US lose again for worst-ever Cup finish
The United States lost for the second time in succession at the basketball World Cup in China and are now guaranteed to record their worst-ever finish at the event.
In a place match duel with fellow failed gold medal hopefuls Serbia on Thursday, the US slipped to a 94-89 defeat in Dongguan 24 hours after they were eliminated by France in the quarter-finals.
The World Cup will conclude for the Americans on Saturday with a final match against Poland or the Czech Republic to decide whether they finish seventh or eighth.
Previously their worst finish was sixth at the home World Cup of 2002.
Appearing frustrated at being out of medal contention, Gregg Popovich's side produced a disastrous first quarter on Thursday to trail Serbia 32-7. They twice fought their way back into contention but were ultimately defeated.
Serbia's NBA star Bogdan Bogdanovic was top scorer with 28 points while Harrison Barnes replied with 22 for the US.
Despite the poor performance without headline NBA names such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden, the reaction in the US was not overly harsh.
"This was not a disaster for the USA, this was no embarrassment, this was not a lack of effort," the broadcster NBC wrote in an analysis.
"It's simply another sign that the basketball universe is changing."
It is expected the US will fight back emphatically come the Tokyo 2020 Olympics but broadcaster ESPN warned the structure of the squad and participation rate of superstars must improve if Team USA "wants to dominate these tournaments again."