Team USA had a seven-point lead over France with just under eight minutes to play in today’s FIBA World Cup quarterfinal game. From that point on, France went on a 22-5 run and advanced to the tournament semi-finals while leaving Team USA behind to make a new life for themselves in the trash.
France is no pushover, and this version of Team USA is one of the weakest ever assembled, but any team that scores just five points in the last eight minutes of a game while surrendering 22 is a team that should be embarrassed. Team USA got eaten alive by Rudy Gobert on both ends of the court throughout the game and particularly during the fourth quarter, which makes sense because Gobert is one of the best centers in the NBA. The big Frenchman finished with 21 points, 16 rebounds, three blocks, and was a game-high +26.
Less expected than Gobert’s dominance was the performance of young Knicks outcast Frank Ntilikina, who hasn’t been so much a basketball player since being drafted by New York with the eighth overall pick of the 2017 draft as he has been a mysterious object of psychic torture for Knicks fans. Ntilikina was +22 in his 25 minutes today, scoring 11 points and dishing three assists, but in the final stretch of the fourth quarter he was one of the best players on the floor.
Ntilikina subbed in at the 8:11 mark in the fourth, with France down 72-65, and proceeded not only to erase Kemba Walker on the defensive end, but hit a few clutch shots on offense. Here he is knocking down a big three that tied the game at 76:
And here he is a few minutes later, hitting a long two to extend France’s lead:
Thanks to France’s clutch performance, Team USA will not get a chance to capture its third consecutive World Cup title. Thanks to Frank Ntilikina, Knicks fans will spend the next few weeks torturing themselves with visions of a 21-year-old point guard becoming the new king of Madison Square Garden.