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U.S. Dominates Serbia On Way To FIBA Gold

A complete and devastating performance by the American team.

Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson display their gold medals after winning the 2014 FIBA World Cup
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson display their gold medals after winning the 2014 FIBA World Cup
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno

It's been awhile since a U.S. basketball team faced the sort of doubts this one did.  First the "good" players stayed home.

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No LeBron. No K.D. No Chris Paul.

Second, George Paul's injury cast a pall over everything else - and he couldn't be replaced.

Third, Spain was playing for glory at home and had that massive frontline. Guards were pretty good too.

Derrick Rose made the team, and then drew heavy doubts.

There was not a stretch 4.

Should we go on?

In the end, none of it mattered. The combination of athleticism, aggressive defense, fast breaks and keen shooting posed the same problem they've posed since Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski renovated the U.S. national team's approach.

The U.S. was NOT supposed to run roughshod over this field, Spain or no Spain.

Yet at the end, the French and Spanish having fallen, only the Serbs stood between the U.S. and gold. And while the Serbs were superb for about five minutes (and while the U.S. quickly found Anthony Davis and Kenneth Faried in foul trouble), Kyrie Irving and DeMarcus Cousins stepped up to put an end to that.

Irving was absolutely brilliant. He shot 10-13 (76% - for a guard!) and 6-6 from three point range. He finished the first half with 20 points and had 26 for the game.

As one example of how the U.S. was underestimated in this tournament, the question going into this game was if the U.S. and Irving could defend Serbia's great point guard Milos Teodic. As we saw, that question was put backwards.

Arguably though the key for the U.S. was the superb play of Cousins.

Cousins took a lot of criticism for his immaturity, including from this site. Yet he seems to have left that behind. There was no enfant terrible in this game. Cousins came in when Davis and Faried were in trouble and played superbly. He was particularly great during that stretch as a rebounder and made it very difficult for the Serbs to stay on offense and instead helped force them to use their energy on defense instead, which was a good thing because if you saw what they did early on, it was incredibly impressive.

Cousins got nine rebounds, all on defense, and blocked a pair of shots.

For the game, the U.S. shot 57.7%, with only Stephen Curry and Faried shooting less than 50% .

There is a startling disparity in this tournament. We had to double check our math to make sure this is correct: the U.S. outscored its opponents 941-644, thus outscoring opponents by 297 ppg, or an average of 33 ppg (by the way, please feel free to check our math; it's notoriously bad).

Just as impressively, before the Serbian game, the most points the U.S. allowed was 77 by Turkey.
Those are the kinds of margins the U.S. could run up in the Bill Russell-Oscar Robertson-Jerry West era of Olympic dominance - but that was before countries like Spain or France dreamed of greatness, and back when Serbia, Slovenia, Lithuania and Ukraine were parts of large, bland communist entities.

It's nothing short of astounding to see it happen in the modern era, and in fact it compares very favorably to the gold standard (pun intended) of the modern era, the 1992 Dream Team, which won by an average of 43.8 ppg. against much weaker competition.

This is not the Olympics, but a lot of countries take the World Cup more seriously than the Olympics.

However you look at it, it's dominance on a grand, historical scale. Any time you can put yourself in the conversation with the Dream Team, you're doing something very special.