Team USA falls to France at Tokyo Games for first Olympic men’s basketball loss since 2004

The United States Men’s Basketball Team lost to France in the quarterfinals of the FIBA World Cup tournament. This is the first time since 2004 that Team USA has lost an Olympic game.

The 2008 usa basketball team is the last time that Team USA lost to France in Olympic men’s basketball.

SAITAMA, JAPAN – SAITAMA, JAPAN – In men’s basketball, Team USA’s invincibility is long gone, and the road to a fourth straight gold medal is already arduous.

On Sunday, France gut-punched the Americans with a spectacular finish to win 83-76 and begin the Tokyo Olympics. It ended Team USA’s 25-game Olympic winning run, which dated back to 2004.

With a minute to go, Evan Fournier hit a 3-pointer to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the Americans had taken an eight-point lead with four minutes to go. It was the most important of his 28 points in one of his best games of his career.

The Americans then had a fantastic possession in which they managed to get five shots off and miss them all. Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant, and Jrue Holiday all made wide-open 3-point shots in the last three minutes.

“I was given the opportunity to lead the team because I knew these people,” Fournier said. “It’s a huge victory. Our nation will be very proud of us. To be honest, it’s only one game.”

If there was a moment in this game that most defined the dynamic between these two teams, it was at the conclusion, when the French casually shook the Americans’ hands and walked off the court with the same business-as-usual attitude Fournier exhibited. France celebrated loudly two years ago at the World Cup in China after defeating a much-less skilled Team USA.

With Sunday’s defeat to France, Team USA’s 25-game Olympic winning run in men’s basketball came to an end. Charlie Neibergall/AP Photo

Before going into what has become his go-to remark following defeats, Team USA coach Gregg Popovich stated, “There’s nothing to be shocked about.”

“You’re not shocked when you lose a game. You’re dissatisfied, but I’m not sure what you mean by shocked. That, in a sense, discredits the French squad, as if we’re expected to defeat them by 30 points or something. That’s a formidable group.”

Although the French won bronze in that World Cup, their skill pales in comparison to that of the Americans. It also doesn’t explain how a team geared for scoring and shooting went for four and a half minutes without scoring down the stretch.

Fatigue played a role. On gameday, three players arrived at the team hotel around 1 a.m., which was an uncommon combination of circumstances. However, one of them, Jrue Holiday, was outstanding in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 of his 18 points and contributing many other high-energy plays to help the United States gain a lead.

The Americans had a slew of superstars to rely on at the time, including Durant, Jayson Tatum, and Damian Lillard. They were unsuccessful, however, since the French operated an execution clinic.

As is his habit, Popovich seemed agitated by media inquiries about the upset. He has led the national team to defeat in five of the last eight games he has coached for the squad, going back to 2019. However, several others acknowledged that the defeat was disappointing.

“We have a history of domination, and although we may not always blow people out, we have a history of winning. And it’s not often that Team USA loses, particularly at the opening of a tournament “Lillard, who shot 3-of-10 and made two crucial errors late in the game, acknowledged as much.

“I believe that’s why a lot of people are going to make it look like the end of the world, but it’s our duty as professionals, as members of this team, and as representatives of our nation at the Olympics, to do what we need to do to achieve what we came here to do.”

Popovich claimed he’d been planning this rematch for two years and had been thinking about it every day since the game was set in February. But he never found out how to slow down Fournier, who got open for open shots from the perimeter time and time again. Even Holiday, who was outstanding in the NBA Finals, assisting the Bucks in clinching the championship on Tuesday, couldn’t stop the bleeding.

In the second half, French coach Vincent Collet outmaneuvered Popovich by fielding a super-sized lineup that included Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier, both 7-footers.

Against a considerably smaller American lineup, that length closed driving and passing lanes. Team USA scored only 29 points in the last 18 minutes despite switching to a double-big-man lineup after the French fell down by ten points early in the third quarter.

Popovich said, “Every club has to do what fits with their players.” “And having our two big players out there, Draymond [Green] and Bam Adebayo, gives us a lot of speed, helps us move well, and works best for the mix of individuals we have.”

Despite this, Team USA was in a position to win due to Holiday. When the score was 74-67 in the fourth quarter in Dongguan, China, two years ago, the French went on a 22-5 run to knock the Americans out of medal contention. On Sunday, Team USA led 74-67 in the fourth quarter until France went on a 16-2 run, capped by Fournier’s game-winning 3-pointer in the last minute.

Durant had one of his poorest games in his illustrious Olympic career, fouling out and shooting only 4-of-12. His first two fouls came while defending Gobert on switches, taking him off the court after a strong start in which he scored seven points in the first minute. In the end, he fouled out after just 21 minutes.

To progress to the medal round, the Americans will most likely need to win their last two pool-play games against Iran and the Czech Republic. However, if they lose another game, they may theoretically progress on score margin.

“We were simply trying to do the right thing too hard,” Lillard said. “Instead of simply being ourselves, the greatest players in the NBA,” says one player.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN contributed to this story.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who did USA basketball team lose to in 2004?

USA basketball team lost to Greece in 2004.

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USA basketball team lost to Australia.

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