MADRID– The United States, who fielded the youngest team in the FIBA World Cup, left no doubt who has the best men’s basketball program in the world Sunday when they blasted Serbia, 129-92, to win a second consecutive gold medal in this pre-Olympic qualifying competition.
One for the biggest surprises was how easy Team USA, which was missing 2012 Olympic stars like LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook, made it look, finishing unbeaten and winning their nine games by an average of 35 points.
The success of the U.S. national team reverberated throughout this world, but there was open disappointment and a disenchantment here as high scoring Spain, which had nine current or former NBA stars and was considered by some to be the favorite because it was playing on its home soil, went through an unexpected meltdown during a 65-52 loss to France in the quarterfinals of the opposite bracket.
Spain, which had pushed Team USA in both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics at Beijing and London, scoring over 100 points in each closely contested gold medal loss. The Spanish, who won two of the last three European championships, had been considered the U.S.’ biggest rival entering the competition. But joy turned to bitterness when their fans never got to to see the gold medal game everyone was waiting for.