The Serbian men’s national basketball team was supposed to be the biggest threat to knocking off the United States in this 2019 FIBA World Cup. In fact, as the United States had some hiccups in the first group stage and Serbia blew everyone out, there were real questions as to whether Serbia wasn’t just a top threat but the favorite in the tournament. With Nikola Jokic expected to cause innumberable problems for a small U.S. team, and the lots of depth and shooting available to Serbia, that semifinal match looked pretty, pretty tough.
Instead, Serbia has been eliminated in the quarterfinals by a post-golden generation Argentina team without a single NBA player. Serbia had to face tough Argentina instead of Poland in the quarters after losing to Spain in the second group stage. Serbia won’t get its chance against Team USA, unless the Americans lose Wednesday and the powers face off in the consolation bracket.
Argentina’s Facundo Campazzo got whatever he wanted against Serbia and the team shot the lights out. Down the stretch, as Serbia fought to stay in the game, Argentina turned to the pick-and-roll, targeting Jokic. It worked. Ageless wonder Luis Scola dove in time after time to finish or mop up. Jokic sat the last few minutes. Serbia is toast.
In the end, the injury loss of Milos Teodosic in World Cup preparation proved to be too much. Serbia should be able to make the Olympic tournament next summer, but they’ll likely have to qualify via the last chance tournament before the Olympics. Plus, the United States and perhaps Spain could be better if more NBA stars commit to play in Tokyo. This was Serbia’s year until it wasn’t.
Lots of high-level basketball on Wednesday.
FIBA World Cup
United States vs. France, 7 a.m. ET, ESPN2 and ESPN+ (yes I am writing the newsletter and watching this game at the same time)
Australia vs. Czech Republic, 9 a.m. ET, ESPN+
Mercury at Sky, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Lynx at Storm, 10 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Diana Taurasi, who missed most of the season for the Mercury, isn’t playing on Wednesday. This is notable because she’s never lost a single-elimination game in the WNBA.
If you have access to a Wall Street Journal subscription, this story on Kevin Durant’s headspace is an incredible read. And if your takeaway is any flavor is “KD is weird” you might need to invest in some self-reflection.
Marc Gasol is the key to the Spanish attack … and maybe the Raptors’ hopes next season.
Jackie MacMullan on the very complicated Dennis Rodman.