Olympics: US men fall to France in first basketball loss since 2004

USA's Damian Lillard (left) looks on as teammate Devin Booker fights for a rebound with France's Rudy Gobert during the men's preliminary round group A basketball match on July 25, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

SAITAMA (REUTERS) - The US men's basketball team suffered a shock 83-76 defeat at the hands of France on Sunday (July 25), losing at the Olympics for the first time since 2004 and for just the sixth time in the history of the tournament.

The French had upset the US men when they last met in the 2019 Fiba World Cup quarter-finals and they had their number again on the first day of group play at the Saitama Super Arena, powered by a game-high 28 points from Evan Fournier.

"It felt good, it felt good," Fournier told Reuters.

The Americans got out to a good start in the first half, leading 45-37 at the break on the back of their defensive energy, but were outscored 25-11 in a disastrous third-quarter with France taking the lead.

Team USA clawed back to briefly regain the lead in the fourth quarter, but the French would not go away and took their first ever Olympic win versus the United States.

The United States is always the team to beat at basketball - they now have a 139-6 record and have won gold 15 times since joining the Olympic programme in 1936 - boasting more depth than any other country with their star-studded NBA line-ups.

But their recent form suggested reaching the top of the podium would not be as easy as in the past, after they dropped two straight exhibition games this month including a surprise loss to world 22nd-ranked Nigeria.

Preparations were also disrupted by the absence of players due to this year's late NBA play-offs and late replacements due to Covid-19 tests and injury.

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