France 83 – USA 76
What went down
“What an unfortunate slip from Damian Lillard” pretty much summed up Team USA's loss in their Olympics opener against France.
We’ve known even before Team USA's two shocking exhibition game losses earlier this month that the world has pretty much caught up with American basketball. Gone are the days that Team USA can stack 11 NBA players and maybe one kid from college and dominate FIBA events. The USA's seventh-place finish in the 2019 World Cup should have been a massive red flag.
In all fairness to Gregg Popovich's Olympic roster, they did look better against France. Team USA ran a decent offense and looked relatively cohesive for much of the game, until it came down to the final minutes.
After an 11-1 run led by Jrue Holiday that gave USA a 69-63 lead with 5:23 to go, the French mounted their own comeback behind Nando De Colo and Evan Fournier. With about a minute left on the clock, Rudy Gobert – highly-regarded, very non-slandered in FIBA events – twirled to the rim and missed a looping shot.
Luckily, Guerschon Yabusele hustled for the offensive board and, as he was stumbling to the sideline, scooped a pass to an open Fournier for the open 3 that put the French ahead 76-74.
Team USA got several chances at a game-winner. Usually guys like Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard, or Jrue Holiday don't miss wide open shots for the win, but that just goes to show how out-of-sorts the Americans were.
In their next possession, Team USA got the ball to Lillard who slipped and gave up an intentional foul, a massive rule change FIBA implemented years ago that the NBA really should look into adapting.
That marked Team USA’s first loss in the Olympics since 2004, ending a 25-game win streak at the biggest event in sports. FIBA basketball is brutal compared to the NBA brand – much more physical and apathetic to the hooper vs basketball player narrative.
Perhaps KD won't be in foul trouble next game. Perhaps Team USA doesn’t miss 25 3-pointers. But as they stand, the Americans don't look like the world beaters that they usually are in the Olympics.
Celtics fans should be scratching their heads and asking where this version of Evan Fournier was in the playoffs. Les Bleus’ Fournier played like French Kobe, dropping 28 points on 11-for-22 shooting with four rebounds.
The French played with so much grace under pressure. It probably helps that they had plenty of NBA talent on their roster, but today we can say Evan Fournier was better than Kevin Durant.
Evan Fournier is up to 22 PTS through 3Q as France leads @usabasketball, 62-56.#TokyoOlympics pic.twitter.com/6VHHryLBLL— NBA (@NBA) July 25, 2021
Did you see that?
One awesome thing about being an NBA fan then jumping into the Olympics with barely any knowledge of European basketball is you see old NBA players that you sort of kinda forgot about.
Guerschon Yabusele, for instance, was one of the top European prospects in the 2016 Draft, where he was selected 16th in the first round by the Boston Celtics. He never panned out in the NBA but has thrived in every other league he's joined since then. Against Team USA, he made a couple of huge plays down the stretch off sheer hustle and was an instrumental defender against opposing wings.
Another French dude that probably felt awesome after this game was Nando De Colo. The sweet-shooting swingman was in the NBA for a couple of years with the San Antonio Spurs, coached by Popovich. He famously thought he never got his fair shot in the NBA, so sticking it to Pop with a couple of big shots must have been really cool for him.
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