Sport Olympics US men’s basketball team loses for first time in 17 years

US men’s basketball team loses for first time in 17 years

USA Basketball lost at the Olympic Games for the first time since 2004. Photo: Getty
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For the first time since 2004, the all-powerful US men’s basketball team has lost in the Olympics – and the Americans’ quest for a fourth consecutive gold medal is now in serious trouble.

France, who knocked the Americans out of contention in the Basketball World Cup two years ago, dealt the US a major blow once again on Sunday.

Evan Fournier’s three-pointer with just under a minute left put France ahead as they went on to win 83-76 in the opening game for both teams at the Tokyo Olympics.

The US had won 25 consecutive Olympic games, last losing at the Athens Games 17 years ago and settling for a bronze medal there.

Fournier had 28 points for France, while Rudy Gobert scored 14 and Nando de Colo had 13.

Jrue Holiday had 18 points, Bam Adebayo 12, Damian Lillard 11 and Kevin Durant 10 for the Americans, who are just 2-3 in their games this summer, the first four of them being exhibitions in Las Vegas that weren’t supposed to mean much.

The Olympics were supposed to be different.

Coach Gregg Popovich tries to regroup his players. Photo: Getty

They weren’t. Going back to the World Cup in China two years ago, the Americans are 3-5 in their last eight games with NBA players in the line-up.

A 10-point US lead in the third quarter was wasted, and so was a 12-point barrage from Holiday in the opening four minutes of the fourth quarter as the Americans went from six points down to start the period to six points up with 5:23 remaining.

The loss doesn’t knock the US out of medal contention, but it essentially eliminates the margin for error.

The Americans play Iran on Wednesday and then the Czech Republic on Saturday in their final two Group A games.

Win both of those, and the US will be in the quarter-finals. Lose another one, though, and the Americans might not even finish in the top eight of this 12-team tournament.

The US attack went into a complete sputter for much of the third period – and that, combined with Durant’s foul trouble, led to big problems.

The Americans scored three points in a seven-minute span of the third, Durant picked up his fourth foul – the FIBA limit is five – with 16:45 left in the game, and that once-comfortable lead was soon gone.