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FIBA Basketball World Cup

FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019: Winners and losers from France's upset of the United States

The loss to France snapped a 58-game win streak for Team USA.
The loss to France snapped a 58-game win streak for Team USA. (Getty Images)

For the first time in 13 years, the United States lost in a game it sent NBA players, snapping a 58-game winning streak in international tournaments.

Unlike 2006 when Team USA lost to Greece in the semifinals before ultimately winning the bronze medal, France's shocking upset in the quarterfinals means the United States will not medal in the World Championships for the first time since 2002.

Here are the biggest winners and losers from the stunning result in China.

WINNER: Rudy Gobert's bandwagon

We'll get to the disappointment on the side of the United States soon enough but let's start with the best player on the winning team.

Rudy Gobert is the best rim protector in the world and a two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. He's made a pair of All-NBA teams, he's led the league in blocks and last year he led the league in field goal percentage.

And yet, you get the sense that Gobert isn't widely accepted by the masses as a star.

Case in point?

He's never made an All-Star team.

Now that he's the principal author of the most shocking international basketball upset in over a decade, maybe he'll finally get his due and the rest of the basketball community will acknowledge what Jazz fans and a small sect of hoops-crazed fans have known for years: Gobert is a bonafide, legitimate game-changing stud.

That was on full display for all to see against the Americans as he finished with 26 points and 16 rebounds while single-handedly shutting down the paint especially down the stretch. Kemba Walker couldn't finish over Gobert. Jazz teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn't finish over Gobert. Team USA's trio of centres - Myles Turner, Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee - had zero answer for Gobert on either end as they combined for just two points and one rebound in 15 minutes.

Rarely, if ever, has Gobert been mentioned alongside Nikola Jokic or Joel Embiid or Anthony Davis or even Karl-Anthony Towns as one of the NBA's truly elite post players. That should change immediately.

LOSER: Team USA's laissez faire approach

Even after one big name after another dropped out which left the United States with only two All-Stars on the roster in Kemba Walker and Khris Middleton, the United States still entered the tournament as heavy favourites.

Even after the loss to Australia in an exhibition and the close call in pool play against Turkey, it still seemed as if it was a foregone conclusion that the United States would go on to win it all.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, there's this notion that Team USA can simply show up and cruise.

That couldn't be further from the truth.

MORE: All 54 NBA players in the 2019 FIBA World Cup

Even when sending it's very best talent, the world has caught up.

The 2008 team which featured Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and a whole host of A-listers barely eeked by Spain.

The 2012 team which added Kevin Durant and James Harden to a team with Bryant, James, Anthony and Wade nearly lost twice, first to Lithuania in pool play and then again to Spain.

The 2016 team led by Durant, Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson survived three close calls against Spain, Serbia and this same France team.

The close calls and general lack of interest leading to an early exit this go-around will surely lead to re-thinking how to best approach filling out the team moving forward. USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo, widely credited with turning around USA basketball following the losses in 2002 and 2004, floated the possibility of turning towards a U-23 format for the World Championships teams as a means of building Olympics depth and reducing pressure.

ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, an expert on interational basketball, tossed out the possibility that the USA should consider using a handful of roster spots on Americans playing in EuroLeague, citing their familiarity with the FIBA game that's much different than the NBA.

Regardless of what happens next, France's win over the United States should serve as yet more evidence that long-gone are the days when USA basketball can simply send any collection of NBA players and sleep-walk to a title.

WINNER: The Final Four

All four teams still left have a legitimate chance to win this thing with defining narratives.

Spain has long been considered Europe's best team with consistently dominant performances in European tournaments and is once again in position to take advantage of an early exit by the United States. Spain won the 2006 FIBA World Cup after the United States was bounced by Greece in the semifinals and can do it again in China.

France can make it two straight summers of making up for years of international disappointment. One year after winning the FIFA World Cup on the soccer pitch, France can finally break through in basketball. Despite a runner-up finish at the 2000 Olympics and a third-place finish at the 2014 World Cup, France has somewhat underachieved despite a rise in NBA talent with the likes of Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Joakim Noah, Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert.

Argentina rose to glory and gold at the 2004 Olympics on the backs of Manu Ginobili and the golden generation, but is also coming off the first season in nearly 20 years in which no Argentinean played in the NBA. Winning in 2019 with no NBA players would provide a much-needed spark for a national team searching for the next wave of basketball talent.

