Team USA is once again on top of the basketball world after exacting revenge on France in the final, 87-82, to win their fourth straight Olympic basketball gold medal in the Tokyo Games on Saturday, August 7.
With the win, the United States extended its lead over the rest of the world with its 16th Olympic gold dating back to 1936, while France settled for its third silver, its first medal in 21 years.
Kevin Durant, the US all-time leading Olympic scorer, added 29 more points to his career total in the medal clincher to go with 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
Jayson Tatum provided the bench spark with 19 points while Damian Lillard and new NBA champion Jrue Holiday added 11 markers apiece.
Despite a late nine-point lead by the US with 1:58 left in regulation, 84-75, France clawed back with a key 7-1 run to inch within three, 82-85, highlighted by a quick Evan Fournier triple, and a Frank Ntilikina dunk off two huge missed Damian Lillard free throws.
However, that was as near as France would get in this thriller as star center Rudy Gobert used his final foul with 8.8 seconds left on Durant, who calmly sank two clutch free throws to seal his third career Olympic gold.
Gobert paced the loss with 16 points and 8 rebounds on a perfect 5-of-5 clip. His free throws, however, proved to be his team’s undoing as he only hit 6-of-13 from the line.
Fournier added 16 markers on a 5-of-15 clip while former NBA role player Guerschon Yabusele hit 3-of-7 from downtown for 13 points.
Team USA overcame multiple hurdles on their path to the gold medal, starting with non-committals from top NBA superstars, and two exhibition losses in against Nigeria, 87-90, and eventual semifinal foe Australia, 83-91.
Star scorer Bradley Beal and veteran forward Kevin Love were also left off the team due to COVID-19 and a leg injury, respectively, leaving the team to call up big man JaVale McGee, and 21-year-old prospect Keldon Johnson as last-minute replacements.
The Americans’ woes then peaked with an opening-round loss to France, 76-83, which marked their first official defeat in 17 years, and broke a 25-game winning streak.
However, it was finally all smooth sailing from there on, as the US downed Iran and Czech Republic in the group phase, the Ricky Rubio-led Spain in the quarters, and Patty Mills’ Australian squad in the semis to set up a France rematch in the final for the gold.
USA 87 – Durant 29, Tatum 19, Lillard 11, Holiday 11, Adebayo 6, LaVine 5, Middleton 4, Booker 2, Green 0.
France 82 –Gobert 16, Fournier 16, Yabusele 13, De Colo 12, Luwawu-Cabarrot 11, Batum 5, Ntilikina 5, Fall 4, Heurtel 0, Poirier 0.
Quarters: 22-18, 44-39, 71-63, 87-82.