USA Fires Its Way To FIBA World Cup Gold Medal, 129-92 Win Over Serbia
• VIDEO: Game Recap
• VIDEO: Phantom Cam Highlights
• VIDEO: Coach K Speaks
• VIDEO: Kyrie Irving Speaks
Led by 26 points from tournament MVP Kyrie Irving (Cleveland Cavaliers) and 23 points from James Harden (Houston Rockets), the USA (9-0) saved its best performance of the World Cup for the gold medal clash as the Americans captured a second-consecutive FIBA World Cup gold medal with a blistering 129-92 win over Serbia (5-4) at the Palacio de los Deportes de la Comunidad arena on Sunday night in Madrid, Spain.
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 more crucial, the championship earned the USA an automatic bid into the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
The USA’s +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 (Duke University). “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, 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 (Denver Nuggets), 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.
“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.”
Irving also dished out four assists, and a total of eight U.S. players reached double-figure scoring, including 12 points from Klay Thompson (Golden State Warriors); 11 points and nine rebounds from DeMarcus Cousins (Sacramento Kings); 11 points from Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings); and 10 points apiece from Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors) and DeMar DeRozan (Toronto Raptors).
“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.”
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.”
While Serbia scored out of the timeout to stop the streak, the USA’s 15-straight points were the start of a 28-6 run that saw the USA take a 35-21 lead after the first 10 minutes. The USA, which had been plagued throughout the first eight games by poor shooing in the first period, was a perfect 5-of-5 from 3-point in the first 10 minutes, and Serbia never recovered.
“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 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. Serbia scored and added a 3-pointer at the buzzer to trail 67-41 at halftime.
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. As eight U.S. players put points on the board, the Americans reached triple digits at 1:44 when Anthony Davis (New Orleans Pelicans) finished an alley-oop from Thompson to make it 100-65. After going up by 39 points, 104-65, at 1:09 when 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).
Gay and Derrick Rose (Chicago Bulls) are now tied with Michael Silliman for the USA’s most World Cup career games (18), Rose holds the USA record for World Cup career assists (59), Curry has the career mark for free throw percentage (1.000, 17-17 FTs) and Irving has the U.S. event career record for 3-point percentage (.609). Curry’s 17-of-17 free throw performance also is a U.S. World Cup competition record, and the team set a U.S. competition high with 689 field goal attempts.
“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.”
Rounding out Krzyzewski’s USA National Team staff as assistant coaches were Syracuse University and Naismith Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim, Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams.
Since the first FIBA World Championship was held in 1950, the USA has won 11 medals – four gold medals, three silver medals and four bronze medals – while compiling an all time 123-27 win-loss record. Led By Krzyzewski, the Americans are defending World Champions having claim gold in Istanbul with a 9-0 record.
The USA National Team’s winning streak is now at 63 games (45 FIBA and FIBA Americas games, 18 exhibition games), which has been achieved under the leadership of USA managing director Jerry Colangelo and 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.
STAT NOTES: The USA outrebounded Serbia 44-32 … Also marking their mark on the U.S. FIBA World Cup record book, Faried now lists No. 2 for competition rebounds (70), and Cousins is No. 2 for competition field goal percentage (.702) … Brazil (1959 and 1963) and Yugoslavia (consisting of the then two remaining republics of Yugoslavia -- Serbia and Montenegro) (1998 and 2002), are the other two countries that have earned back-to-back FIBA world titles since the event was initiated in 1950.