USA Men’s Basketball drops Olympic opener to France
The 2021 USA Men’s Basketball team’s Olympic journey got off to a rocky start Sunday morning in Tokyo. After holding a lead over France for most of the contest, they eventually fell 83-76. This marked the 1st loss in Olympic competition since 2004 for the USA team who, up until this morning, were heavy Gold Medal favorites.
France‘s Evan Fournier (Boston Celtics) led all scorers with 28 points, none bigger than the late 4th quarter 3-pointer that put France ahead for good. Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz) also added big contributions to France‘s win with 14 points, 9 rebounds, and a vital interior defensive presence that earned him the NBA‘s Defensive Player Of The Year award this past season. “This just goes to show that individually, they are fantastic but as a team, they can be beaten.” Fournier said of the victory. Gobert added, “I mean, it’s a great win for us, but until we have what we want around our necks, it doesn’t really matter.”
As they watched their 25-game Olympic winning streak come to an end, Team USA and Head Coach Gregg Popovich can only move forward and build upon the loss. ” When you lose, you are never surprised, but you can be very disappointed and we certainly are after today.” Popovich said. ” I think it is a little bit of hubris if you think that the Americans can just roll out the balls and win. We have got to work hard just like everybody else and for those 40 minutes, they played better than we did.”
USA missed its final 9 shot attempts, 5 of them coming in the final minute alone. Kevin Durant finished 4/12 from the field, not exactly the type of play you’re looking for from someone who is in the discussion for the “best player in the world”. Jrue Holiday, fresh off a plane after celebrating the Milwaukee Bucks NBA championship, led USA with 18 points while Bam Adebayo added 12, Damian Lillard added 11 and Durant finished with 10. The loss does not knock the USA from medal contention, but it certainly makes the margin for error much, much smaller.
Today’s loss marked just the 6th in 144 games in the Olympics all-time and fall to 53-4 when NBA players are on the roster. The USA will look to get back on track against Iran on Wednesday and again on Saturday against the Czech Republic. If they win both of those contests, then it is on to the quarterfinals of the tournament. If they lose either one, then they have a chance to not even finish Top 8 out of the 12 eligible teams.