Lillard And Team USA Begin Their Quest For Gold Sunday Morning
Unless you’re working graveyard or are an incredibly earlier riser, you’ll likely need to set an alarm in order to catch Damian Lillard representing the United States at the 2021 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, at least if you want to see it live.
While some of the events of the 32nd Olympiad are already well underway, even with the Opening Ceremony only being held Friday night (though for our purposes, we’ll stick to Pacific time for the sake of clarity), the USA Men’s National 5x5 Basketball team won’t start their quest to win a fourth-straight gold medal until Sunday, July 25 when they face France in the group play opener for both teams at 5 a.m. This game, along with their other group stage games, will stream live on Peacock, NBC’s streaming service. They will also air tape-delayed on NBC, check your local listings.
After starting out their run in Tokyo by facing one of the favorites to medal -- the French have underachieved in Olympic play in relation to the talent on their roster, though they’ve won bronze in the last two FIBA World Cups -- Team USA will face Iran on Wednesday, July 28 at 9:40 a.m. before wrapping up group play versus a surprising Czech Republic team that beat the Canadians in Vancouver, B.C. to win a spot in the Olympic tournament. That game is scheduled for July 31 at 5 a.m.
At the end of group play, two teams from each of the three groups -- the United States, France, Iran and Czech Republic comprise Group A -- and the two best third-place teams advance to the knockout round. All eight teams remaining will play on Tuesday, August 3, with the semifinals scheduled two days later on August 5.
The gold medal game and the bronze game are scheduled for August 7. However, it’s also worth noting that some of these games are morning start times in Japan, which means the games could conceivable air the day before in Portland (as in, an 11 a.m. start on August 3 in Tokyo will is take place at 7 p.m. on August 2 in Portland), so plan accordingly. Same goes for the planning you’ll need to put in if you don’t already have the Peacock app (which I'm guessing most of you do not).
While the times and stations can be a bit tough to figure, it’s far more difficult to gauge the USA’s chances of winning yet another gold in Tokyo. Between losing their first two warmup games to Nigeria and Australia, the lack of players on the roster with previous international experience, players not being available due to COVID-19 protocols and three players not yet arriving in Japan due to playing in the NBA Finals, the assumption that the United States can just roll the ball out and come away with a comfortable win is no longer safe. The United States finished sixth in their last major international competition, the 2019 FIBA World Cup, so while not making the podium for the first time in USA Basketball Olympic history would be unprecedented, it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.
However, the United States, with the help of Lillard, who looks to be the most talent player on the roster outside of Kevin Durant, could put a lot of speculation to rest by coming out and beating a France team featuring Rudy Gobert, Evan Fournier and our old pal Nicolas Batum in their 2021 Olympic opener.