MANILA, Philippines — When Team USA assembled its roster and decided on its game plan for this World Cup cycle, they made a bet. It was a sensible bet, and they stacked the deck as much as they could to try to win it, but the reality was they entered knowing they left themselves exposed.
That wager — that size differential could be overcome with other attributes — has failed. Germany, another European team that towered over the Americans, used the given advantage and beat Team USA 113-111 in the world semifinals Friday.
It will deny the Americans gold in the event for a second consecutive time. They will settle for playing for bronze Sunday (ESPN2 4:45 am ET) against Canada, who lost to Serbia in the day’s other semifinal.
The U.S. played a spirited and aggressive game. The team was just too small, and it showed up repeatedly, just as it did against Lithuania last weekend in the event’s previous loss.
Germany was simply able to get more chances to score because it often was able to get the ball back when it missed. The Germans pulled down 16 offensive rebounds and it led to 25 second-chance points (Team USA had 8).
But they didn’t miss that often. Point guard Dennis Schroder, when he’s in a passing mood, was a weapon against the U.S. because he’s skilled enough to handle their ball pressure. Combined with the German height advantage, it led to a flow of high percentage looks.
And that was not survivable.
The U.S. cut the lead to one in the final two minutes with a valiant comeback try after Germany got up by as much as 12. But a 3-pointer by Andreas Obst held off the American charge.
There were some mismatches created when the U.S. switched on screen-and-rolls. Packing the paint defensively to try to deal with the size issue led to the Germans getting some good looks from outside, and they absolutely made the U.S. pay, nailing 13-of-30 3-pointers.
This led to Germany shooting a sizzling 58% overall and racking up 50 points in the paint.
Team USA coach Steve Kerr started small all tournament, going with Josh Hart at power forward and Jaren Jackson Jr. at center. Then he stayed small as he did all tournament, going with Paolo Banchero as a backup big man and leaving the only true center selected for the roster, Walker Kessler, out of the rotation.
Under the correct circumstances, the Team USA can and did win with this alignment. But one of those factors has to be aggressive and fast-break-generating defense.
But the margin for error was not feasible. Even with an extremely favorable draw that gave them travel and opponent advantages, there was just too much size to mitigate.
Team USA played without Brandon Ingram, who missed the game with an upper respiratory illness. It was the first missed game in the tournament due to injury or illness for the team.