A few days removed from the NBA Finals and less than 24 hours before the U.S. men's basketball team faced France, Jrue Holiday, Devin Booker and Khris Middleton arrived in Japan.
It wasn't enough. While Holiday in particular played well, the U.S. suffered its first loss in Olympic competition since 2004 to a scrappy French team that used a late 16-2 run to win 83-76.
France, relying heavily on the offense of Evan Fournier (28 points), the all-around game of Rudy Gobert and some strong play from its big men, outscored the Americans 25-11 in the third quarter to turn an eight-point halftime deficit into a six-point lead.
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Holiday, whose wife Lauren won two gold medals with the U.S. women's soccer team, was more awake than many of his teammates as the U.S. fell asleep in that third quarter. The Milwaukee Bucks guard kept the U.S. in the game and wound up with 18 points for the improbable team scoring lead.
Having apparently weathered the storm, the U.S. appeared to take control through the fourth quarter, with Devin Booker hitting several shots to put the team up 74-67 with 3:41 left.
Kevin Durant, the veteran leader of the U.S. team, spent much of the game on the bench in foul trouble and missed some open looks late. France outscrambled the U.S. for a loose ball and hit a 3-pointer to take a shocking 76-74 lead with 57 seconds left, and the U.S. simply couldn't make the ball fall on the next possession. Nando de Colo hit two free throws with 21 seconds left, Damian Lillard turned the ball over and fouled Fournier, and the game was out of reach.
The good news for the U.S. was that this was just one game in group play. The next two games are against Iran and the Czech Republic, neither of which can compare to the well-seasoned French team.
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