The U.S. men’s basketball team suffered a shock 83-76 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday, losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.
The French had upset the U.S. men when they last met in the 2019 FIBA World Cup quarter-finals and they had their number again on the first day of group play at the Saitama Super Arena, powered by a game-high 28 points from Evan Fournier.
The U.S. had won 25 consecutive Olympic games, last losing at the Athens Games 17 years ago and settling for a bronze medal there.
‘I think that´s a little bit of hubris if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the balls and win,’ U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. ‘We´ve got to work for it just like everybody else. And for those 40 minutes, they played better than we did.’
The loss doesn´t knock the U.S. out of medal contention, but it essentially eliminates the margin for error. The Americans play Iran on Wednesday and then the Czech Republic on Saturday in its final two Group A games; win both of those, and the U.S. will be in the quarterfinals. Lose another one, and the Americans might not even finish in the top eight of this 12-team tournament.
‘Evan was amazing,’ France coach Vincent Collet said. ‘I don’t want to use big, big, big words, but he made some very big shots.’
Reacting to the result, Fournier said: ‘It felt good, it felt good.’
Moustapha Fall had high praise for his teammate.
‘He is the offensive leader for us, always aggressive, always trying to score,’ Fall said of Fournier. ‘We knew he was going to be our leader offensively and he assumed this role, so he is good for us.’
The Americans got out to a good start in the first half, leading 45-37 at the break on the back of their defensive energy, but were outscored 25-11 in a disastrous third-quarter with France taking the lead.
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SOURCE: Daily Mail, Rory Tingle