MADRID — Kyrie Irving made all six 3-pointers and scored 26 points, and the U.S. repeated as world champion for the first time by crushing Serbia 129-92 on Sunday in the Basketball World Cup.
James Harden added 23 for the Americans, who made 11 of 16 3-pointers in a sensational-shooting first half, adding one final romp to a tournament full of them.
This depleted team that was supposedly weak enough to lose was too good to be touched.
The Americans were supposed to have All-Star forwards Kevin Durant, Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, who all informed USA Basketball not long before the tournament that they would be unavailable.
But Irving — the tournament MVP — and Harden stuck around, and despite sending the youngest U.S. team since NBA players debuted in 1992, the Americans remained as dominant as ever.
They have won 63 straight games — 45 in official FIBA events and 18 in exhibition play — and are automatically qualified for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.
LeBron James, Durant, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul might want to return for that. But the Americans will have to leave room for some players from this team, which has loads of young talent that figures to get even better from the time it spent together.
It was the fifth world title for the Americans, tying Yugoslavia for the most all-time. And the second for Derrick Rose, who used this tournament as his return after missing most of the last two seasons following a pair of knee surgeries, along with Stephen Curry and Rudy Gay.
It was the first medal for Serbia, which had been a part of Yugoslavia when it won five. The Yugoslavians had been the last repeat champions, winning in 1998 and 2002.
The Serbians were only 2-3 in the group stage but then routed previously unbeaten Greece and Brazil before building a big lead and holding on for a 90-85 semifinal victory over France, which had beat then in the group stage and knocked out tournament co-favorite Spain in the quarters.
Serbia carried that momentum into the early moments of this one and was running a fluid offense that produced layups and dunks, and opened the biggest lead any team had against the U.S. in this tournament when Miroslav Raduljica’s three-point play made it 15-7.
That was wiped out in a minute, and Serbia’s hopes of winning didn’t last much longer.
Harden had a three-point play and 3-pointer, DeMarcus Cousins tied it with a pair of free throws, and then Irving had a jumper, 3-pointer and layup to cap a 15-0 burst that made it 22-15.
Irving hit a couple more 3s in an 11-0 run later in the quarter that provided a 35-19 cushion, and the Americans poured it on midway through the second in making it 56-30 after back-to-back 3s by Irving and Harden.
France beat Lithuania 95-93 on Saturday for the bronze.
The Americans came in winning by 32.5 points per game and their closest victory in the tournament was by 21 points over Turkey. They thought they would get a tough game Sunday, but were simply too good to let that happen.
They finished at 58 percent from the field, made 15 of 30 3-pointers and put eight of their 12 players in double figures.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.