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Big second half for France dooms US men’s national team

It was a back-and-forth affair as the US men’s national team were outscored 16-2 to end the game, losing, 83-76, to France, Sunday, July 25 from the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo.

“We were up with a 1:30 left,” guard Jrue Holiday said. “We had a chance to knock down a three -- we got a couple rebounds and I missed a three and I think that would’ve put us up by two or three.

“Something [crazy happened] and it became like a four-point swing.” The outcome marks the first loss in Olympic play since losing to Argentina in 2004.

“I’m very positive about tonight,” Holiday said. “France is a good team and I just feel like we’ll get better every game.”

Team USA had won 24 straight games to that point, winning three straight gold medals in the process.

In addition, it’s the first time since the 2004 Olympics that Team USA lost its opening game of pool play.

“I feel like that’s the team that we are,” Holiday said. “We’ve been through a lot, especially this season with COVID and testing, again this is the first time our full team has played together. So a lot of adversity and I feel like this is something that we do a lot and we’ll accomplish this too like we’ve accomplished everything else.”

Pool play continues with a game against Iran Tuesday, July 27 from the Saitama Super Arena.

Tip-off is scheduled for 9:40 p.m. PST.

Forward Kevin Durant fouled out of the game, scoring 10 points on 4-of-12 from the field in the process.

“There’s a lot [of differences],” Holiday said. “One is officiating is a little different. I feel like a lot of the calls are made in the NBA, aren’t made here. It’s like a weird physicality but you can’t be too physical.”

Despite putting up seven points in the first quarter, Durant left the opening frame with two fouls in the first six minutes of the game.

Before halftime, he would have three fouls in just 7:42 of game action.

“Especially somebody like Kevin, he was trying to be physical and he got called for those,” he said. “It’s a lot of things, even the flagrant fouls. I don’t know how -- even the one on [guard Damian Lillard]. He was really just reaching for the ball and [France’s Evan Fournier] -- I don’t know, he tripped.”

Fournier led all scorers with 28 points while, Team USA committed five more fouls than France, 25-20.

The loss counts as Durant’s first-ever in Olympic play; he was 39-0 entering the contest.

Forward Bam Adebayo and guard Damian Lillard both kept the US in the game and in the lead during the first half leading the team in scoring.

Adebayo scored 10 points and pulled in four rebounds in the first half while Lillard made three three-pointers en route to scoring nine in the first 20 minutes.

However, a 25-11 third quarter regained control for France as it took a six-point lead into the fourth and final quarter.

“Again France is a good team, they play very well together,” Holiday said. “You can even tell they just stay consistent the whole game. There were times we were up nine or up 10 and in those points we just have to keep going. We have to break that barrier.”

During that third quarter, Team USA was held to one field goal in a five and a half minute stretch.

“We were up 10 and nine a couple of times,” Holiday said. “Those are times where we need to put people away when we have those advantages. We went into halftime up eight and coming out of the half we have to do better.”

Holiday had a big second half for Team USA and would end up leading the team in scoring with 18 points off-the-bench to go along with seven rebounds and four assists.

“I think it’s just competing -- being a competitor,” he said. “This is the first time I’ve been on this stage so you always want to make an impression but you never want to lose the first game.” Holiday just arrived in Tokyo late last night after completing a championship run in the NBA where his Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns in six games.

Holiday arrived with fellow Bucks teammate Khris Middleton and Suns guard Devin Booker.

“Me, Book and K-Mid just slept,” Holiday said. “We tried to kind of time this out where we knew we’d get in, we’d have shootaround and play the game that same day. Most of the flight we just tried to sleep and get that flight over as fast as possible.”

Booker tallied four points, two rebounds and three assists in 19 minutes of action while Middleton was limited to five minutes.

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