The U.S. women’s soccer team may have a lot to be upset about after Saturday night’s loss to Sweden.
The U.S. women’s hockey team made history by finishing 23rd at the Olympics, the lowest-ranked team ever to qualify for the Gold Medal game. The women, who are coached by former U.S. Olympian Katey Stone, were so disorganized and unprepared that Team USA’s morning skate traffic-jam was so bad that a pair of their jerseys were caught in a gate and ripped. At the same time, the U.S. men’s hockey team, coached by retired NHL player Mike Babcock, finished second in their round robin group, which included the top-ranked team in the tournament, Canada.
The U.S. has never won a men’s ice hockey gold medal at the Winter Olympics. In a country with an ice hockey-crazy population, that’s a big deal. But this year the Americans are starting the games in the worst way possible.. Read more about michael phelps and let us know what you think.
During Group A play at the Tokyo Olympics, USA Basketball would face one especially difficult opponent. Team USA failed to pass the test, losing 83–76 against France after squandering a seven-point lead with 3:41 left. The defeat does not jeopardize USA Basketball’s hopes of winning a fourth straight Olympic gold medal, but it may make the journey more difficult.
While Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard of Team USA are the closers, Evan Fournier clocked in at 3:41. During France’s 16–2 closing blitz, Fournier scored seven of his game-high 28 points, putting the French in command of Group A.
The new Olympic structure, which aims to minimize the number of games teams must play in a short amount of time, is now working against USA Basketball. Instead of five games in group play, Team USA only has two games remaining in the group stage, with four games to recover from an initial defeat.
Team USA couldn’t adapt when France went big.
Coach Gregg Popovich of the United States of America built his squad with a highly modern NBA appearance in mind. He prioritized shooting and flexibility, taking just one true center to Tokyo. With just two minutes of action in the July 25 defeat, that center, JaVale McGee, was a non-factor.
The skinny Kevin Durant and Bam Adebayo, as well as the short-and-tough Draymond Green, were left to handle the most of the inside defense. In the second half, French coach Vincent Collet decided to go big. With 7-footer Vincent Poirier and, temporarily, 6-foot-11 Petr Cornelie, he played 7-foot-2 Rudy Gobert or 7-foot-2 Moustapha Fall. For France, this was a successful approach.
Team USA’s perimeter screens were often switched, leaving wings and guards to do what they could to stop Gobert on his drives to the basket. Gobert ended with 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting and nine rebounds in 29 minutes. Fall and Poirier played a combined 22 minutes, scoring 10 points and grabbing eight rebounds.
In the second half, France increased the defensive pressure. After going 17-of-37 (45.9%) in the first half, USA Basketball was just 8-of-32 (25%) in the second half. Team USA shot 36.2 percent during the game, while France shot 46.8 percent. It was USA Basketball’s first Olympic loss since an 89–81 loss to Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 2004 Athens Olympics, breaking a 25-game winning run.
Worse, it’s Team USA’s third consecutive defeat in international competition under Popovich. Back-to-back losses for USA Basketball ended the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Give France credit for a strong second half performance, but USA Basketball made many mistakes.
On July 25, 2021, during the men’s preliminary round Group A basketball match between France and Team USA at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, France’s Evan Fournier goes for the basket past USA Basketball’s Jrue Holiday (L) and Kevin Durant (R). | AFP/ERIC GAY/Getty Images
Team USA accomplished enough things well to take a 45–37 advantage at halftime. With 23 assists on 25 completed field goals, the team shared the ball freely — maybe too generously on some occasions. The issue was that shooters often gave up excellent, if not outstanding, opportunities by opting to pass. The overpassing was mainly responsible for USA Basketball’s 12 turnovers.
Despite losing the offensive rebounding battle 11–9, France had a 42–36 advantage on the boards, had 16 second-chance points to seven for Team USA, and outscored USA Basketball 32–28 in the paint.
In the NBA, going small frequently beats going big. When France scored a huge goal in the first half, Team USA ate it up. However, France took advantage of mismatches inside when Collet went super-sized with two 7-footers on the court nearly all of the time. Popovich’s insistence of putting everything on screens worsened the problem. Going up against Durant or Adebayo with Gobert is already a disadvantage for USA Basketball. Gobert vs. Holiday or Zach LaVine, on the other hand, seldom works out.
Team USA has a long journey ahead of them.
On July 28 (12:40 a.m. Eastern), USA Basketball will face Iran, while France will face the Czech Republic at 8 a.m. Eastern. The Czech Republic won 84–78 against Iran to start the tournament, putting Team USA in last position in group play based on point difference (minus-6 for Iran, minus-7 for USA Basketball).
Iran and France are the last two teams in the group (9 p.m. Eastern on July 30). On July 31, Team USA will compete against the Czech Republic at 8 a.m. Eastern. Each group’s top two teams progress to the quarterfinals. The knockout round will also include the top two third-place teams. The bracket will be drawn on August 2nd.
On July 25, Australia defeated Nigeria 84–67 in Group B, while Italy defeated Germany 92–82. On July 26, Argentina will face Slovenia, while Japan will face Spain.
FIBA provided the statistics.
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