Mexico caused a major upset by winning at home against the USA 97-88 in the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers.
The USA dominated the first two quarters, scoring 57 points in the first 20 minutes. However, Mexico’s physical offense was hard to contain, and the USA only led by nine going into the half. Mexico scored 48 points of their own, but their halftime adjustments would prove to be the key in this game.
Mexico held the USA to just 12 points, playing pressurized defense that caused the USA to commit way more turnovers than usual. Mexico grabbed sneaky steals and capitalized on those turnover points that made the USA hot-headed and lose their cool offensively. Mexico used those moments to score 31 points and take the lead over that would seal the game.
Mexico’s high-scoring offense was powered by four different players scoring 18 or more points, with Orlando Mendez leading the charge with 27 points, while Paul Stoll had another superior game with 18 points and 11 assists. USA’s star guard Isaiah Thomas led the team with 21 points while BJ Johnson added 15 for the USA in the loss.
This weekend the USA had a narrow escape against Cuba (95-90).
Of course, the Americans played without their NBA players and even without their best overseas players. The team was mostly made up of players from the G League. Nevertheless, many of them have NBA experience.
But the point is that the FIBA schedule clashes with that of the NBA and the Euroleague, which means that the top countries in the world have to play the qualification games with their third-tier players. A country like the USA can get away with that and still qualify, but smaller European countries with only a couple of million inhabitants can’t.
The result could be that basketball superpowers like Greece, Serbia, Croatia, Lithuania, e.t.c. can’t always qualify for FIBA events. That’s not good for basketball because it potentially degrades FIBA competition to second-rate events.