Bringing in a collection of NBA talent for major international basketball tournaments like the Tokyo Olympics just seems to not cut it anymore for the mighty Team USA.
Team USA started its bid for a fourth straight Olympic gold medal on the wrong foot after a stunning 76-83 loss to France in Group A of men’s basketball at the Saitama Super Arena on Sunday, July 25.
Evan Fournier churned out 28 points and 4 rebounds in the win, knocking down several clutch shots down the stretch as the French came back from a seven-point deficit late to end the Americans’ 25-game Olympic win streak.
Team USA built a 74-67 lead off a Zach Lavine three-pointer and two Devin Booker free throws before France uncorked a 9-0 run capped by a Fournier triple to take the lead, 76-74, with a minute left.
Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday then muffed two potential go-ahead three-pointers as France sealed the win with free throws from Nando de Colo, Fournier, Rudy Gobert, and Nicolas Batum.
United States remained within striking distance even after De Colo gave France a 78-74 lead, but Damian Lilliard committed a costly turnover and an unsportsmanlike foul that virtually dashed their hopes of a comeback.
France ended the game on a decisive 16-2 run.
Gobert, a three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, backstopped Fournier with 14 points and 9 rebounds, De Colo had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 2 assists, while Batum put up 5 points and 5 assists.
Holiday led the way for Team USA with 18 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists as he waxed hot in the fourth quarter, dropping 12 points in a fiery personal stretch to steer his side to a 69-63 lead.
Team USA, though, failed to pick up where Holiday left off, scoring just 7 points in the final five minutes.
Bam Adebayo had 12 points and 10 rebounds for Team USA, Lillard put up 11 points, while Durant chalked up 10 points in a frustrating game that saw him foul out.
It was the Americans’ first loss in the Olympics since the 2004 Athens Games, where they settled for a bronze medal.
Team USA won three consecutive gold medals since then but has recently faced growing doubts regarding its status as the king of basketball following a disappointing FIBA World Cup run and a couple of exhibition losses.
In 2019, the United States settled for a seventh-place finish in the World Cup, where France clinched a bronze medal.
Team USA then endured a shaky start to its Tokyo Olympics buildup after sustaining two surprising defeats to Nigeria and Australia in their exhibition games.
Hope, though, is not lost on Team USA as it seeks to bounce back against Iran on Wednesday, July 28. – Rappler.com