This is going to be brief. These teams couldn’t have taken more differing journeys to Madrid for the final of the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup but both have more than earned the right to be here tonight.
Serbia’s group performance could have best been described as so-so but since the knockout stages began they have been playing lights-out basketball. Milos Teodosic has stepped up big time and Greece, Brazil, and France have been swept aside to send Serbia into tonight’s final.
The USA by contrast has, as was wholly expected, ripped apart everything in their path en route to the gold medal game that everybody expected them to be in. This team has played nowhere near its best yet it has still torn apart every opponent with only Turkey living with them deep into the third quarter. This is not the best possible line-up and the one out there is still short of its peak capability yet the sheer mass of talent on hand has made that irrelevant.
For Serbia to have a shot tonight they don’t just need Teodosic to step up, they need Nenad Krstic at his absolute best, they need Bogdan Bogdanovic to play at a level he’s not expected to hit for a couple of years, and for 40 minutes they must shut down Kenneth Faried, Anthony Davis, and DeMarcus Cousins. These are tall orders but if any team has a shot, it’s Serbia. This is a team with talent to back up its heart and belief. That has to count for something.
The streets outside the arena are very slowly starting to fill up. There are a few Serbia flags and the atmosphere, despite the relative dearth of bodies, leaves no mistake that this is a big one. There won’t be another World Cup Final until 2019. That’s a long time to wait and puts the 16 day slog across Spain into perspective. This has the makings of a game where both teams will truly step up and, hopefully, leave their fears in the locker room. There’s just one thing left to do.