Basketball World Cup 2019: Champions USA shocked by France in quarter-finals

France have caused the biggest shock of the basketball World Cup in China, beating holders the United States 89-79 to reach the semi-finals of the 32-nation tournament.

France will meet Argentina on Friday (NZT) for a berth in Sunday's final, while 2006 champions Spain take on Australia in the other semi-final.

The United States, favourites to win their third successive world title, dropped into the 5-8th place playoffs, after they failed to reach the medal rounds for the first time since 2002. 

The Americans were beaten in a last-eight clash by Yugoslavia in that tournament and they next face Serbia in their next match.

With 17 of their top NBA players pulling out of the roster in the build-up to the tournament in China, the US lacked depth, but their coach Gregg Popovich - winner of five NBA titles with the San Antonio Spurs - refused to make excuses.

 "It is a disrespectful notion even to bring something like that up," Popovich told a news conference.

"To say, 'hey, you guys didn't have this guy or that guy', that's disrespectful to France or whoever else is in the tournament. France beat us.

"It doesn't matter who is on the team. I couldn't be more proud of these 12 guys who sacrificed their summer, having never played together before.

"They put themselves in the arena and competed. They deserve credit for that, just like France deserve credit for winning.

"It's not about, 'the United States didn't have their other guys'. There is no such thing as 'other guys'."

An aggressive French defence forced a flurry of first-half turnovers and after engineering a six-point halftime lead, they surged 51-41 early in the third quarter, thanks to inspired performances from Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert.

As the French duo began to tire, Team USA hit back, thanks to a one-man show from Donovan Mitchell.

The guard netted 14 of his game-high 29 points in the third quarter to give the USA a 66-63 lead before the final 10 minutes.

But Mitchell stayed scoreless in the fourth quarter, while Utah Jazz teammate Gobert and Orlando Magic guard Fournier hit top gear.

Trailing 72-65, France went on a 17-4 run and cool free-throw shooting in the last 90 seconds of the clash gave them a memorable win. Gobert finished with 21 points and 16 rebounds, while Fournier netted 22 points.

The towering Gobert also produced two crucial blocks in the final minute, as the Americans lost their momentum and threw away several key possessions.

The only positive they will take from the tournament is that they have qualified for next year's Olympics in Tokyo, alongside Australia, Argentina, Iran and Nigeria.

The tournament's top two European nations will also advance to the 2020 Games, joining hosts Japan, who gained an automatic berth.

Reuters 

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