After losing two exhibition games to Nigeria and Australia, Team USA is off to a rough start in Tokyo.
The Americans saw their 25-game Olympic winning streak snapped by France, 83-76, in their opening game Sunday.
Team USA used an 18-5 run in the fourth to go ahead 74-67, and were then outscored 16-2 to close the game. It was their first loss since falling to Argentina in the semifinals in the 2004 Athens Games en route to the bronze medal. Since then, the Americans had won three straight Olympic gold medals.
“We let one get away,” U.S. point guard Damian Lillard said. “There’s a lot of things we could have done better, including making shots.”
Trailing 76-74, Team USA missed three straight 3-point attempts, two by Kevin Durant and one by Jrue Holiday. After going 3-for-4 for seven points in the first quarter, Durant, the Brooklyn Nets star, went 1-of-8 the rest of the game before fouling out.
Down 78-74 after two Nando De Colo foul shots, Lillard stumbled while trying to gather a perimeter pass from Holiday. He then extended his leg and tripped Fournier, who made 1-of-2 for a 79-74 lead.
“The French team played very consistent basketball on both ends of court and did a great job,” U.S. coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s our goal going forward, to be more consistent.”
Evan Fournier of the Boston Celtics led France with a game-high 28 points and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz had 14 points and nine rebounds. Holiday led Team USA with 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“I think there’s multiple reasons [we won],” said Fournier. “First of all, I think we played extremely hard and we played through it. They had a good run and we just stick with our game plan.
“And second, you have to be honest and look at their roster. They have guys who are really tired from the trip and playing in the NBA Finals and all that, so we know they aren’t at full strength but it was a good win for us regardless.”
He added: “It’s a helluva win, our country’s going to be extremely proud but it’s just one game, to be honest.”
Team USA has three players — Holiday, Khris Middleton and Devin Booker — who played in the NBA Finals, won by the Milwaukee Bucks over the Phoenix Suns.
Team USA is playing in Tokyo without several NBA superstars, including LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving and James Harden, among others.
They next face Iran on Wednesday (12:40 a.m. ET) and then play again Saturday.
“France is pretty good but it is of concern because they have goals, they want to win, their favored to win,” retired NBA superstar Vince Carter said of Team USA on the Peacock broadcast. “They had some miscues, some mishaps, they didn’t make shots late.
“Holiday was fantastic but they’re going to need some more scoring and with the switching defense you can’t allow the bigs to punish you like that and not get stops.”