It turns out the myriad of issues the United States men’s basketball team displayed during its tune-up for the Tokyo Olympics were not solved by three players flying over immediately after playing in the NBA Finals. The Americans took to the hardwood for their tournament opener on Sunday against France, and by the time the dust settled, Team USA suffered a 83-76 loss, its first Olympic defeat since the infamous 2004 Games.
The Americans looked like they were going to cruise to a win, taking a 45-37 lead into the half. But then, the team’s offense fell apart out of the break. The team scored 11 total points in the third quarter, while France, powered by the backcourt of Evan Fournier and Nando de Colo, got into quite the rhythm. By the time the frame ended, the French found themselves with a 62-56 lead, setting up a nervy fourth quarter for the three-time defending gold medalists.
Thanks to Jrue Holiday, the United States got off to a roaring start in the final frame. The team started off the fourth on a 13-1 run, with Holiday scoring 12 of those points, to go ahead, 69-63. Despite just joining the team after winning a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks, Holiday provided some much-needed energy and a calming presence on the ball.
— #TokyoOlympics (@NBCOlympics) July 25, 2021
But the lead was fleeting. After Devin Booker made a pair of free throws with 3:41 left to push things to seven points, the American offense hit the wall. They did not make another shot from the field, with their only points coming on a pair of Damian Lillard free throws with 10 seconds left.
France, meanwhile, found another gear. Their grouping of NBA players (Fournier, Rudy Gobert, Nic Batum) and an international legend in de Colo scratched and clawed their way back, with Fournier hitting a go-ahead three with a tick under a minute left off of a hustle play by former Boston Celtics forward Guerschon Yabusele.
Evan Fournier go-ahead 3 after the Yabu hustle pic.twitter.com/G8SLeF0XBg
— Chris Forsberg (@ChrisForsberg_) July 25, 2021
The United States had a chance to win, though, but just could not get past its team-wide offensive slump. This was best exemplified with one late possession, as Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant, and Holiday all bricked threes. They were good looks — the Durant one, in particular, is the kind of shot we’ve seen him hit a billion times — but the iron was unkind.
Fournier was magnificent, going for 28 points. Gobert pitched in 14 points and nine rebounds, while de Colo scored 13 with five rebounds, five assists, and two steals for the French. On the other side of the coin, Holiday’s 18 points, seven rebounds, and three assists stood out, with Bam Adebayo (12 points, 10 rebounds), Damian Lillard (11 points on 3-for-10 shooting), and a foul-plagued Durant (10 points) joining him in double-figures. As a team, the Americans went 25-for-69 (36.2 percent) from the field and 10-for-32 (31.3 percent) from three.
The United States will look to get back on track against Iran on Wednesday.