BILBAO, SPAIN – The bags were packed and the Americans had already checked out of their rooms.
The only thing standing between them and Barcelona was a game against Ukraine, and it took them a little while to get into it.
The U.S. national team eventually pulled away to win it and finish pool play unbeaten, getting 17 points from James Harden and 14 from Stephen Curry in a 95-71 victory Thursday at the FIBA World Cup.
Once that was over, the Americans could truly turn their attention where they wanted it.
“We’re looking forward to getting to Barcelona and starting the next part of the journey, the medal rounds, and taking things seriously,” Curry said.
Anthony Davis finished with 12 points for the Americans, who will face Mexico on Saturday night in the round of 16. The Mexicans finished fourth in Group D.
It was closer than the usual U.S. game, but the Americans were never in any danger of losing in the second half after seizing control just before halftime against a methodical Ukraine team coached by former NBA coach Mike Fratello.
The only scare was a hard landing by starting guard Kyrie Irving with 1:12 left, but he eventually got up and walked off holding his lower back. Coach Mike Krzyzewski said the Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star was expected to be all right.
The Americans left later Thursday for the next round, held in the city where the famed U.S. Dream Team won gold in the 1992 Olympics.
The fans didn’t miss much early from the Americans, who took nearly half of the opening period to make their first field goal and trailed for much of the first half.
Irving finished with 11 points, as did DeMarcus Cousins.
Slava Kravtsov, who played last season for Phoenix, scored 15 points for Ukraine.
In Granada, Pau Gasol scored 20 points as Spain routed Serbia 89-73 to finish the group phase undefeated and remain the United States’ biggest challenger.
The new Chicago Bulls center helped to ensure the game was effectively over by halftime with 14 first-half points to power the hosts to an insurmountable 19-point lead.
Spain drew the toughest group with European champion France, a Brazil with three NBA centers, and traditional power Serbia.
But future rivals beware: Brazil fell by 19 points, France by 24, and Serbia was down by double digits after just eight minutes.
Juan Carlos Navarro chipped in with 15 points for Spain, while substitute Nemanja Bjelica hit five 3-pointers to lead Serbia with 19 points.