Gregg Popovich talking with his players during the FIBA World Cup 2019 quarterfinals match against France on Sept. 11, 2019 in Dongguan, China.
The U.S. men’s basketball team will not claim the first three-peat in the history of FIBA World Cup action.
After coming back from a halftime deficit to take the lead in the fourth quarter, the U.S. fell to France in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, 89-79, for an early end to the tournament in Dongguan, China. The loss ended the U.S. streak of 48 straight wins in FIBA and Olympic competition. Its last loss before Wednesday came against Greece in the semifinals of the 2006 FIBA World Championship. During the warm-up to the tournament last month, the U.S. lost to Australia to end an overall winning streak of 78 games.
Donovan Mitchell led all scorers Wednesday with 29 points, all in the first three quarters, but the lackluster offense that plagued the U.S. throughout the tournament reared its head again. Marcus Smart scored 11 points and Kemba Walker struggled to 10 points on 2 of 9 shooting from the field.
France, which is now without Tony Parker but still has a number of NBA players including Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, Nicolas Batum and Frank Ntilikina, had a big game from Fournier with 22 points and Gobert with 21 points and 16 rebounds. France will play Argentina in Friday’s semifinal.
Trailing 45-39 at halftime, the Americans rallied in the third thanks in large part to Mitchell and took the lead for the first time since the second quarter when they were ahead 29-27. The U.S. took a three-point lead into the fourth quarter but then watched as France went on a 9-0 run that would balloon to 18-5 as the Americans’ hopes for a comeback dropped off a cliff.
Despite the loss, the U.S. did still achieve what it hoped to accomplish this tournament by officially qualifying for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 earlier in the week. The U.S. is a three-time defending gold medalist at the Games.