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USA keep Poland at bay, end World Cup on winning note
BEIJING (China) - Team USA finished the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 with a win after staving off a gritty Poland, 87-72, at the Beijing Wukesong Arena.
The trio of Kemba Walker, Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart sat the game out, but Team USA still led for most of the encounter and managed to keep Poland at bay despite a number of runs in the second half.
Donovan Mitchell led the Americans with 16 points, while Joe Harris and Khris Middleton added 14 and 13 points respectively. Poland were paced by Mateusz Ponitka and Adam Waczynski, who paired up for 35 points.
Turning Point: Coach Gregg Popovich's squad enjoyed a strong first quarter that saw them lead by 14 points, and they promptly expanded on that margin in the second period. The Americans were composed enough to withstand all of Poland's comeback efforts and cruised to the 15-point win.
TCL Player of the Game: With Walker and Tatym sidelined, Donovan Mitchell really took it upon himself to carry Team USA, making sure they won't have a sour ending to their journey. Aside from his 16 points, the Utah Jazz guard also had 10 assists to complete an impressive double-double.
Stats Don't Lie: Team USA have been notorious for not shooting well throughout the competition, but they found their rhythm early in this game. The Americans made 51 percent of their field goals, including 48 percent from beyond the arc.
Bottom Line: At 7th place, USA will achieve their worst ranking ever in a FIBA Basketball World Cup, with their previous lowest placing a 6th place in 2002. As for Poland, everyone in China has adored them for defying the odds to reach the top eight. They will be hailed as heroes back home and should spark a revolution in Polish hoops.
They Said: "We played really well, and I'm really proud of what we've done. I'd like to be thankful for the chance to be here." - Poland guard Adam Waczynski
"We appreciate the hospitality from China. We've had a wonderful experience visiting six cities here. The best thing to me is that we've experienced it all together on the court and the life experiences off the floor. I can't be more proud that this team will be remembered for doing a special thing for Polish basketball." - Poland head coach Mike Taylor
"I just want to thank everybody in USA Basketball from the players and the coaches. Thank you for the opportunity. We didn't get the result we wanted, but to go to war with these guys... it's not a lot more you can ask. I've never been a part of the national team, and this was an incredible experience. I'm proud that today we showed a lot of character by playing our best in this game. I just feel blessed for this opportunity." - USA guard Donovan Mitchell
"In this day and age, basketball in other countries is not a secret. There's no epiphany. There are wonderful teams and coaches around the world. There's no surprise to any of that. You go compete, and the best teams win. I was thrilled that these guys sacrificed and worked hard and let us coach them. I wish I could've gotten them closer, but it didn't happen. It's not about deciding what happened. Better teams got to the Final. That shouldn't be a surprise to anybody. It's not written in stone that USA should walk to a championship." - USA head coach Gregg Popovich