Random dribbles following Team USA’s 83-76 loss to France in their first game at the Tokyo Olympics.
1. The Americans were set up to be the best perimeter-shooting team in Tokyo. After looking over the rosters, I believed they were. Then I watched Kevin Durant, Zach LaVine and Jrue Holiday miss wide-open 3-pointers in the clutch … and now I have some doubts.
2. Granted, people miss shots. And this isn’t to blame Durant, LaVine or Holiday. Blowing a six-point lead with 4:00 left truly took a teamwide effort. Right now, the U.S. just looks unorganized and unsure of itself.
3. On one possession, the Americans were able to get off an amazing five shots — and missed every last one. The aforementioned by Durant, LaVine and Holiday were the final three. That seems almost impossible for NBA players to accomplish. But the Americans found a way.
4. Meanwhile, Celtics shooting guard Evan Fournier lit up the scoreboard for France, tallying 28 points and hitting the biggest three of his international career with a minute to play. There was still time, but when Fournier made that shot, I could just tell the Americans were doomed.
5. As Fournier told reporters afterward, “They are better individually, but they can be beaten as a team.”
6. We saw that in exhibition play, where the Americans lost a stunner vs. Nigeria and fell to Australia. There just isn’t a whole lot of chemistry yet. You can blame coach Gregg Popovich, but I don’t think it’s entirely his fault. The bottom line is the U.S. can no longer just show up and play pickup basketball. There has to be some sacrifice and accountability.
7. You do have to appreciate how France coach Vincent Collet went with a Twin Towers lineup of Rudy Gobert and Vincent Poirier in the second half. That really seemed to rattle the Americans.
8. Popovich was his usual cranky self after the loss, as one reporter suggested it was an upset. “When you lose a game, you’re not surprised. You’re disappointed,” Popovich said. “I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30. That’s a hell of a team.”
9. Popovich has a point. This is the second time in three years that France has beaten the U.S., the previous coming at the World Cup in 2019.
10. Durant had a miserable time, going 4-of-12 shooting and getting himself in foul trouble early. Also, Damian Lillard (3-of-10 shooting) struggled so mightily that Popovich took him out for good late in the fourth quarter.
11. Holiday led the U.S. with 18 points. Bam Adebayo scored 12, Lillard had 11 and Durant had 10. By the way, Popovich used 11 players in the first half, with only Jerami Grant not getting into the game.
12. Gobert added 14 points for France and Nando de Colo scored 13.
13. Draymond Green on the state of things: “We haven’t been together that long, but we’ve been together long enough to have that consistency. We have to defend better down the stretch.”
14. The Americans have two pool play games remaining — vs. Iran and the Czech Republic. They need to win both to reach the medal round. I’d say that’s a given, but considering the current state of things, I don’t know what to predict anymore.
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