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Team USA: Americans lose to France, ending quest for a medal in FIBA World Cup

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USA v France: Quarter Final - FIBA World Cup 2019 Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

Team USA is leaving China with no medals but a ton of disappointment.

France, led by three NBA players and a Euroleague star, thwarted the Americans’ plan of back-to-back-back golds in the FIBA World Cup, beating Team USA, 89-79 in the World Cup quarterfinals on Wednesday. The U.S. can now finish no higher than fifth. It will play again Thursday vs. Serbia.

For Joe Harris, the Nets’ sniper, the loss was particularly disappointing. He had his lowest scoring game, with five points (plus two rebounds and two assists) in 18 minutes. Harris hit his only 3-point attempt and one of his two two-pointers, his tournament low for shots.

“At the end of the day, you’ve got to tip your cap to them,” Harris said. “They outplayed us. They deserved to win. We certainly didn’t deserve to win that game.”

France played solid defense, then at game’s end, proved their mettle in the clutch. France rallied from a seven-point fourth-quarter deficit to pull off the upset.

The U.S. had won 58 consecutive tournament games in FIBA and Olympic competition, starting with the bronze-medal game at the 2006 world championships and continuing through every FIBA Americas, World Cup and Olympics event since. It was bidding to become the first nation to win three consecutive World Cups, after winning three straight Olympic golds in that span.

Many of the NBA’s top stars begged off because of concerns over rest and injury. Harris, who had been chosen to play with the USA Select practice, was elevated to the big team in the Las Vegas training sessions, then started the last three games with Jayson Tatum and Marcus Smart both missing time.

There was also criticism of the manner in which the Team USA roster was constructed, with a number of bigs who didn’t play a lot of minutes and few players capable of consistently hitting from deep.

Evan Fournier scored 22 points, Rudy Gobert had 21 points and 16 rebounds and Frank Ntilinka hit a couple of clutch shots late while shutting down Kemba Walker, who finished with 10 points, no assists and four turnovers. Nando DeColo hit nine of his 10 free throws, most late, to seal the win.

The Final Four for the World Cup are France, Australia, Argentina and Spain.

“Any loss hurts,” USA coach Gregg Popovich said. “And in this situation, it hurts more. But life goes on. This is very important and we would have loved to have won ... but we’re all grown, we all have families and lives and life goes on.”