After losing to France on Sunday, which has raised doubts about the US men’s basketball team’s ability to win a fourth consecutive Olympic gold, Damian Lillard vowed the team will not panic.
After bad shooting efforts by Lillard, Kevin Durant, and Devin Booker, Team USA lost a late lead on way to an 83-76 loss.
Evan Fournier scored 28 points for France. For Team USA, Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard failed to connect on a field goal in the second half. He finished with 11 points, three assists, four turnovers and three rebounds.
“I think we have a history of dominance and maybe not always blowing people out, but we have a history of winning. And it’s not that often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start,” Lillard told ESPN.
“A lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals representing our country at the Olympics is to do what’s necessary. We still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish,” he added.
The Portland Trail Blazers’ Damian Lillard stated the team needs to unwind and be themselves.
“We’re just trying too hard to do the right thing instead of being who we are – the best players in the NBA,” he said.
In the first frame, Lillard was mostly used as a catch-and-shoot floor spacer. Kevin Durant and Bam Adebayo were tasked with the majority of the early playmaking chores. The main goal was to keep Rudy Gobert out of the paint, but it put Lillard in a secondary role. Without the ball in his hands, the Blazers’ star seemed out of sync and only made one basket in his first shift.
Lillard was able to operate with more freedom in the second quarter. That was, unsurprisingly, his most productive frame. He hit a deep three-pointer over Gobert off a switch and was snappy off the dribble from beyond the arc. Inside the arc, Lillard’s work was a different tale. He attempted it on two occasions.
Lillard missed a three-point attempt in the last minute of the game and threw a bad pass that resulted in a costly turnover. Following a crucial offensive rebound, Fournier hit a go-ahead three-pointer for France on the next possession.
The next sequence of note for Lillard also resulted in a turnover. Lillard stumbled and collapsed after getting a pass from Jrue Holiday with a two-possession disadvantage. Fournier snatched the loose ball and was tripped by Lillard almost immediately. As a result, Team USA has another turnover and France has two free throws.
Lillard made it to the free throw line in the waning seconds of the USA’s loss against France. Lillard’s only two points in the second half came on that trip. In the second half, Lillard turned the ball over three times and made no field goals.
The defeat to France was the team’s first since 2004 and only the sixth in the tournament’s history.
It comes after the US was defeated by Nigeria and Australia in exhibition games earlier this month. When they face Iran, the team will seek to get back on track, while France will face the Czechs as group play resumes.