Tue | Sep 28, 2021

France end USA Olympic basketball streak

Published:Monday | July 26, 2021 | 12:08 AM
France’s Evan Fournier (left) shoots over United States of America guard Zachary Lavine (centre) during a men’s basketball preliminary-round game at the Tokyo Olympic Games in Saitama, Japan, yesterday.
France’s Evan Fournier (left) shoots over United States of America guard Zachary Lavine (centre) during a men’s basketball preliminary-round game at the Tokyo Olympic Games in Saitama, Japan, yesterday.
United States of America basketball team head coach Gregg Popovich.
United States of America basketball team head coach Gregg Popovich.
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SAITAMA, Japan (AP):

The final buzzer sounded and France barely celebrated.

To them, beating the United States of America (USA) again wasn’t really a surprise. And that might be the biggest indicator yet that the Americans – even after three consecutive Olympic gold medals – are no longer feared by other top international teams.

A 25-game Olympic winning streak for the USA is over, ending yesterday when France closed the game on a 16-2 run to beat the Americans 83-76 in the Tokyo Games. Evan Fournier’s three-pointer off a broken play with just under a minute left put France ahead for good, as the Americans simply fell apart in the final minutes.

“They are better individually,” Fournier said of the Americans, “but they can be beaten as a team.”

That’s been proven with alarming regularity in the last two years. Starting with France’s win over the USA in the Basketball World Cup quarter-finals at China two years ago, the Americans are merely 3-5 in their last eight games with NBA players in the line-up.

FINAL MINUTE

The USA missed their final nine shots, five of them coming in a 21-second span in the final minute shortly after Fournier – who led all scorers with 28 points – made the go-ahead three-pointer. Rudy Gobert wildly missed a lay-up on that play, but Guerschon Yabusele chased down the bouncing rebound and just before he dove into the USA bench, he made a desperation swipe at the ball in an effort to knock it into Fournier’s direction.

Fournier turned Yabusele’s dive into a dagger, and just like that the Americans are in Olympic trouble.

“I think that’s a little bit of hubris if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the balls and win,” USA coach Gregg Popovich said. “We’ve got to work for it just like everybody else. And for those 40 minutes, they played better than we did.”

The Americans lost for only the sixth time in 144 games at the Olympics all-time, and fell to 53-4 in the Olympics with NBA players on the roster. The 2004 team at the Athens Games lost the other three, and won bronze. Every other USA team in the era that started with the ‘Dream Team’ in 1992 won the gold and this one still can – but it’s far from a certainty.

“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised,” Popovich said. “You’re disappointed.”

Fournier had 28 points for France, while Rudy Gobert scored 14 and Nando de Colo had 13. Jrue Holiday had 18 points for the USA, Bam Adebayo had 12, Damian Lillard, 11, and Kevin Durant had 10 for the Americans – who are just 2-3 in their games this summer, the first four of them exhibitions in Las Vegas that weren’t supposed to mean much.

The Olympics, they were supposed to be different.

They weren’t. They lost, again.

France face the Czech Republic on Wednesday, while the USA meet Iran, also on Wednesday.