In Team USA Basketball’s last game of pool play, the Americans took on France, a team filled with NBA veterans.
Team USA Basketball’s last two games have been less than convincing performances, but the Americans managed to pull out a win in each game. The Americans were tested by Australia, and then nearly lost to Serbia.
Team USA faced another great team on Sunday, as the French roster has many players with NBA experience.
Coach K and his staff made one change to the starting lineup, opting to go with Klay Thompson in place of Paul George. Thompson found his rhythm in a big way on Sunday. For France, San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker did not play as a precaution. France announced that he suffered a toe injury, but it is not considered serious.
Team USA’s offense has been stagnant over the past few games. The Americans have lacked ball movement and it made their offense ineffective versus Australia and Serbia.
Kevin Durant scored seven straight points, followed by a DeMarcus Cousins layup and a Klay Thompson three-pointer to put Team USA up 17-12. Boris Diaw answered right back for France, as the two teams traded buckets midway through the first quarter.
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France’s offense featured plenty of movement and backdoor cuts, which often got the French an open look. Team USA’s second unit entered the game late in the first quarter and changed the pace of the offense for the Americans.
Paul George, DeMar DeRozan, and Kyle Lowry moved the ball well as the second unit looked quite comfortable. As a team, the Americans shot nearly 70 percent from the field in the first quarter, and led 30-24 after 10 minutes.
Team USA’s second unit started the second quarter as well, and picked up where they left off. A beautiful play was drawn up to give Paul George a wide-open layup at the rim. There was clearly chemistry between Team USA’s second unit, as the ball moved frequently for the first time in nearly two games.
With a ten point lead three minutes into the second quarter, Coach K went with wholesale lineup changes, putting his starting unit back in the game. The first unit was led by Kevin Durant, while other starters got off to slow starts. Four minutes into the second quarter, Carmelo Anthony made his first shot of the game after struggling in the first quarter.
For the most part, Team USA’s second unit had much more success than their first unit in the first half. The second unit moved without the ball often, which helped keep France’s defense off-balance. The first unit swung the ball more than they had in previous games, but the sets still featured plenty of stagnant standing in place.
Carmelo Anthony noticeably struggled in the first half. Team USA has relied heavily on Anthony in previous games, but he couldn’t get in a rhythm in the first half. Late in the half, Team USA got out to their biggest lead yet, 55-44. In the final minute, France added two points, as the United States led 55-46 at the half.
The starting unit returned to the floor for Team USA to start the third quarter. Both teams started the quarter a bit sloppy as they traded turnovers. Klay Thompson found his rhythm in the third quarter, hitting back-to-back shots at one point and raising his point total to 25. Thompson has struggled for a majority of the tournament, but the United States needed someone to step up on Sunday, and Thompson did so.
Thompson went off in the third quarter, as he hit his seventh three-pointer on a ridiculously difficult shot. He was fading out of bounds as he shot the ball, but still managed to get a friendly roll. Behind Thompson, Team USA was able to distance themselves on the scoreboard a bit. At the end of three quarters, Team USA led 81-69.
The United States lost momentum at the start of the fourth quarter, as they turned the ball over and played lackluster defense. France went on an 8-2 run to cut Team USA’s lead to six. Suddenly, a game that once seemed in control was turning into a nail-biter. Coach K took a timeout with six minutes remaining to try to get Team USA back on track.
Team USA simply wasn’t getting good looks to start the fourth quarter. A missed fadeaway jump shot by DeMarcus Cousins, followed by a France bucket, cut the lead to four.
Kyrie Irving, falling down, made a spectacular pass to find Kevin Durant for an easy dunk to move the lead up to six. With France trying to garner some momentum, a Carmelo Anthony three pointer put Team USA up by eight. It was just Anthony’s third made shot of the game, but it came at an opportune time.
With under three minutes remaining, Team USA led by seven. Another Carmelo Anthony three-pointer pushed the lead to 10 as the United States tried to pull away. France tried to mount a comeback, but it would be too little, too late. Despite the three-pointer by France at the buzzer, Team USA would escape with a 100-97 victory.
Once again, Team USA struggled down the stretch. Klay Thompson carried the team for much of the third quarter, and without Thompson’s performance, France may have been victorious. Thompson scored a game-high 30 points in Team USA’s victory.
With the win, Team USA is the No. 1 seed after going undefeated in pool play. The team still has plenty of work to do, as this was once again a closer game than it needed to be.
After the game, Klay Thompson said in an interview, “We’ll improve, I guarantee it.” Team USA went 5-0 in this stage, but there is absolutely room for improvement.
As the No. 1 seed, Team USA will play the No. 4 seed in Group B.