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Rudy Gobert gets the best of Donovan Mitchell and Team USA

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Despite 29 from Mitchell, Team USA falters late

FIBA.Basketball
FIBA

What a game.

Everyone figured that Team USA vs. France was going to be a battle, and they were absolutely right. From the opening tip, this game was a dog fight.

Donovan Mitchell got the opening bucket for Team USA (as he has in nearly every game), and that would be the first of many to come. USA and France played a tight opening quarter, and for the majority of the first half they were almost dead even. Towards the end of the second quarter, France started to make some separation, and ended up with a 6-point lead going into halftime. Donovan Mitchell had 15 of Team USA’s 39 points in the first two quarters, and looked great in the opening half.

Team USA struggled all game long with Rudy Gobert, and had no option but to foul him as he got his way around the rim early on. Rudy converted on 9/10 free-throws in the first half alone, and took Myles Turner out of the game getting him into foul trouble. Rudy seemed to be playing with a bit of a chip on his shoulder throughout the entire game, and here’s why.

It might have been taken out of context, and maybe it wasn’t necessarily meant as a slight towards Gobert when he said it. But, boy, did Team USA pay for this in the end.

The third quarter belonged to Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell exploded for 14 points in the third quarter, including boosting Team USA on a run that gave them a three-point lead heading in the fourth. Mitchell and Team USA erased a 10-point deficit in a matter of minutes in what seemed like the run that would secure the win for Team USA and be Mitchell’s “moment”.

France had other plans.

Team USA made another little mini-run to get up 7 points at the start of the fourth quarter, all with Rudy Gobert on the bench. As soon as Rudy Gobert came back onto the floor, the game changed. Down 7 and staring elimination in the face, Gobert responded.

Much of Gobert’s impact in the fourth quarter may have gone unnoticed, or won’t appear in the box score. But his 4 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 blocks were a huge reason why France was able to make a run late and keep Team USA from responding.

The most important sequence in the game came with just over a minute left, with France up 4. Donovan Mitchell got Gobert on a switch, and the two of them squared up against each other on the perimeter. Mitchell beat Gobert off the dribble, and went up for a layup on the opposite side of the rim, hoping to get Team USA within 2 in crunch time. Blocked by Gobert.

This play ultimately sealed the game for France, and sent them on their way to the semi-finals facing Argentina on Friday.

This loss for Team USA snaps a 58-game winning streak when playing with NBA players. It’s a disappointing loss for the American squad that was forced to play without a lot of their best players due to their own personal withdrawals. Even without their stars though, Team USA was still favored to win the World Cup due to the amount of team talent they had on their squad.

Mitchell was absolutely brilliant in this game. He finished with 29 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, and 2 steals on 12/23 shooting. He was the sole reason that Team USA was even in this game. He was held scoreless in the fourth quarter on just two real shots (excluding a last minute heave in garbage time) and just wasn’t given the opportunity to really close the game and takeover when it mattered.

Rudy Gobert finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 blocks in a game that he posted a +26 plus-minus (!!!). He showed Team USA, and the rest of the world, that he’s not someone you necessarily want to upset, even if it wasn’t intended.

France will face Argentina on Friday at 6:00 AM in Beijing, with a chance to advance to their first FIBA World Cup Final ever.

Team USA will play Serbia tomorrow at 5:00 AM for the 5th place game.