When last we left France, they were best known for collecting reparations from Haiti that they don’t deserve and poisoning tourists with their eclectic offerings of snails with mayonnaise. But as of July 25, their Wikipedia page will require an additional update after their men’s basketball team put Team USA in a German suplex during their Olympic opener.
Per ESPN, France not only kicked America’s ass up and down the court during their surprising 83-76 victory on Sunday, but they snapped Team USA’s 25-game Olympic winning streak, handing them their first loss since Ed Hardy was still a thing back in 2004.
The final blow came when Evan Fournier drilled a 3-pointer with a minute to play to give the French the lead for good, completing their comeback after the U.S. had an eight-point lead with four minutes to play. It was the biggest of his 28 points in one of the finest games he has played in his career.
It was followed by an incredible possession in which the Americans managed to get five shots off and missed them all. The final three were wide-open 3-point attempts by Zach LaVine, Kevin Durant and Jrue Holiday.
To be fair, it’s not like France trotted out a bunch of scrubs. Rudy Gobert is kind of a big deal, Nic Batum has established himself as a quality role player in the NBA, and Evan Fournier has done the same. But none of the above wield the combined might of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker, Dame Lillard, Jayson Tatum, and the rest of Team USA’s roster. Soooooooooo, what the fuck is going on here?
“They are better individually,” Fournier said. “But they can be beaten as a team.”
Team USA coach Gregg Popovich, who has the unfortunate distinction of losing five of the last eight games he’s coached for the national team since 2019, seems to be far more interested in being respectful to his opponents than beating them on the world’s biggest stage.
“When you lose a game, you’re not surprised,” Popovich said after the game.
“You’re disappointed, but I don’t understand the word ‘surprised.’ That sort of disses the French team, so to speak, as if we’re supposed to beat them by 30 or something. That’s a hell of a team. They have NBA players, other talented players playing in Europe who’ve been together for a long time. I think it’s a little bit of hubris if you think the Americans are supposed to just roll out the ball and win. You have to work for it, and for those 40 minutes they played better than we did.”
Well, that’s one way to put it.
After bringing home the gold in three straight Olympics, while destroying any and everything in their path during the myriad of international events in between, expectations are understandably high. But nobody is trying to hear Pop heap praise upon his competitors while at the same recruiting bums like Kevin Love over Trae Young or while orchestrating an offense with about as much ball movement and spacing as a McDonald’s ball pit.
“I think we have a history of dominance,” Lillard told reporters on Sunday. “And it’s not often that you see Team USA go out there and lose, especially to start. I think that’s why a lot of people will make it seem like the end of the world, but our job as professionals and this team and representing our country at the Olympics, we’ve got to do what’s necessary and we still can accomplish what we came here to accomplish.”
Thankfully, Team USA still has ample opportunity to bring home the gold so let us hope and pray they shake off any lingering fatigue from the NBA Playoffs and get their shit together under Pop’s shaky stewardship.
Team USA will play the Republic of Iran on Wednesday.