The United States’ men’s basketball team is golden yet again.
Team USA defeated France by a score of 87-82 Friday night to claim gold in Tokyo, extending the U.S. men’s gold medal streak to four straight Olympics.
While the U.S. was largely favored to win the gold, doing it against this French team made the victory that much sweeter. France handed the United States its first Olympic loss since 2004 during the preliminary round not even two weeks ago, and the U.S. clearly didn’t forget it.
As has been the story since the Olympics began, Kevin Durant was nothing short of sensational for Team USA in its gold medal victory, leading the Americans with 29 points on the night. The new all-time leading scorer for Team USA now has three Olympic gold medals under his belt at 32 years old.
“It’s winning time,” Durant told NBC’s Maria Taylor after the game. “It’s one game where you go home, it’s no series. I’ve gotta give my all every second I’m out there and prepare the right way. I’ve just gotta go out there and trust that work. I was able to knock down some shots to keep us afloat a little bit. In the fourth quarter (Damian Lillard) took over for us and guys made plays at the end.”
The U.S. hasn’t started games strong in Tokyo, and that trend continued early on against France. The French took a 10-4 lead in the game’s opening minutes, but the U.S. ended the first quarter strong with a 16-6 run.
It was largely smooth sailing for the Americans through the next two quarters as Durant and company began to pick up steam and cushion the USA lead. France did manage to make things interesting late in the contest, though, after a massive pair of free throws from Nando de Colo put them within three with 10.2 seconds remaining. Luckily for the Americans, it was too little too late as France was forced to foul Durant in order to stop the clock. Durant then sunk both of his free throws to once again make it a multi-possession lead for Team USA, ultimately putting the game out of reach.
There were doubts that this U.S. team was capable of winning the gold in Tokyo. Not only has the Olympic competition improved — Slovenia is suddenly a powerhouse while Spain and France remain juggernauts — but the U.S. was far from impressive in the lead-up to Tokyo. They lost two of their three pre-Olympic exhibition games and often struggled to find consistency throughout the competition.
Still, they were the most talented men’s team in Tokyo by far, and now the gold is headed back to the States for the fourth time since 2008.
“A lot of sacrifice to get this done,” Draymond Green told NBC’s Raj Mathai. “Guys flying in right after the (NBA) Finals, getting here at midnight, 1 a.m., right before our first game … We lost a game! That’s a big deal, so we had to fix that. And we did. People been saying the world has caught up to us, but hey … they tested us. But this is our game. This means a lot to us.”
The U.S. women’s team will next try to earn gold of their own in their final against Japan. A win for the women’s team will increase their gold medal streak to a whopping seven straight Olympics.