Team USA (-12.5) vs France
NBC and NBCOlympics.com
In terms of overall talent, these are the two best teams in the world, so it’s only right that they’ve made their way to the Gold Medal Round to face each other.
We know about the starpower on the U.S. side of things, and by now nobody should be taking the French lightly either. In case you need a reminder, France blitzed Team USA in the last three-or-so minutes of the opening game of the Group Stage to defeat the Americans, 83-76.
At that point, it felt like the sky was falling. Between exhibitions in Las Vegas and that opening game, the U.S. was 2-3 in International play this summer.
They’ve since righted the ship, and now have a shot at redemption. Team USA should take home the Gold Medal for a few reasons.
For one, Kevin Durant is playing like, well, Kevin Durant. In that opening game, Durant only shot 4-12. Since then, he has been on a tear, repeatedly sparking long runs to put Team USA’s leads out of reach. He’s the best player in the tournament, and has played like it. If that version of Durant shows up, France is in for a long night.
Besides that, it’s become clear who’s cut out for this tournament and who isn’t. With all due respect, Damian Lillard has been the biggest disappointment on the team, and Khris Middleton has looked like a guy who just played in the NBA Finals. On the other hand, Jrue Holiday and Zach LaVine have been fantastic the entire tournament, and Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum have come on strong of late.
It seems hard to believe that we’ve gotten to this point, but Lillard should not be in the closing lineup tonight. He’s the worst defensive player on the team by a wide margin, and his offense hasn’t been nearly good enough to make up for that.
It’s clear that Holiday, LaVine, Booker, and Durant should be the guards/wings in the closing lineup, along with whichever of Bam Adebayo or Draymond Green you prefer.
Tonight, I’d guess that might have to be Bam, just because of how big Rudy Gobert is. Draymond has been fantastic defensively all tournament, but he’s just too small to keep Gobert off the glass. In the Group Stage meeting, only Bam and Jrue finished with more than 3 rebounds.
As a team, France outrebounded the Americans 33-25. Getting eight extra possessions is a great way for France to make up for the talent gap, and will be the most important thing for Team USA tonight.
Lastly, the United States cannot let Evan Fournier torch them the way he did in their first meeting. Fournier destroyed the Americans with 28 points on 11-22 from the field.
I’m interested to see if Greg Popovich chooses to stick Jrue Holiday onto Fournier, or if he puts him on Nando de Colo. The case for putting him on Fournier is easy, he’s France’s best perimeter option. However, de Colo is the head of the snake for France, averaging 13.8 points and 6.0 assists. If Popovich can trust someone like Booker, who has played really well defensively, to keep Fournier in check, it would make some sense to keep Holiday at the point-of-attack and disrupt France’s rhythm on offense.
France is an awesome team, and they have the bodies to make things hard for Durant, but still. Durant is Durant, and in his past Gold Medal games, he’s really brought it.
Kevin Durant in Gold Medal Games:— WOKE (@BeWokes) August 5, 2021
2010: 28 Points (FIBA)
2012: 30 Points (Olympic)
2016: 30 Points (Olympic)
Ultimately, that should be too much for France, so long as they find a way to break their trend of falling behind big early on. As long as they don’t lose the rope early on, they should be fine. I’m not sure I’d expect them to cover the 12.5-point spread, but I think Durant leads the Americans to another Gold Medal.