Tatum, Team USA Drop Game 1 of Group Stage to France

Jayson Tatum made his Olympic debut in Tokyo Sunday night, though it didn’t go quite as well as he would have hoped.

The Celtics wing came off the bench and tallied nine points, one rebound and two blocks, as the U.S. Men’s National Team dropped Game 1 of the preliminary group stage to France, 74-67, snapping a 24-game Olympic win streak dating back to 2004.

Team USA started off strong, leading 22-15 after one quarter and 45-37 at halftime. However, its offense hit a snag after Kevin Durant got into foul trouble early in the third quarter, and France capitalized by storming back to take a 62-56 lead into the final frame.

USA seemed to regain control at the start of the fourth quarter, as it opened the period on an 18-5 run. But then France countered with a 16-2 run to end the game.

Ironically, Tatum’s first Olympic loss was hand-delivered by his 2020-21 Celtics teammate and impending NBA free agent Evan Fournier, who led the game in scoring with 28 points and knocked down the go-ahead 3-pointer during the final minute of regulation.

Adding to the Celtics-related intrigue was the fact that Fournier’s momentum-swinging triple was assisted by former Boston big man Guerschon Yabusele, who made a diving save to prevent the ball from going out of bounds, flipping it back to Fournier before crashing into Team USA’s bench.

Despite the loss, Tatum had his fair share of highlight-worthy moments, as well.

The 23-year-old made his debut midway through the first quarter and wasted no time entering the scoring column, as he took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a lay-up over Fournier for the first two points of his Olympic career. He then doubled his scoring total just 16 seconds later, capitalizing off a Jrue Holiday steal with a fast-break dunk.

Tatum scored the remainder of his points during the third quarter, as he accounted for nearly 50 percent of USA’s scoring during its dismal 11-point frame. He was the only team member who scored from the nine-minute mark to the 2:05 mark, during which time he knocked down his lone 3-pointer and his only two free throws of the game.

Holiday was the top performer for Team USA, as he tallied 18 points, seven rebounds, and four assists off the bench, all despite landing in Tokyo less than 24 hours ahead of tip-off following his NBA championship run with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Team USA will get a chance to redeem itself Wednesday against Iran in what will be its second of three group-stage matchups. Its final preliminary game will follow on Saturday against the Czech Republic. Ultimately, the top two finishers in each of the three groups will advance to the quarterfinals along with the two best third-place teams overall.

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