Job’s not finished. Australia gave the United States men’s basketball team a good fight, but Team USA overwhelmed them in the second half and came away with the victory. It’s all on the line now ... the gold medal in men’s basketball.
Waiting for the United States will be France. They made it to this point after surviving a fierce battle against Luka Doncic and the Slovenian national team by one point in the final seconds with Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot supplying the dagger for Les Bleus.
A win for the US would be America’s fourth straight Olympic gold. It would also be Kevin Durant’s third gold, tying him with Carmelo Anthony for most gold medals in men’s basketball history. KD also has a FIBA World Cup gold from 2010.
Where to follow the game
NBC has us tonight. Tip off at 10:30 PM Eastern time.
Every one’s ready and available.
France won the first meeting in the preliminaries. Team USA is fully ingratiated to Tokyo so they’re hoping for a different result this time. One big change is the lineup as Draymond Green and Zach Lavine have been moved to the bench in favor of Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker. More on them in a bit.
I imagine there isn’t a greater feeling in the world then when you make the play that saves the day
Nicolas Batum has been a solid player throughout his pro career and he’ll need a to make a few more big plays to bring home the gold for his countrymen and women.
In the preview to the Australia game, I mentioned that Bam Adebayo hadn’t had the best Olympics, but he played better against Australia and grabbed eight rebounds in his 13 minutes on the court. The USA helped their cause by winning the rebound battle by 12. He, Draymond Green, and everyone else will have to work their tails off on the glass tonight as France is second best in the Olympics at rebounding, grabbing 42 a night. That’s thanks in large part to the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Rudy Gobert. Gobert leads the team and is fifth in the tournament at rebounding, grabbing eight a night in his 24 minutes of action.
USA didn’t get to the rim as much as you’d think in the first meeting, which was a result of Gobert’s presence, a likely overreliance on three pointers (10/32 from downtown), and the growing pains of incorporating three players who didn’t play in the exhibition as they were in the NBA Finals. It’s tough as hell getting shots over the Stifle Tower (ask Luka Doncic and Marcus Morris), so the US might be able to play him off the court by going small. It’s always a risky bet, but the US has the personnel to make it difficult on Gobert.
When you hit one of the biggest shots in your country’s history, you’re entitled to talk a little bit. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot hit a critical three that put France up five with a minute to go. Afterwards, TLC had this to say:
France's Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot on the gold-medal game vs. the USA: ""I think it will represent something pretty special, because it's the first one we're going to win."— Tim Reynolds (@ByTimReynolds) August 6, 2021
As Brooklyn Nets fans know real well, TLC doesn’t lack for confidence so he’ll be firing them up when he’s on the court.
The shots haven’t been there to start games for the US, but their defense certainly has been there for all 40 minutes. They’ve turned the jets on in the second half the last two games, but it’s tough to do for three straight games against elite competition. Defense always travels, and the US looks like they’ve got everything figured out on that end. If they keep the same defensive energy while getting some better luck on offense to start, they won’t have to come from behind tonight.
Jrue Holiday has been the best point guard for the United States in the Olympics. He’s damn good on a regular day, but the fact that he’s doing this directly off of a tough NBA Finals run is even more impressive. Holiday hounds the opponent’s best perimeter scorer and is part of the closing lineups for Gregg Popovich. He’s helped offset what’s been a surprisingly poor Olympic run for Damian Lillard. Dame played a tournament low 17 minutes and only took four shots. USA has made it this far with only one premier Lillard game, so if he’s able to heat up tonight, it will help wash away a shaky run in Tokyo.
Former Celtic, current New York Knick, and full time Brooklyn Nets nemesis Evan Fournier will look to have another banner game. He scored 23 points against Slovenia in the last game and hit the USA with 28 earlier in the tournament. The starting lineup is different this time so he’ll see a lot more of Devin Booker tonight. Book was the third best player for the US against Australia and helped break their three point drought in the second quarter. Book can score on all three levels and is another plus creator, which is essential in what promises to be a slow paced slugfest.
Player to watch: Kevin Durant
Give your ace the ball and get the hell out the way. After his bad game in which he fouled out against France, Kevin Durant has looked like one of the greatest players to ever set foot on a basketball court. He was the reason the US didn’t get blown out early against Australia and his third quarter helped put them down in the semifinals. He’s shot at least 50 percent from the field in each of the last four games and when he gets to his spot, it’s damn near automatic. He’s sixth in the Olympics in scoring at 19 points a night and is doing it on a .537/.387/.917 shooting split. France will fight like hell to be physical with him and force him off his spots, but he’s seen it all and done it all so he’ll be ready. KD played 30 minutes against Australia and got a chance to rest near the end of the game, so if Popovich needs him to pitch a complete game, he’s more than ready for the challenge. One more ride for the gold.
From the Vault
Got revenge on my mind
More reading: SB Nation
- Gold Medal Preview: U.S. Men Versus France - USA Basketball