U.S. and Spain on course for World Cup showdown

Wed Aug 27, 2014 12:35pm EDT
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By Zoran Milosavljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - A much-weakened United States should still be strong enough at least to reach the final of the 2014 basketball World Cup, which begins in Spain on Saturday.

The holders, together with the hosts, will be strong favorites to reach the final of the marathon 24-nation event, while European champions France, a rejuvenated Croatia plus Brazil, Lithuania and Greece are likely to feature among the dark horses at the tournament, which runs from Aug. 30 to Sept. 14.

Although the U.S. will be missing virtually the entire top echelon of household NBA names - including Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony - they should still stroll into the final from their half of the draw.

The Americans completed their build-up with Tuesday's 101-71 rout of Slovenia, one of the teams they could meet en route to the final, after emphatic wins against Brazil, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.

A balanced United States outfit looks rock-solid in all departments, with Anthony Davis, Kenneth Faried and DeMarcus Cousins dominating the boards, while Stephen Curry, Kyrie Irving and fit-again Derrick Rose provide long-range firepower.

Coached by the iconic Mike Krzyzewski, who has guided his Duke University to four NCAA titles since 1980 and the national team to 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold medals as well as the 2010 World Cup, the U.S. are likely to take nothing for granted.

"The team is prepared for the next game but not for the medal round," Krzyzewski told reporters after seeing his team ease past Slovenia.

"We have to get a lot better before the medal round. Playing Spain is a long way away, so I am just concentrating on the U.S. and trying to get better."   Continued...

New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis (23) dunks over Miami Heat forward Michael Beasley (8) and forward Udonis Haslem (40) during the second quarter of a game at the Smoothie King Center.  Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports