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Team USA FIBA World Cup review: Americans disappoint with fourth-place finish

The 2023 FIBA World Cup is in the books, and we’ve provided a review of the tournament with a focus on Team USA's disappointing fourth-placed finish.

Team USA fails to medal

After a disappointing seventh-place finish in the 2019 FIBA World Cup, Team USA had yet another let-down in 2023. 

After falling to Germany 113-111 in the semi-finals, they also lost the third-place game to Canada 127-118 on Sunday, September 10.

Of course, motivation may not have been nearly as high directly following their semi-final loss, but allowing 127 points to Canada was the perfect demonstration of their downfall in this tournament. 

Team USA also allowed 113 points to Germany the game prior and 110 to Lithuania in the second group stage, which was arguably the biggest upset they experienced.

Plenty of fans will argue that the best American players weren’t on the court, such as superstar LeBron James, but the Americans were still the favorites to win the 2023 FIBA World Cup. 

Things looked promising following the first group stage, as Team USA won those three games by 27, 28 and 48 points.

However, they followed that up by struggling as nearly 30-point favorites against Montenegro and the aforementioned upset loss to Lithuania. 

Anthony Edwards of the Minnesota Timberwolves led the Americans with 18.9 points per game, but that was still just the 15th most in the tournament overall. Head coach Steve Kerr's insistence on giving all 12 players considerable minutes may have hurt the team's on-court chemistry.

Stats don't lie for the States 

Meanwhile, other NBA players - Luka Doncic and Jordan Clarkson - led the tournament in scoring, each averaging over 25 points per game. 

Americans were expecting the experience of Jalen Brunson to lead the charge, but it ultimately wasn't enough. Perhaps even more disappointing were the performances of Josh Hart and Jaren Jackson Jr., who combined for just three points in the loss to Lithuania and 17 in the loss to Germany.

Ultimately, it was the lack of defensive presence that caused the demise for Team USA, which could be further boiled down to their lack of presence in the paint. 

Hart was the top rebounder for the Americans, but that was more by default than anything. For perspective, his 5.3 rebounds per game were tied for the 45th-most of all players in the tournament.

Even Canada’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who is known almost exclusively for his scoring ability, had more with 6.4 rebounds per game. Players similar to Nikola Vucevic and Jonas Valanciunas - who each performed well against Team USA - would have been great benefits for Team USA, but that lack of presence down low led to yet another disappointing finish for the Americans.    

Germany takes the title

Speaking of Germany, it was their win over Serbia in the finals that led to them winning their first-ever FIBA World Cup title. Like the Americans, they too dominated the group stage. 

They won all but one of their games by at least 18 points and put up at least 100 points in three straight games.

It was also their 113 points against the Americans that allowed them to reach the finals. It wasn’t the high-scoring affair that we became accustomed to from Germany, but it was NBA stars that led them over Serbia. 

Dennis Schroder of the Toronto Raptors led the scoring with 28 points, and Franz Wagner of the Orlando Magic added 19 points and seven rebounds. 

It was the Germans first-ever FIBA World Cup title, making Sunday that much more important for them.   

Latvia make their presence known

Outside of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Final and the third-place matchup, there were still other teams of note. First and foremost, France was arguably even more disappointing than the Americans, as they were eliminated early for an 18th place finish.

One country that even Germany had trouble defeating was Latvia, who fell by just two points in the quarter-finals to the eventual champions. Latvia also handled Lithuania with far more ease than Team USA, defeating them 98-63. 

Latvia had just one active NBA player, Davis Bertans, on their roster, which also included a couple of former NBA players in Rodions Kurucs and Anzejs Pasecniks.

On top of all that, Latvia wasn’t even in this tournament in 2019. Similarly, Slovenia - led by Doncic - made it to the quarterfinals before coming up short against Canada.

There were plenty of risers and fallers, but ultimately, it was Germany winning their first-ever FIBA World Cup that capped off the tournament.    

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