Dongguan (China): France blew the Basketball World Cup wide open on Wednesday by handing the United States their first loss in the competition in 13 years in their quarterfinal clash, powered by a double-double from big man Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz.
The historic 89-79 win for France eliminates the Americans early from the competition in China, dashing their hopes of a third straight title.
The prospect of an American exit had looked increasingly possible after the USA sent a squad of second-tier stars and the loss is likely to prompt soul-searching in USA basketball.
Gobert, the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, had three blocks, including a key rejection down the stretch to help France seal the victory in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan.
The 7ft, 1in centre called the win “unbelievable”.
“I’ve been dreaming about this for a while. I was thinking we might never get the opportunity (to beat the USA) again and I told that to the guys,” Gobert said, adding, “It doesn’t mean much if you don’t win the gold, but it will go down as one of the biggest wins of my career and one of the biggest wins for French basketball for sure.”
In a hint of the sniping that may result in the United States over the debacle, shooting guard Donovan Mitchell, who lead the Americans with 29 points, hit back at critics of the team.
France will play Argentina on Friday, who made it to the final four by defeating Serbia.
The USA loss sets up an enticing consolation match with Serbia on Thursday. Packed with NBA players, the two were tournament favourites and will be trying to salvage pride.
Wednesday’s contest was marked by big lead changes, and Mitchell’s jumpers and slashing moves to the basket helped the Americans cut down a 10-point French advantage in the third quarter to seize back the lead.
But Mitchell cooled in the fourth and the French came back, led by Gobert and sharp-shooting small forward Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic, who led France in scoring with 22 points. Fournier slashed to the hoop for a driving lay-up to give France the lead again at 78-76 with three minutes remaining in the game.
Bros propel Spain
Two brothers played a major part in propelling Spain to the Basketball World Cup semifinals in China — but it wasn’t NBA All-Stars Marc and Pau Gasol.
Charlotte Hornets centre Willy Hernangomez drilled 18 points and brother Juancho, the Denver Nuggets forward, scored 14 in a 90-78 quarterfinal win over Poland on Tuesday.
They have a long way to go to emulate the Gasols, who have been at the heart of a successful Spain team for nearly 15 years, but they could be poised to inherit the mantle of Spain’s standout siblings....