It only took one game to dispel any thoughts that the mighty United States men's basketball team would just roll to a gold medal in Tokyo.
Evan Fournier scored 28 points for France and the Americans fell apart defensively down the stretch as the French pulled off an 83-76 upset of the defending Olympic champions at Saitama Super Arena on Sunday night.
"It was a good game for us," Fournier said. "We started well, we had a very good gameplan. They made a push late, but we stuck to our gameplan.
"You need luck. You need luck on the loose balls and we got some good shots down the stretch."
U.S. star Kevin Durant was in foul trouble throughout the game and finished with 10 points for the Americans, who lost to France for the second straight time after also falling to the French in the 2019 FIBA World Cup.
The U.S. had been on a 25-game win streak in Olympic play before the loss.
While most would consider France beating the U.S. an upset, U.S. coach Gregg Popovich took umbrage with the suggestion that the result was a surprise.
“I don't understand the word surprise," Popovich said. "That sort of disses the French team. As if we're supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That's a hell of a team. They got a great coaching staff, they've got NBA players, they've got other talented players playing in Europe, they've been together for a long time. I don't know why that would be a surprise. I think that's a little bit of hubris if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the ball and win.
"We've gotta work for it just like everybody else. For those 40 minutes, they played better than we did.
The U.S. was in control for much of the game but was never able to put France away.
“We have to continue to get better,” U.S. forward Draymond Green said. “We haven't been together that long, but we've been together long enough to have that consistency and we have to defend better down the stretch.”
The U.S. led 74-67 at the 3:41 mark before the wheels fell apart.
The French hit big shots down the stretch and eventually took a 76-74 lead on a 3-pointer by Guerschon.
Team USA came up with a steal and a chance to grab the lead with under a minute left, but Durant, Devin Booker and Jrue Holiday each missed good looks from 3-point range.
France’s Nando de Codo made a pair of free throws to make it 78-74 with under 30 seconds left.
France held on from there to deal the Americans a stunning defeat.
"I think we played a very consistent game," French coach Vincent Collet said.
Holiday led all U.S. players with 18 points while Bam Adebayo scored 12.
Holiday, Booker and Khris Middleton were playing in the Olympics just days after playing in the NBA FInals between the Phoenix Suns and Milwaukee Bucks.
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