It’s an unusual situation for a team that usually features the world’s best offensive players, but the Americans are struggling to score during the World Cup, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Without Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Stephen Curry and other stars who have played in past international competitions, Team USA has needed to find other ways to win.
Through its first four games, the U.S. is averaging 87 points, which ranks eighth in the 32-team tournament. The Americans are 20th in field goal percentage at 42.6% and 18th from beyond the arc at 32.8%, even with a 3-point line that is much shorter than the NBA’s. Still, they are 4-0 and have a chance to clinch the top spot in their group heading into the quarterfinals.
“When you look at past USA teams, scoring has not been an issue. There’s been a lot of talent,” said Harrison Barnes, who was part of the 2016 Olympic team. “For us, defense is how we’re going to stay in games and compete and that’s what has been carrying us right now.”
There’s more World Cup news to pass along:
- Barnes isn’t interested in apologies from Greece’s Thanasis Antetokounmpo after a hard foul during Saturday’s game, relays James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. Barnes was attempting a dunk late in the contest when Antetokounmpo pushed him in the back. “The game was over; probably a frustration play,” Barnes said. “Apologies only go so far. If I don’t get up and something would’ve happened, apologies aren’t going to help us in the next game. Luckily everything is all good.”
- Serbia, which had been considered possibly the strongest challenger to Team USA, lost its first game of the tournament to Spain today and saw star center Nikola Jokic get ejected in the third quarter. The loss puts Serbia and the U.S. on the same side of the quarterfinal bracket and ensures that they won’t meet for the title. “I did not like the stupid reaction of Nikola Jokic,” Serbian coach Sasha Djordjevic said after the game. “He has to keep self control and be one of our leaders.” (Twitter link from Emiliano Carchia of Sportando)
- FIBA has denied an appeal from Lithuania after a controversial loss to France, but all three referees who worked the game have been suspended, according to Carchia. Lithuania contends that Rudy Gobert should have been called for goaltending for touching the rim on a free throw attempt by Jonas Valanciunas that could have tied the game with 30.8 seconds left to play.