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Durant flirts with a record as USA take fourth straight Olympic gold
TOKYO (Japan) - In an Olympic Gold Medal Game for the ages, Kevin Durant took matters into his own hands and nearly set a new scoring record in the process as the USA pulled off an 87-82 thriller over France.
The USA men win their fourth straight gold medal, a feat which they haven't achieved since the 1960s.
France pick up their third silver medal, with all three defeats coming at the hands of Team USA in the Finals, first back in 1948, then 2000, and now in 2021.
🥇 2️⃣0️⃣0️⃣8️⃣ 🇺🇸 118-107 🇪🇸— FIBA | #Basketball #Tokyo2020 (@FIBA) August 7, 2021
🥇 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣2️⃣ 🇺🇸 107-100 🇪🇸
🥇 2️⃣0️⃣1️⃣6️⃣ 🇺🇸 96-66 🇷🇸
🥇 2️⃣0️⃣2️⃣0️⃣ 🇺🇸 87-82 🇫🇷
Four straight men's Olympic gold medals for @usabasketball!#Tokyo2020 | #Basketball pic.twitter.com/pGAiY8kRUK
Turning point: Frank Ntilikina knocked down a three-pointer to make it a one-possession game at 73-70 with five minutes to play, but the response from Team USA was off the charts. Damian Lillard hit a pair of long contested two-pointers, Jrue Holiday added two more points, and once Jayson Tatum hit the three-pointer with 3:00 to play, the score said 82-72.
France tried to come back, got it to 85-82 when Nando De Colo made his free throws with 10.2 seconds to go, but Durant's free throws sealed the deal and set the final score in this one.
Game hero: Durant had 30 points in the Final in 2012, followed it up with 30 more in 2016, tying the all-time mark set by compatriot Adrian Dantley back in 1976.
This time around, the man who refers to himself as Easy Money Sniper looked set to break the record as he had 21 by halftime, setting a simply unstoppable scoring pace for France to keep up with at the start.
They slowed him down in the second half, basically playing 4v4 with a man glued to Durant, but it didn't help. Durant finished the game with 29 points, done on 9-of-18 shooting.
He also became the first Team USA player in Olympics history to score 100+ points in three different Olympic Games tournaments.
Stats don't lie: France turned the ball over 18 times, enough for the USA to take a 20-12 advantage in points from turnovers, way too much for a team that feasts on fastbreak basketball like the USA.
Bottom line: France played stellar throughout the tournament and can be proud of everything they've done, but they couldn't change history. No team has defeated the USA twice at the same Olympics. Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier had 16 each in this Final.
They said: "I hate to compare stuff because everything has its own moment. But this is one of those special journey's that is hard to describe. Each and every one of us put in that work every single day. From the coaches, to the trainers, to the players. We all came in with that goal of let's finish this thing off, let's build a family, let's build and grow this team every single day. Each game we continued to grow. It was just that journey which was so important. You finish the job, you get the gold medal and the trophy, but when you go through that journey it is just incredible to be part of something so special. I am bonded with these guys for life and I am just glad that we all committed to this thing so early, stuck with it and finished it off." Kevin Durant, USA
"Details cost us the game for sure. I am proud as captain of my team - of the coaching staff and the players. We did a good job and we represented the country and we tried to get the gold. Every guy came in and gave 100 percent. We tried to show the people back home that we are a good team. This is just the begining for French basketball. We have had some consistent results in these recent years and we have some great young guys coming up. These can be heady days for us and the future of French basketball is bright." Nicolas Batum, France
"For me personally, this is right up there at the top. You just think about the road traveled to get here. For every one of us has been living through one of the craziest times that the world has seen. For it to have been pushed back a year, losing guys because of Covid, leaving your family - all of those things. And then the doubt. Every country continues to get better. The doubt we heard over and over again. You turn on Sports Talk in America and everyone was crushing us. So, this is special." Draymond Green, USA
"We knew that obviously they are a very talented team with great players. All those guys like KD and Dame are going to make shots that nobody can guard at times. But when you give up those type of turnovers and miss the free-throws, those are the kind of details when you shoot yourself in the foot. When we did this, they made it a 12-14 point lead right away and then you have to work to grind your way back to make it a close game, which we did and we never gave up, but we were short in the end." Rudy Gobert, France
"I talked to the other coaches, it's sort of an out-of-body experience when you're in these games. You compete, once the ball goes up you don't think about it anymore, you just compete. But it's before the game that's horrible. You're thinking about did you skip any steps, what else the other team can do to you, what do we have to do to... Those are the tough moments. But while the game is going on, you don't really think that much. If anything, one of the thoughts was thinking about Jerry Colangelo and Sean Ford, who have been doing this for so long. That was one of our motivations, to do it for these two guys." Gregg Popovich, USA head coach
"Our goal was to push them as far as possible in this game. Unfortunately we did a couple of mistakes at the end of the third quarter and beginning of the fourth quarter. We were turning it over a few times because we changed the way we played a little bit. We were insisting a lot on the inside game and suddenly we started dribbling the ball and driving to find the kick. We did it two or three times well, but you know there will be some turnovers and against USA, that is what hurt us the most and denied us." Vincent Collet, France head coach
"Kevin Durant is amazing. You put a big on him, he's able to drive. You put a small guy on him and he's able to shoot over him. All my teammates did their best, but it is really difficult. Right now, for sure, we got some emotion where it's not easy for us. But we are proud, I'm sure tonight it will feel great." - Nando De Colo, France