Olympics: Kevin Durant guides Team USA to basketball gold over France

Kevin Wayne Durant (left) dribbles the ball in the men's final basketball match between France and USA at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Aug 7, 2021.
Kevin Wayne Durant (left) dribbles the ball in the men's final basketball match between France and USA at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Aug 7, 2021.PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO (REUTERS) - Kevin Durant recorded 29 points and six rebounds and the United States claimed its fourth straight Olympic gold medal with an 87-82 victory over France on Saturday (Aug 7) at Saitama, Japan.

Jayson Tatum added 19 points and seven rebounds off the bench as the United States avenged a loss to France in pool play. The US has won 16 gold medals in its 19 Olympic appearances.

"We went through some real adversity," said Durant after winning his third Olympic gold medal, also succeeding in 2012 and 2016.

"We lost a game in the tournament, we lost two exhibition games. We had some unusual circumstances with Covid, with guys playing in the Finals and coming in late. We fought through everything.

"It was definitely different so I'm glad we finished the job."

Rudy Gobert notched 16 points and eight rebounds and Evan Fournier also scored 16 for France, which won the silver medal for the third time. France lost in the gold-medal game in 1948 and 2000, with both setbacks also against the U.S.

The French team has never won gold in men's basketball.

Guerschon Yabusele had 13 points, Nando de Colo added 12 points and seven assists and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot tallied 11 points for France, which connected on 46.6 per cent of its field-goal attempts and made 10 of 31 (32.3 per cent) from 3-point range.

Jrue Holiday and Damian Lillard scored 11 points apiece for the US, which shot 45.7 per cent from the field and was 9 of 32 (28.1 per cent) from behind the arc.

"This is what we came for - it was win or go home," Tatum said. "It was for all the marbles so everyone had to do what it took."

Durant scored just 10 points when the US lost 83-76 to France on July 25.

He helped put this game away by making two free throws with 8.8 seconds left to give the US the five-point lead. Nicolas Batum missed a 3-point attempt for France, Holiday grabbed the rebound and the Americans ran out the clock.

Earlier in the final stanza, Frank Ntilikina drained a 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 burst as France pulled within 73-70 with 5:44 left.

The United States answered with a 9-2 run, and Tatum finished it with a 3-pointer to make it a 10-point margin with 3:25 remaining.

France made another charge as Fournier buried a 3-pointer to cut the U.S. lead to 84-78 with 1:10 left. That began a 7-1 run that saw de Colo make two free throws with 10.2 seconds left to pull France within 85-82.


Players from France and USA jump for the rebound in the men's final basketball match at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan, on Aug 7, 2021. PHOTO: AFP

France was within two early in the third quarter before the U.S. scored 10 of the next 11 points. Durant made a 3-pointer to cap the burst and make it 56-45 with 6:28 left.

Later in the stanza, the United States' Zach La Vine scored back-to-back baskets and Tatum followed with a fastbreak dunk to make it 71-57. But Luwawu-Cabarrot and Batum each hit 3-pointers to pull France within eight entering the final stanza.

Durant (21) and Tatum (11) combined for 32 first-half points as the US led 44-39 at the break.

The US held a 39-26 lead just past the midway point of the second quarter before France cut the deficit to five going into the break.