A United States team headlined by 11-time NBA All-Star Kevin Durant was defeated 83-76 by France in a major Olympic basketball upset on Sunday.
The French defeated the Americans for the first time since the 2004 Athens Olympics, with a team that included NBA players Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.
Durant was restricted to just 10 points in the first round and was unable to motivate his side as the French rallied from a deficit to win in the fourth quarter.
The Americans had appeared sluggish in the build-up to Tokyo, losing a warm-up game against Nigeria, and Durant’s suspicions voiced before the Games that his team would not have a “cakewalk” in Japan have been confirmed.
Fournier was outstanding for France, leading the team in scoring with 28 points. Despite only shooting four of 12 from beyond the three-point line for the Boston Celtics, he found his range when it mattered to help the French upset 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.
In the Saitama stadium, where spectators were absent due to coronavirus restrictions, France came back from a 10-point hole to set up a breathless final quarter, and as the United States struggled to find any rhythm, the French scented victory.
With 57 seconds left, Fournier’s three-pointer put his team up 76-74, and when Durant hit the rim with a three-pointer of his own, the French closed off the game with a series of free throws.
Nicolas Batum, a veteran NBA player from France, was fouled by Jayson Tatum and sank both free throws to seal a memorable victory.
Gobert, a center for the Utah Jazz, downplayed France’s victory.
“I mean it’s great, but until we have what we want to have around our neck, it doesn’t really matter,” Gobert said.
“Every single guy that came in the game brought us something. It’s really the team that we want to be and it’s exciting for the rest of the tournament,” he added.
On Wednesday, the United States will face Iran, while France will face the Czech Republic.