Friday 9/17/21

United States gain revenge on France to win men's basketball gold

The US had won the last three Olympic golds, and six of the last seven
07 August 2021, Japan, Saitama: USA players celebrate their victory in the men's basketball gold medal match between France and USA at the Saitama Super Arena, as part of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Photo: Swen Pförtner/dpa.
USA players celebrate their victory in the men's basketball gold medal match between France and USA. Photo: Swen Pförtner/dpa.

The mighty favourites United States overcame another slow start at the Tokyo Games to defeat France 87-82 on Saturday and win a fourth consecutive Olympic gold in men's basketball.

Superstar Kevin Durant led the Americans with 29 points, 21 in the first half, to get vengeance over a French side that upset them with a shock defeat in the group stage.

“This one feels good because we went through a lot," said Durant after his third gold medal following 2012 and 2016.

"We had a lot of first-time guys on the team, new experience for everyone on the team, Covid, the kind of bubble we were in, no fans, no one expecting us to lose.

"We heard it all over the past few weeks about our team. To fight through this adversity against a great team like these guys ... to come together so fast - it was beautiful to see, it was beautiful to be a part of."

The US started cold - shooting 2/10 from the floor, including 0/5 from the three-point line - in the first six and a half minutes, before shots slowly started falling. The Americans closed the first quarter with a 22-18 lead.

The US appeared ready to take off in the second, going up by as many as 13 helped by good defensive plays and a high turnover rate by the French, but the European side managed to close the gap at half-time to 44-39.

The French, who last led 7 minutes into the match, refused to let the Americans get away, keeping the game close until the very end. For a moment it looked like they could pull off the upset when Damian Lillard missed two free throws and a chance to ice the game as the US led 85-78 with 23 seconds to go.

“Damian Lillard just said it was enough," said Durant. "In the fourth quarter he made big shot after big shot for us.

"We were up 14, 15 (points) and we gave up some easy shots at the end of the third but then came out in the fourth quarter and kind of pushed us to victory."

A tight ending

A dunk by France's Frank Ntilikina, a turnover by Jrue Holiday and two converted free throws by France's Nando De Colo brought France within three points of the Americans with 10 seconds to go.

Durant however did not miss from the charity strip after being fouled with 8.8 seconds to go, putting an end to French hopes of a first-ever gold.

"We're still disappointed," said Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot. "Regardless of the score, it's still a defeat, but that shows we can be there.

"It's just a few mistakes which we made that lost us the match."

The US had won the last three Olympic golds, and six of the last seven, going into the contest including the 2000 Sydney triumph over France, the last time the French took a medal.

"Of course, we knew before the match that it's something that we haven't done for 21 years, so we knew it wasn't a small thing," said Moustapha Fall.

"It's hard to get to this point. We've succeeded and that's very good, but I think we're at the point now to go right to the end.

"We really wanted to do something which has never been done - to take home the gold. We fell a bit short. That's sport."