Australia has never medaled at either the Olympics or World Cup. It goes without saying that the Boomers now have the opportunity to cement the greatest basketball achievement in their nation's history. The journey is all the more impressive given they are doing it without 76ers All-Star Ben Simmons who pulled out of competing earlier this summer.

As for that much-anticipated clash between the United States and Serbia? It's still happening... but with nothing more than a fifth-place finish on the line.

WINNER: Championship hopes for Utah Jazz

If there's one coach outside of France who is smiling about this result, it's Utah Jazz head coach Quin Snyder.

Not only was Gobert an absolute wrecking ball on both ends, Donovan Mitchell was far and away the best player for Team USA and seemed on the cusp of turning in one of the truly most memorable performances in United States history.

Mitchell finished with 29 points while also leading the team in both rebounds (6) and assists (4, tied with Harrison Barnes). Somewhat inexplicably, the United States went away from Mitchell in the fourth quarter as he took just three shots, two of which came in the final minute once the game was relatively in hand for France.

Through the first three quarters, Mitchell dominated the action offensively with 29 of his team's 66 points. It was the type of explosion that many surmised could happen for the third-year budding star on a team with somewhat limited firepower. Then came the perplexing final period in which he went scoreless, a puzzling turn of events that simply don't make any sense.

Despite that no-show in the fourth quarter, it's hard not to walk away impressed with the manner in which Mitchell took matters into his own hands for much of the game. Even though he turned into Clark Kent towards the end, it was Mitchell's Superman act that kept this game from turning into a blowout. While the rest of Team USA looked mostly lost from start to finish, Mitchell dialled in and kept his team afloat.

Entering their third year as teammates in Utah, Mitchell and Gobert have the opportunity to elevate their status as one of the league's elite duos on a team that has a real chance of contending for a championship. In a league that's now defined by duos as much as anything with LeBron James and Anthony Davis, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis and eventually Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, the two Jazz linchpins have an opportunity to take their place among the league's top tandems.

The Jazz have depth and a ceiling that will be defined by its stars. If this game is any indication, they will be the real deal in 2019-20.

LOSER: Boston's summer bonding

Turn Snyder's smile upside down to match the expression on the face of Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens who watched Team USA fall with four Celtics making up a third of the roster.

Kemba Walker, widely considered the best player and leader on this team, picked a terrible time for his worst performance of the tournament as he finished 2-9 from the field, missed all four of his 3-point attempts and coughed it up four times while handing out zero assists. That sounds bad and it may have actually undersold how poorly he played.

Through three quarters, Walker attempted just two shots and missed both. In the midst of a bad game and with Mitchell going off, it's even more head-scratching that it was Walker who tried playing hero late with seven of his nine shots coming in the fourth quarter, many of which were ill-advised. It seemed for stretches as if Walker felt he was back in Charlotte and needed to do it all himself. It's fitting that his final shot of the game, a meaningless heave at the buzzer down 10, reeked of the hopeless desperation with which he played leading up to that point.

MORE: How Brad Stevens can get the most out of Kemba Walker

Marcus Smart provided some toughness and had his moments, but came up short when it mattered the most, missing all four of his free throws in the fourth quarter, the second pair coming with just under three minutes left and his team down four.

Jaylen Brown, a positive difference maker over Team USA's last few games after a slow start to the tournament, played well in the first half before disappearing for large stretches in the third and fourth quarters. Though he played nearly 23 minutes, fourth on the team and the most of anyone off the bench, Brown was unable to match the effectiveness of Evan Fournier, Frank Ntikilina or Nando De Colo, all of whom delivered big performances for Les Bleus.

MORE: What is the best all-time Celtics team?

Then there's Tatum who missed his fourth straight game after suffering an injury in the close call against Turkey in pool play. Like Mitchell, Tatum entered the FIBA World Cup with big expectations as one of the players to potentially break out. Instead, he'll limp back to the States following a tournament in which he shot 32% in just two games.

There's no denying that Boston's group of four will certainly benefit from a summer spent training together as the Celtics enter 2019-20 looking to rebound from a lost season. And yet there's also the chance that the extra wear and tear of an extra six weeks of basketball with no team success to show up for it could end up serving as a harbinger of sorts in Boston.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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