The USA defeated France 87-82 to take men’s basketball gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

A game almost as good as billed, but the United States did just enough to avenge their group stage loss to Les Bleus at the Saitama Super Arena and claim this title for the fourth successive time.

Three on the bounce for Kevin Durant, who was as magnificent as he needed to be with a game-high 29 points and an impetus injected in the second quarter when more was required.

Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert paced the French on 16 points apiece but they left chances on the table, converting just 18/29 of their free throws with Gobert, who fouled out with eight seconds left, critically missing on seven of his 13 trips to the line.

“This one feels good because we went through a lot,” Durant said. “We had a lot of first-time guys on the team, new experience for everyone on the team, Covid, the kind of bubble we were in, no fans, no one expecting us to lose.

“We heard it all over the past few weeks about our team. To fight through this adversity against a great team like these guys … to come together so fast – it was beautiful to see, it was beautiful to be a part of.”

USA, whose full squad only gathered less than 48 hours before the Games began, truly asserted themselves and shook off early concerns with a 29-11 run that propelled them into a 39-27 lead with 3:35 left in the second period.

Vincent Collet’s men looked fatigued but recovered admirably to trail just 44-39 at half-time. And although they were 14 behind in the third period, the semi-finalists from the 2019 World Cup in China battled back to close the gap to 73-70 on a Frank Ntilikina three midway through the fourth.

But they would get no closer as USA steadied with a 6-0 run that provided momentum enough. Fittingly, it was Durant who sealed victory with two free throws with 8.8 seconds remaining.

“I think when we look back at the competition we’ll be proud of ourselves,” Fournier said. “We weren’t far off, we were just unsuccessful in a few situations where we made some exceptional mistakes that didn’t help us.

“We’re getting better. We finished third in China, we’ve finished second here. We’ve really learned a lot of things since China. Now we need to continue improving, continue working and gaining more and more experience, to hunt for that gold medal.”

The NBA-laden Americans, not always pretty in this run, but potent enough ultimately to give head coach Gregg Popovich his first international title following prior disappointments and extend US supremacy at the Games.

For Milwaukee Bucks team-mates Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, these were three weeks to remember, NBA champions then golden medallists in rapid succession.

“To get an NBA championship was tough and then to fly in here, getting in at 12 or 1 in the morning, playing France that night, losing that game, then getting through the tournament to meet them again in the gold medal game,” Holiday said. “I don’t know – me thinking about it and telling you, that’s a hell of a summer.”

Jayson Tatum added 19 points for the victors. who were out-rebounded 41-34 but netted 20 points off 18 forced turnovers, the ultimate differential in the final’s reckoning.

“It’s a hell of a feeling,” Tatum added. “Slow start when we first got here, tough couple of games in Vegas, not being able to bring our families. Having three guys come late, we had to figure it out. But we figured it out.”

For France, still a best result they won silver at the Sydney 2000 Games.

“There’s always regret, of course,” said Nando de Colo. “You can always say that you could have done more, of course. There’s disappointment, obviously. Even if we were really happy to win the semi-final we were focused on the final objective. And as I said after the match against Slovenia, we are a team with lots of character. We didn’t want to stop with the silver medal.

“We tried to do our best. I think we had good moments. I think we controlled the match quite well for almost half of it, but as soon as they had a good patch that caused us lots of problems. Even though we tried to come back it was too late.”

Australia’s men finally got the Olympic basketball medal they’d waited for, beating Slovenia 107-93. Patty Mills notched 42 points.

The USA’s women meet surprise packet Japan in Sunday’s female final.

But a second Olympic hoops medal was secured for France, Les Bleues taking women’s basketball bronze with a surge in the fourth to see off Serbia 91-76.


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