USA 87, France 82
What went down
It was only fitting for Team USA and France to cap the Tokyo Olympics men's basketball tournament. Like their first meeting, the gold medal game came down to the wire.
Kevin Durant paced Team USA all the way. He bobbed, weaved and drained difficult shots that kept the Americans ahead through the first half.
France, pounding the ball inside and forcing Team USA to make tough decisions on defending their bigs, almost let the game get out of hand in the third quarter. The Americans had used the third quarter to throttle their previous opponents and cruise to the win. Against the French, Team USA made the key halftime adjustment of pressuring France's pick-and-roll much more heavily. They forced a ton of turnovers and were up 14 points, 71-57, after a Jayson Tatum dunk.
But, like Team USA, France had a deep bench with plenty of options to will them back into the game. Guerschon Yabusele and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarot connected on triples that kept the USA's lead manageable. Nicolas Batum then hit a buzzer-beater to keep the American lead at eight, 71-63, before the final period.
Where the USA faltered in their opening loss to France, they only sort of survived to end the Olympics. The French slowly chipped away at Team USA’s lead, getting to within three, 72-69, after a Frank Ntilikina three with five minutes to go.
You'd expect Team USA to lean on Durant, who had 27 points at the point in the game, to clutch out the final minutes. But it was Damian Lillard, who before today had more bars in his new single than points in the Olympics, and Jrue Holiday who provided the finishing spark. Holiday hustled and forced turnovers while Lillard hit shots that pushed USA ahead 82-72 with under two minutes to go.
The final stretch of the game was a fitting end to the tournament just for how bizzare it was. The French hit 3s to keep it close. Lillard – Dame Time himself – missed two free throws to ice the game. Bad USA turnovers that were only salvaged because the French let KD get the ball and put the game out of reach at the free throw line.
In the end, Team USA walked with gold. The road to this gold medal was rockier than usual with a disappointing finish in the 2019 World Cup, surprise losses in the preliminary round, and a loss to start this Olympics. Still, USA reigns in the Olympics. The rest of the world, as this tournament showed, continue to creep up the Americans' throne.
The Olympics didn’t have KD’s position listed as F for Forward. They listed him as G for Gets Buckets. With all due respect to Holiday, Devin Booker, and Zach LaVine, Durant was the difference maker between this gold-winning Olympics squad and the seventh place 2019 World Cup team. It really was a simple as having the best scorer in the world on your team.
Today, Durant had 29 points on 9-for-18 shooting with six rebounds and three assists. He had 30 points in the gold medal game in the 2012 London Games and the 2016 Rio Olympics. While it would have been nice for him to have had 30 in three gold medals games, we know now that not everything about KD has to be nice.
KD's cemented a part of his legacy today as one of the best basketball players ever with his three Olympic gold medals.
Did you see that?
Some time in the middle of the third quarter, Durant went up and almost dunked on Rudy Gobert, the dude with the 7-foot-9 wingspan.
Vince Carter was on the call for NBC and couldn’t help but reminisce about the time he dunked on a French guy.
Frederic Weiss was probably minding his own business today. He probably didn’t want to relive that memory.
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