USA lose first men’s Olympic basketball game, as Australia defeat Nigeria’s D’Tigers

USA’s Kevin Wayne Durant fights for a rebound during the men’s preliminary round group A basketball match between France and USA during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama on July 25, 2021. Aris MESSINIS / POOL / AFP

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By Our Sports Desk

Team United States small forward Jayson Tatum (10) drives to the basket against Team France forward Timothe Luwawu Kongbo (3) during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Saitama Super Arena on July 25, 2021. Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Network

A USA team led by 11-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant were beaten 83-76 by France on Sunday, snapping an Olympic winning streak stretching back to the 2004 Athens Games.

France, with a team containing NBA players including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier, limited Durant to just 10 points in the first-round game.

Durant sat out most of the third quarter with foul trouble and when it mattered, he was unable to inspire his team as the French came from behind to take control in the final quarter as the Americans missed their final nine shots.

The USA had looked unconvincing in the build-up to Tokyo and the defeat will underline the fears Durant expressed before the Games that his side will not face a “cakewalk” in Japan.

Fournier top-scored with 28 points for France. Although the Boston Celtics player only made four from 12 from beyond the three-point line, he found his range when it mattered to help the French stun the Americans.

“I tried to be aggressive. As an NBA player I know the players we were facing. We had to show the team how to attack them,” Fournier said.

France clawed back a 10-point deficit to set up a breathless final quarter and as the Americans failed to find any rhythm, the French smelled victory in Saitama, where spectators were absent because of coronavirus measures.

Fournier’s three-pointer with 57 seconds remaining put his team ahead 76-74 and when Durant hit the rim with a three-point attempt the French closed out the game with a succession of free throws.

When Jayson Tatum fouled Nicolas Batum, the French veteran NBA forward hit both free throws from the line to seal victory.

Gobert played down the significance of the win.

“I mean it’s great, but until we have what we want to have around our neck, it doesn’t really matter,” the Utah Jazz player said.

“Every single guy that came in the game brought us something,” he added.

“It’s really the team that we want to be and it’s exciting for the rest of the tournament.”

The USA face Iran in their next game on Wednesday when France take on the Czech Republic.

Meanwhile Nigeria’s D’Tigers suffered a 67-84 defeat to the Boomers of Australia in their first Group B preliminary game of the Tokyo Olympics at the Saitama Arena on Sunday.

EAGLE EYE NEWS24 reports that D’Tigers came into the game in high spirits after earning historic victories over Team U.S and Argentina recently in exhibition games.

Nigeria had, however, lost to Australia in their final exhibition game by a huge margin of 39 points (108-69) several days ago, for a reality check for the team coming into the Olympics.

This time, the game started with the D’Tigers looking the sharper of the two teams as they raced to a 4-0 lead in a blink of an eye.

The resilient Australians, however came back at 4-4 for a ding-dong affair from then on.

The Nigerians, led by Miami Heat point-guard Gabe Vincent, were impressive, matching the Boomers for strength as they tied the game 23-23 at the end of the quarter.

The D’Tigers were off to a quick start yet again in the second quarter with a three-pointer to make it 26-23 and could have stretched their lead a little further.

But the young and unexperienced Nigerian team were guilty of not taking advantage of their too many turnovers, including poor transition and staying poor at the free-throw line.

The Aussies, who are rated number four in the FIBA World ranking, took advantage of the shortcomings of the Nigerian team.

Recall that a forth night ago  both sides met in a pre-Olympic Games exhibition match in Las Vegas, in the United States; a game in which the Aussies defeated the Nigerians 108-69.

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