LA Clippers forward Nicolas Batum came away with a game-saving rejection in the final seconds to preserve a 90-89 win for France over Slovenia and earn the French a trip to the gold medal game.
Nothing stood between Slovenian guard Klemen Prepelic and the rim on a drive that could have resulted in a memorable game-winning layup. Then, Batum came from behind and swatted his shot away.
The block sealed a hard-fought win for France over the upstart Slovenians, who had reached the semifinals in their first Olympic appearance in men’s basketball. France will now face the United States, which defeated Australia in a semifinal earlier on Thursday, for gold at 10:30 p.m. ET on Aug. 6.
Dallas Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic recorded the third triple double in Olympic men’s basketball history, posting 16 points, 18 assists and 10 rebounds, though he shot just 5-for-18 from the field. It was almost enough to get past a loaded French team.
France was led by Nando De Colo, who scored 25 points. New York Knicks free agent signing Evan Fournier scored 23 points before fouling out in the final minute. Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert scored nine points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
France had built a 10-point lead in the third quarter, but Slovenia battled back, tying the game late in the fourth on a basket from center Mike Tobey.
A 3-pointer by Brooklyn Nets guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot gave the French a 90-85 lead with just over a minute to play, but Slovenia battled back behind Prepelic, who scored the next five points.
After an offensive foul call on Fournier, Slovenia had the ball down by one with a chance to win the game. The Slovenians tried a screen-and-roll for Doncic, who was picked up by Gobert. He kicked it to Prepelic, who got past De Colo but was denied at the rim by Batum.
Batum finished with three points, five rebounds and four blocks in the game.
Slovenia lost for the first time with Doncic in international play after having gone 17-0 previously. France will make its first gold medal game appearance since 2000.
Doncic joined LeBron James of the United States (2012) and Alexander Belov of the Soviet Union (1970) as the only players to record a triple double in the Olympics. Tobey led Slovenia with 23 points, while Prepelic notched 17. Luwawu-Cabbarot finished with 15 points for France.
Slovenia will face Australia for the bronze medal at 7 a.m. Saturday, Aug 7.