U.S. finishes 7th at World Cup
Donovan Mitchell scored 16 points and handed out 10 assists, Joe Harris scored 14 and the U.S. defeated Poland 87-74 for seventh place at the World Cup. Khris Middleton had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Americans, who will head home with a 6-2 record — yet their worst placing ever in a World Cup, world championship as it used to be known, or Olympics. Derrick White scored 12 and Harrison Barnes added 10 for the U.S.
BEIJING — Their final game at the World Cup had been over for several minutes, and every member of the U.S. team and coaching staff were still lingering together on the court.
They were ready to go home.
They just weren’t ready to go their separate ways.
For USA Basketball, summer ended Saturday with an 87-74 win over Poland in the seventh-place game at the World Cup, the lowest finish ever by a U.S. team in a major international tournament. Donovan Mitchell finished with 16 points and 10 assists, Joe Harris scored 14 and the U.S. wrapped up its stay in China with a 6-2 record.
And when it was over, as his players signed each other’s jerseys in the locker room as souvenirs, U.S. coach Gregg Popovich insisted this team has nothing to be ashamed about.
“If you don’t win, some people will play the blame game,” Popovich said. “There’s no blame to be placed anywhere. They play the shame game, like we should be ashamed because we didn’t win a gold medal? That’s a ridiculous attitude. It’s immature. It’s arrogant. And it shows that whoever thinks that doesn’t respect all the other teams in the world and doesn’t respect that these guys did the best they could.”
Khris Middleton had 13 points, six rebounds and six assists for the Americans. Derrick White scored 12 and Harrison Barnes added 10 for the U.S., which led by 17 at the half but had to stave off a Poland rally in the final minutes.
The mantra the Americans carried into Saturday was to finish the trip the right way, and they got it done.
“I’m going to look back on it and have unbelievable memories,” Harris said. “These are friendships that are very unique, where we’ve formed a special bond going through what we just did together. ... Some of these guys who I might not have had a chance to know otherwise are now some of my closest friends. It’s unique in that way.”
There was little to play for except pride — and the Americans were playing with the realization that for some of them, it easily could be their last time wearing the red, white and blue uniforms with “USA” across the chest. The roster for the U.S. trip to the Tokyo Olympics next summer is likely to look considerably different than this one.
“For me, this is an amazing experience,” Mitchell said. “Everybody likes to look at the end goal, but when you sit back and reflect, I played on Team USA. That’s incredible for me. I think that in itself is amazing. So yes, it was definitely worth it.”
Poland coach Mike Taylor also found the World Cup most
United States’ coach Gregg Popovich looks on after a consolation playoff game against Poland for the FIBA Basketball World Cup at the Cadillac Arena in Beijing on Saturday. U.S. defeated Poland 87-74. worthwhile — especially Saturday.
He’s an American, lives in Florida, is proud of how far he’s taken Poland’s program, knows many of the words to the Polish national anthem — but mouthed along with the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner” when it played pregame.
“I’ve been coaching with national teams, four years with the Czech Republic and now six years with Poland,” Taylor said, his voice cracking slightly. “That’s a lot of anthems you’ve heard. And I never imagined in my life that I would hear the United States. It means a lot and it’s not something you take for granted.”