FIBA World Cup: Team USA loses 94-89 to Serbia in classification round

After France knocked Team USA out of the FIBA World Cup, the Americans had an opportunity Thursday to continue growing their chemistry in the classification round.

But in their game against Serbia, the Americans showed they have still much room to improve on offense.

The Americans lost 94-89 against Serbia in the classification round of the FIBA World Cup. With the loss, the highest Team USA can place is seventh.

Though the Americans have typically played good defense in the tournament, especially on the perimeter, Thursday’s game was uncharacteristic for them. Sacramento Kings guard Bogdan Bogdanovic took advantage of the Americans’ lax defense, and he scored a game-high 28 points while also shooting 7-of-14 from the three-point line.

Serbia’s mainstay on offense was its three-point shooting, and the Americans didn’t match it with good offense of their own. Team USA’s best offensive quarter was the second, when the Americans outscored Serbia 33-12. The second quarter was filled with ball movement and players made good cuts. The Americans ran the type of offense that had produced success for them in the FIBA World Cup.

In the fourth quarter, Team USA had kept the game relatively close — the Americans were never down by more than 13 points. And with under a minute left, a three-pointer from Boston Celtics guard Kemba Walker cut Serbia’s lead to 91-87.

Still, the Americans didn’t make the push they needed until near the end of the game. With their shooting in the fourth, Serbia maintained the lead. Serbia made two three-pointers in the quarter and outscored the Americans 23-21.

Despite the loss, the Americans had some solid performances from players such as Walker, along with Kings forward Harrison Barnes and Milwaukee Bucks forward Khris Middleton. Walker scored 18 points and had a team-high eight assists.

Barnes led the team in scoring with 22 points, and he grabbed five rebounds. Barnes did well attacking the rim, particularly in the second half. His aggressiveness was part of why Team USA kept the game close.

Middleton scored 16 points and shot 54.5% from the field. He did a good job knocking down the shots that were available despite how Team USA’s offense sometimes faltered.

Though Team USA has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, having a good game in its final classification round matchup will be important. The Americans need to finish the FIBA World Cup well despite their past two losses.

Team USA will play for seventh place Saturday against the loser of the Poland and Czech Republic game. The game is set to start at 4 a.m. ET.

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