Just days after bringing the first NBA Championship to Milwaukee in 50 years, Jrue Holiday played in the worst defeat for USA Basketball since 2004.
The U.S. shockingly fell to France 83-76. Holiday did his part in the fourth quarter with 12 points after arriving in Tokyo the day of the game.
“We were up with 1:30 left,” Holiday said in his July 25 press conference. “We had a chance to knock down a 3, get a couple rebounds, I missed a 3 to go up, something happened crazy and it became like a four-point swing. I feel like we missed a couple 3s but again, France is a good team. They play very, very well together and you could tell they just stay consistent throughout the game. There were times, we were up nine, up 10 and at those points, we just gotta keep going. We gotta break that barrier. But I’m very positive about tonight. France is a good team and I feel like we are just going to get better every game.”
Holiday gave the U.S. a 10-point lead for the first time in the game, hitting a three-pointer with 53 seconds left in the first half and bringing the score to 45-35. But USA Basketball went into the locker room up just eight, 45-37.
Kevin Durant gave the U.S. a 47-37 lead early in the second half, but the conglomerate of NBA stars couldn’t hold off France. The French took the lead in the third quarter and entered the fourth up 62-56.
While the U.S. came back and took a 74-67 lead off of Devin Booker’s free throws with 3:41 to go, the Americans blew the lead again. The U.S. went stone cold from the field, too, with only one more basket for the game. Holiday, who finished with 18 points, kept the U.S. on life support with all but eight of the team’s points in the final quarter.
Known for sheer dominance with the best talent in the world for nearly three decades, USA Basketball took a disconcerting tumble in the first game of the 2021 Olympics. The 1992 “Dream Team” ushered in an era of dominance, rolling through the Barcelona games. Other than a bronze-medal hiccup in 2004, it’s been all gold medals for the U.S. since 1992.
USA Coach ‘Not Surprised’
Until their July 25 loss to France, USA Basketball hadn’t lost a game in the Olympics since that 2004 bronze-medal run. The U.S. had a 25-game winning streak going into the opening game against France. Head coach Gregg Popovich, like Holiday, gave a nod to the French team’s play.
“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised,” Popovich said, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team.”
France’s NBA-Laden Lineup
France features its own share of current and former NBA players, too. The French team’s whole starting lineup has NBA experience.
Evan Fournier, who plays for the Boston Celtics, buried the game-winning three-pointer. Fournier finished with 28 points. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert did his share of damage for France with 14 points and nine rebounds.
Nando de Colo, who played in the NBA from 2012 to 2014, scored 13 points for the French and added five rebounds and five assists. Nicolas Batum of the Los Angeles Clippers chipped in five points, five assists and four rebounds for the French. Former Celtics player Guerschon Yabusele posted six points and grabbed four boards.
Overall, 11 national teams have former or current NBA players. Popovich made it clear another gold medal won’t come easily.
“I think that’s a little bit of hubris if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the balls and win,” Popovich said, per Vaccaro. “We’ve got to work for it just like everybody else. And for those 40 minutes, they played better than we did.”