USA lose first men’s Olympic basketball game since 2004
TOKYO: A USA team led by 11-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant were beaten 83-76 by France in a huge Olympic basketball upset on Sunday.
The French, with a team containing NBA players including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier, inflicted the Americans’ first defeat at an Olympics since the 2004 Athens Games.
Durant was held to just 10 points in the first-round game and was unable to inspire his team as the French came from behind to take control in the final quarter.
The Americans had looked rusty in the build-up to Tokyo, losing to Nigeria in a warm-up game, and the defeat will underline Durant’s fears expressed before the Games that his side will not face a “cakewalk” in Japan.
Fournier was sensational for France, top-scoring with 28 points. Although the Boston Celtics player only scored four from 12 from beyond the three-point line, he found his range when it mattered to help the French stun the Americans.
“I tried to be aggressive. As an NBA player I know the players we were facing. We had to show the team how to attack them,” Fournier said.
France clawed back from a 10-point deficit to set up a breathless final quarter and as the USA failed to find any rhythm, the French smelled victory in the Saitama arena, where spectators were absent because of coronavirus measures.
Fournier’s three-pointer with 57 seconds remaining put his team ahead 76-74 and when Durant hit the rim with a three-pointer himself the French closed out the game with a succession of free throws.
When Jayson Tatum fouled Nicolas Batum, the French veteran NBA forward hit both from the line to seal a famous victory.
Utah Jazz centre Gobert played down the French victory.
“I mean it’s great, but until we have what we want to have around our neck, it doesn’t really matter,” Gobert said.
“Every single guy that came in the game brought us something,” he added.
“It’s really the team that we want to be and it’s exciting for the rest of the tournament.”
The USA face Iran in their next game on Wednesday when France take on the Czech Republic. - AFP