As the final seconds of the FIBA World Cup counted down, Mason Plumlee dribbled out the clock and the celebrations began: Team USA were champions again. With tournament MVP Kyrie Irving and Houston Rocket James Harden leading the way, Team USA dominated Serbia to the tune of 129-92 to capture its second straight FIBA World Cup Gold Medal.
Although the game did not have the same level of excitement that would likely have been generated had it been Spain or France standing in between Team USA and the gold, it was not lacking in tension. Prior to tipoff Serbia coach Sasha Djordjevic was quoted saying:
"Until they show us for 40 minutes they are the better team, I am not going to say they are the better team."
Surprisingly, Team USA was not the better team for the first 5 minutes, as a combination of foul trouble for Anthony Davis, and Milos Teodosic's early pick and roll game allowed Serbia to jump to a 15-7 lead. Then, Kyrie Irving happened. The Cavaliers point guard may as well have been unleashing his Uncle Drew routine on a court full of unsuspecting recreational players, as he finished at the rim, knocked down mid range jumpers and unleashed off the dribble threes with no regard. Kyrie finished the quarter with 13 of his 26 points, and had Team USA leading by a comfortable 14 points.
Overall, the game was a very efficient one for Team USA, and the Raptors' very own DeMar DeRozan was no exception. Although he did not enter the game until late in the third quarter when the outcome was likely already decided, he made his impact felt immediately converting an And-1 on his first drive and scoring 4 more points before the final frame. DeMar finished the game with a total of 10 points in less than 14 minutes, shooting 3/4 from the field, 2/3 from the free throw line, and a clean 1/1 from three point range. He also grabbed a rebound, found an assist and made a steal.
It seems like just yesterday that we were fretting over whether DeMar would make the team. Within the past month the collective Raptor fan mentality has gone from a cautious optimism to a nodding approval of our very own All Star's accomplishments. Though DeRozan was not a featured player for Team USA in this tournament, he made the most of his opportunities, represented the Raptors with honour, and is now a gold medalist. Kudos DeMar. Kudos and congratulations.