permitted to compete in the 1994 World Championship in Toronto, Canada. However, Yugoslavia, comprised of the two remaining republics -- Serbia and Montenegro -- won World Championship gold in 1998 and 2002, and tied for ninth in 2006. The U.S. was 0-1 versus the Serbia and Montenegro team having suffered an 81-78 defeat in 2002. The USA National Team did defeat Serbia and Montenegro 78-60 in an exhibition game played in Belgrade in advance of the 2004 Athens Olympics.
In 2014, Serbia (5-3) defeated France 90-85 in Friday night’s semifinal game to advance to the gold medal game. Guard Milos Teodosic, 14.0 ppg. and 4.1 apg., leads Serbia. Former (2013-14) Milwaukee Bucks 7-foot center Miroslav Raduljica, 13.5 ppg. and 4.8 rpg.; 6-foot-6 guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, 11.6 ppg. (15-36 3pt FGs), and 6-foot-10 forward Nemanja Bjelica, 11.1 ppg. and 7.4 rpg., offer Serbia additional talents to rely on.
Serbia’s three losses were by one point, eight points and 16 points. The Serbs come into the game averaging 81.4 points a game on 50.1 percent shooting from the field and 39.9 percent accuracy from 3-point.
“You have to be on top of your game to win this thing, especially against Serbia. Serbia is playing so well,” said Coach K. “We are excited, proud, to be here and we would like to have our best effort tomorrow night.”
The USA’s gold medal hopes are pinned to its balanced offense, defensive aggression and impressive depth. James Harden leads the USA in scoring, averaging 13.1 points a game and 3.4 assists, and also aiding the red, white and blue are: Anthony Davis, 13.0 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game; Klay Thompson, 12.8 points; Kenneth Faried, 12.5 points and a team high 7.9 rebounds a contest; Stephen Curry, 10.8 points and 3.3 assists; Kyrie Irving, 10.4 points and a team best 3.5 assists, and DeMarcus Cousins, 9.4 points and 5.1 rebounds (USA cumulative statistics are available here).
The USA leads the 24-team World Cup field in scoring offense averaging 101.5 points a game, scoring margin (+32.5), field goal percentage (.517), defensive field goal percentage (.384), rebounding (44.9), rebounding margin (+8.6), assists (21.0), steals (13.1) and turnover margin (+9.1). Additionally, the Americans are third in scoring defense (69.0) and blocked shots (5.4), fourth in 3-point field goal percentage (.385) and defensive 3-point field goal percentage (.291).
Since the first World Championship in 1950, USA team have won 11 medals – four gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals – while compiling an all-time 122-27 record.
Just The Facts: Serbia
FIBA World Ranking: #11
How Serbia Qualified: FIBA Europe 7th place (6-5)
World Cup Appearances: 2
World Cup Overall Record: 11-6 (.647%)
World Cup Finishes: 4th (2010)
World Cup Record vs. USA: 0-0
Last Senior Team Meeting vs. USA: 2004 MNT Tour (60-78)
2013 Head Coach: Dusan Ivkovic
2013 Key Players In FIBA Europe Championship: Nenad Krstic (15.4 ppg., 4.8 rpg.), Nemanja Bjelica (10.0 ppg., 7.0 rpg.), Bogdan Bogdanovic (9.4 ppg., 4.3 rpg., 2.0 apg.), Nemanja Nedovic (8.9 ppg., 2.6 rpg., 2.4 apg.).
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