For Steve Kerr, Les Bleus’ sudden 2023 FIBA World Cup crumbling in the hands of Latvia just serves as a gentle lesson that the global game just keeps improving.
“It’s a good reminder to all of us. You can’t just ease into any game in this tournament,” Kerr said. “The level of competition is so much better now worldwide than it was even eight years ago.
“A lot of really good talent around the world, a lot of really good coaching. Teams are tough, teams are good and we’re gonna have to play well over 40 minutes to win.”
In a historic fashion, the Kristaps Porzingis-less Latvia pulled the upset on Sunday in Jakarta and stunned the French powerhouse that is being led by Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier, and Nic Batum. Powered by Arturs Zagars and Rolands Smits, the tournament debutants fired a 26-12 fourth-quarter outrage to turn France’s World Cup hopes to ashes.
Latvia now proceeds to the second round of the Group Phase alongside Canada, while France disappointingly settles to the 17th to 32nd classification round after a gut-wrenching 0-2 record in Group H.
The defeat rocked France in losing two consecutive games in the preliminary round for the first time since the 2010 World Cup, while the victory handed Latvia the biggest feat of their national program.
As such, Kerr feels fortunate that he and his promising American squad were able to get over the hump on their own part and are now officially landing in the second round.
The Americans manhandled both New Zealand (99-72) and Greece (109-81) en route to Group C supremacy and are just about to face a desperate Jordan national squad on Wednesday to ace their first-round activity.
“We’re really excited to win the first two and to guarantee ourselves a move to the next round,” he said.
“But we just have to keep going one game at a time and hopefully six more (wins).”