Even without Jayson Tatum, it is clear that Team USA is coming together nicely as the FIBA World Cup progresses. We now move on to the knockout round, and the Americans have opened as 8.5-point favorites over France for the quarterfinals. Oh, and they have officially qualified for the 2020 Olympics.
All of the matchups are now set, and Team USA remains the favorite to win at even money. Serbia is +200 (2-1) after its loss to Spain; the Spaniards are +400; Australia (which defeated France 100-98 Monday) is +600; France is +1500; Argentina is +3000; the Czech Republic is +10000; and Poland is +25000.
“France has got a lot of talent top to bottom and they probably play the closest in similarity to us as any team that’s in the tournament,” USA guard Joe Harris said.
Those last two teams have been the biggest surprises of the tournament, and the biggest failures have come from Greece (which only had the reigning NBA MVP on its team) and China (which lost 86-73 to Nigeria, leaving Yao Ming in tears).
The knockout round is where the FIBA World Cup starts to get interesting … unless you are a hardcore and have been following this thing every day … (author raises hand).
Here are the matchups and the lines, along with some relevant facts:
Argentina vs.Serbia (-12.5)
Coach Sasha Djordjevic has been bringing Nikola Jokic off the bench, something he probably will not do if — as expected — the Serbs and the Americans meet in the semifinals. Luis Scola is still rolling for the Argentines. He has been playing in China the past couple of seasons, while Serbia’s best player has been Bogdan Bogdanovic of the Sacramento Kings, who is averaging 20.6 points for the highest-scoring team still remaining in the tournament (96.4 ppg). The over/under for this game is only 163, which is odd — pardon the pun — because the teams average a combined 183.6 ppg.
Poland vs. Spain (-16)
In the 32-team field, these teams are ranked 16th and 17th in total points, averaging 79.0 and 76.6, respectively. The Spaniards certainly have the better pedigree with a lineup that includes Marc Gasol, Rudy Fernandez and Ricky Rubio, and Poland’s wild ride hit a speed bump when they lost by 26 to Argentina.
The over/under is 149.5, which may be a little low. Interesting fact about Poland: They are coached by an American, Mike Taylor, who grew up in Williamsport, home of the Little League World Series. Their point guard is A.J. Slaughter, who played collegiately at Western Kentucky and has duel American/Polish citizenship.
Czech Republic vs. Australia (-11.5)
Only one of these teams can lay claim to having defeated the United States (the Boomers did that in Sydney before a crowd of more than 50,000), and it is safe to say that the Czechs are merely satisfied being in the quarterfinals (they lost to Greece in their final game of the second round, but did not lose badly enough to allow Greece to advance). If Australia wins this game, they could get another shot at Team USA in the gold medal game. No over/under has been set yet on this game, although it is worth keeping an eye on player props at DraftKings Sportsbook.
France vs. United States (-8.5)
France is averaging 89.4 points per game, while Team USA is at 87.4 but should have Jayson Tatum back after a two-game absence due to a sprained ankle. The matchup that is most intriguing is at center, where Rudy Gobert (averaging 20.2 ppg) will go against Myles Turner. What will be interesting to watch is whether USA coach Gregg Popovich plays Turner and Brook Lopez together, using Lopez’s 3-point prowess as a weapon.
Evan Fournier of the Orlando Magic is averaging 18.2 points for France. Team USA’s leading scorers have been Kemba Walker (17.4 ppg) and Turner (14.2). You never really want to say “lock alert” in the sports gambling world, but Gobert’s point total over/under is just 9.5.
The Americans have won 58 straight games in international tournaments with NBA players, and this squad is clearly developing chemistry.
“I think guys are excited for it,” Harrison Barnes said of the knockout round. “This is what we came here for. This is what we (are) playing for this team for, these type of games, these type of moments.”
The US has displayed a superb defense in the World Cup. Entering Monday’s game, the Americans had held their four opponents to 36 percent shooting and were coming off back-to-back games in which they allowed a combined 98 points. Brazil, with a bit more firepower and led by NBA players Anderson Varejao and Leandro Barbosa, shot 43.1 percent (28 of 65) against the U.S.
They will need more of the same against France.