SHENZHEN, China (AP) – The first mission for the United States (US) is complete: The Americans are going to the Tokyo Olympics. And now the World Cup quarter-finals await.
Kemba Walker and Myles Turner each scored 16 points, and the Americans earned a top seed for the quarter-finals by beating Brazil 89-73 on Monday in the final second-round game of the tournament.
The US, bidding to become the first nation to win three consecutive World Cups, faces France today – and won’t have to go through any extra qualifying tournament next summer for the Olympics.
“We’re thrilled that we’ve qualified for the Olympics,” said US coach Gregg Popovich, who will lead the Americans in Tokyo next summer as well. “With this new situation in qualifying, you don’t want to do that every year. That’s a pretty big grind.”
It was a win three nations could celebrate: The US victory not only resulted in an Olympic berth but also clinched an Olympic spot for Argentina and a quarter-final spot for the Czech Republic. The Czechs moved on despite losing earlier on Monday to NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and Greece.
The Czech Republic grabbed the last place in the round of eight via a three-team, points-differential tiebreaker over Greece and Brazil after they all went 3-2 in group play. “It’s already been a dream,” Czech guard Tomas Satoransky said.
Greece defeated the Czech Republic 84-77 in Shenzhen, an outcome that meant the US went into the Brazil game assured a spot in the quarters. All that was at stake was seeding and where they were going, either to nearby Dongguan by bus or back on a plane to Shanghai.
Get the bus ready. France, a 100-98 loser to Australia on Monday, awaits the US today in the quarter-finals. Other quarterfinal match-ups include Spain-Poland and Serbia-Argentina, and Australia-Czech Republic.
The only way to stay in the mix for gold now is to keep winning. That’s the approach the Americans – likening the World Cup feel to an NBA Finals atmosphere – have carried throughout the tournament anyway.
“(Coach) Pop talked about how this is June, this is June basketball,” US guard Joe Harris said. “That’s what our mentality has got to be like.” Jaylen Brown scored 11 and Harrison Barnes added 10 for the US (5-0).