BEIJING — Deprived of the likes of LeBron James and thrown together at the last minute, a young United States team always looked vulnerable at the Basketball World Cup — and so it proved.
USA Basketball’s long winning streak in major competitions stretching back to 2006 — which yielded three Olympic golds and two world titles — came to a juddering halt against France on Wednesday.
The 89-79 quarter-finals loss in China means the USA will now have to play fellow fallen title favourites Serbia in a virtually meaningless classification game later Thursday.
With the defending Olympic champions already qualified for Tokyo 2020, the debacle in Dongguan, China will likely raise pressure on the USA to lock in big stars for next year or risk missing out on Games gold.
“Obviously if you’re going to listen to all that stuff, then you’re going to have a lot of problems at the end of the day,” the Brooklyn Nets’ Joe Harris said of the inevitable talk about the lack of NBA A-listers.
“For us, we try to keep everything internal. We know how much work we put in.
“We know how much each guy sacrificed to come and spend 39 days away from home right now.”