Bulls guard Zach LaVine scored eight points and started for Team USA in his Olympic debut, but the Americans were unable to score enough buckets late in a 83-76 defeat in Olympic pool play.
When Zach LaVine made a three pointer with 5:25 left in the game for a 72-67 U.S. lead, it looked like USA Basketball was ready to step into the ring of the knockout round quarterfinals.
Instead they suffered the black eye the USA team in an 83-76 loss that ended a 25-game USA Basketball Olympic game winning streak.
The USA team plays Iran Wednesday in its four-team bracket with France and the Czech Republic. Two of the four teams advance to the eight-team elimination game quarter finals.
LaVine starting for the USA team was sturdy and consistent.
He scored eight points with three assists and two rebounds and was one of the few USA players who shot credibly. LaVine was three of six shooting from the field. Only LaVine and interior scorer Bam Adebayo shot 50 percent overall. Only LaVine with two of four three pointers and USA high scorer Jrue Holiday with 18 points shot at least 50 percent on threes.
Zach LaVine skies for a breakaway dunk against France in his Olympic debut.
Though LaVine missed his three-point attempt in what became the crucial closing sequence for the USA after France high scorer Evan Fournier of the Celtics made a three for a 76-74 France lead with 57 seconds remaining. LaVine, Kevin Durant and Holiday all missed threes with Durant also missing a jumper and Adebayo a layup amidst a frenzied USA three offensive rebounds and a steal in what became five consecutive USA misses.
France with Rudy Gobert adding 14 points then closed the game with free throws for the margin.
The USA's Achilles heel of its mismatched roster again was apparent as France easily out rebounded the U.S. team despite the late flurry of U.S. offensive rebounds. France also moved to a lineup of a second seven footer along with Gobert after halftime when France changed the outcome after trailing 45-37 at halftime.
The USA team is built to outshoot teams instead of being able to dominate physically, which opponents did to the USA team in the exhibition games. France did so again while the USA team flailed on threes, making 10 of 32. Scorers Durant and Damian Lillard were a combined seven of 22 shooting and four of 15 on threes. USA players talked about addition adjustments to the different basketball and the officiating, the latter which isn't giving USA players the typical contact fouls they are awarded in NBA games. Durant was in foul trouble early and fouled out.
"We still have a chance to accomplish our goals," said Holiday, who led the USA team in scoring with 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter despite it being his first day in Japan after flying following the Bucks title parade. "We were up with 1:30 left. France is a good team. We were up nine or 10. We've just got to keep going. I'm very positive about tonight. I feel we'll get better every game."
Adebayo had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Lillard had 11 points and Durant 10,
When the USA took its biggest leads late in the first half, it was behind LaVine with five straight points, a three on a Holiday pass and a dunk on a Draymond Green pass with 1:58 left in the first half for a 42-33 USA lead.