Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert led Les Bleus to the FIBA World Cup semifinals with a huge win over fellow Jazzman Donovan Mitchell and USA Basketball.
People will call it a major upset — some of those stories have already hit the net — and we can debate the merit of that statement, but one thing is absolutely true about USA Basketball’s quarterfinal bout with France at the FIBA World Cup on Wednesday.
The Americans got Goberted.
In a battle of Utah Jazz teammates, Rudy Gobert and Les Bleus eliminated would-be World Cup favorites Donovan Mitchell and Team USA with an 89-79 win at Dongfeng Nissan Cultural and Sports Centre in Dongguan, China.
Jazz fans, remember that game in Detroit last season when a fan drew the ire of Mitchell and it inspired the second-year man to lead Utah to a big road win? Well, a similar scenario played out here, only Mitchell was on the receiving end of it.
Before the game, USA big man Myles Turner thought it was a good idea to question Gobert’s status as the reigning NBA Defensive Player of the Year. According to France’s Nicolas Batum, those comments fired up the Jazz center, who paced his team with 21 points, 16 boards, three blocked shots and a steal.
Two of those swats came during the decisive final stretch; the latter was on a Mitchell lay-up attempt with 53 ticks left that would have brought the Americans within two points of Gobert and company.
Shenanigans in the press and the revenge factor aside, though, Gobert was clearly the best player on the floor in this contest. That was the case before and after the game, too.
And while no nation could match the Americans’ depth in this tournament, the fact that they lost to a team that had the game’s best player and a quality supporting cast probably shouldn’t be thought of as a major upset.
For Mitchell, this was the game Jazz fans and Team USA had been waiting for — a dominating scoring performance. He led all scorers with 29 points on 12-of-23 shooting and 3-of-6 from deep. The Jazz guard also added six rebounds, four assists, two steals and had zero turnovers. Unfortunately, it all came in a heartbreaking loss.
Curiously, Mitchell only got three shots up in the final carom despite the fact that he was rolling, which has got to be considered a failure on the part of Team USA. For all the defense provided by the Stifle Tower down the stretch, it turns out the best defense played on Mitchell was by his own teammates.
I’m looking at you, Kemba!
While this was a rough one for USA Basketball, it’s a signature moment for Gobert and France, who will take on Argentina in the semifinals on Friday. At the least, Jazz fans in the US can hang their hats on that.