France rally to hold US to three-point win

RIO DE JANEIRO • The United States men's basketball team closed out the pool stage with an unbeaten record, although a nervy 100-97 win over France on Sunday confirmed that winning Olympic gold will not be easy.

"Personally I felt we were going to dominate these (early) games and that they were going to come easy," American guard Paul George told reporters.

"But you start playing better competition, you see these teams are pretty good."

After easy wins over China and Venezuela, the US received a wake-up call against Serbia and a battling 10-point victory against Australia before meeting France.

Klay Thompson scored a game-high 30 points for the US but France, playing without point guard Tony Parker, rallied from a 16-point deficit late in the third quarter to turn a predicted rout into another nail-biter.

Despite their troubles, the United States finished on top of Group A with a perfect 5-0 record to run their Olympic winning streak to 22 games and remain favourites to win a third straight gold.

Klay Thompson of the United States shooting past Boris Diaw of France during the former's 100-97 win in Group A on Sunday. Thompson had a game-high 30 points as the US topped their group with five wins from five pool games.
Klay Thompson of the United States shooting past Boris Diaw of France during the former's 100-97 win in Group A on Sunday. Thompson had a game-high 30 points as the US topped their group with five wins from five pool games. PHOTO: REUTERS

"Today they did not play very well and still won so they are still the favourites," said France centre Rudy Gobert.

The US will not know their quarter-final opponent until after the final Group B matches are completed on Monday (today, Singapore time) but are well aware that they need to raise their game considerably.

However, Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski remained unconcerned. "At the end of the day, no one will ask you anything else except if you have won," he said.

"While you are approaching that winning you are asked a bunch of other things. I think we are getting better offensively and we have to get better defensively."

France have never beaten the US in a total of six encounters.

"You've seen the past three (US) games, against Serbia, against Australia and we thought we had a chance too," said French NBA player Boris Diaw.

"We played pretty well but we didn't play perfectly and you have to have a near-perfect game to beat them."

Group B wraps up with three games - Spain v Argentina, Brazil v Nigeria and Lithuania v Croatia - that will define the quarter-final match-ups.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2016, with the headline 'France rally to hold US to three-point win'. Print Edition | Subscribe