Olympic semifinals preview: Matchups, NBA players to watch & more
Team USA continues its quest for a fourth straight Olympic gold against Australia, while Slovenia faces France in the other semifinals.
Kels Dayton, for NBA.com
After nearly two weeks of Olympic competition, we’re down to the semifinals. Four countries still have a shot at gold, but the task only gets harder from here on out.
The semifinals will take place Aug. 5 (Eastern time). Below is a look at each of the matchups, game time, players to watch and more.
United States vs. Australia
12:15 a.m. ET, Aug. 5
It hasn’t been easy, but Team USA is back in the semifinals after a second-half surge saw them end Spain’s gold medal hopes for the fifth consecutive time in the Olympics.
The biggest separator for the Americans and the rest of the world so far in these Olympics may be that the U.S. has Kevin Durant, and other countries do not.
Durant poured in 29 points in Team USA’s 95-81 quarterfinal win over Spain, with 13 of them during a game-changing 36-10 run that saw the U.S. take control. Spain had led by 10 at one point in the second quarter.
American fans had reason to be nervous after the U.S. lost two exhibition games in Las Vegas — one to Nigeria and the other to semifinal opponent Australia — and then faltered down the stretch in an Olympics-opening loss to France. But the team has seemingly found its rhythm as of late.
Jayson Tatum has emerged as the team’s second most-reliable scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game on 51% shooting from the field.
Damian Lillard has come up big at times, posting 12.8 ppg so far, and later additions Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker have begun to mesh with the rest of the squad after joining following The Finals.
Australia is back in the semifinal round for the fifth time since 1988, though the Aussies are still looking for their first medal in Olympic play.
This group has looked as formidable as any in Australian history, and for good reason, as the roster is loaded with NBA talent. Free agent and longtime San Antonio Spurs guard Patty Mills has added another brilliant chapter to a storied international career, averaging a team-best 20.8 ppg and 5.3 assists per game thus far.
Utah Jazz sharpshooter Joe Ingles has been impactful as well, averaging 10.5 ppg, and Philadelphia 76ers wing Matisse Thybulle is a defensive menace and could make things difficult for the U.S. on the perimeter.
Many basketball observers believe Australia has what it takes to give the United States a run for its money, and if this team can repeat its success against Team USA during the exhibition circuit, it would no doubt go down as the greatest win in Australian basketball history.
Slovenia vs. France
7 a.m. ET, Aug. 5
What more can you say about Luka Doncic? The Dallas Mavericks superstar has opened even more eyes to his brilliance after an incredible run through the group stage and into the semifinals.
Doncic made his Olympic debut by pouring in 48 points against Argentina, scored 25 against Japan and then fought double teams all game long against Spain, only to finish one assist shy of notching the third recorded triple-double in Olympic men’s basketball history (assists and rebounds weren’t officially tabulated until 1970). He finished with 12 points, 14 rebounds and 9 assists.
Doncic then scored 20 and dished out 11 assists in a 94-70 triumph over Germany in the quarterfinals. He’s the top scorer in the Olympics so far (26.3 ppg) and ranks second in assists at 8 per game.
Luka is now a remarkable 17-0 with Slovenia in international play. He’s led this country of just over 2 million people to within one win of securing a medal in its first-ever appearance in Olympic men’s basketball.
Still, Slovenia will face its toughest test yet against a loaded French side that has designs on winning gold for the first time in its history.
Like Luka, France made a statement in its Olympic opener, surging down the stretch to knock off the United States, 83-76, a result that certainly turned some heads.
The French are unbeaten in Tokyo, thanks in large part to the play of reported New York Knicks signing Evan Fournier, who has put up 18.3 ppg, which ranks seventh in these Olympics. Three-time Kia Defensive Player of the Year Rudy Gobert has been indomitable down low, averaging 12 points and 8 rebounds per game, and he’s a huge problem for anyone trying to get into the paint.
Much like Australia, France can send out a lineup of current and/or former NBA players at any given time, with LA Clippers forward Nicolas Batum, Brooklyn Nets guard Timothe Luwawu-Cabbarot and New York Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina all contributing.
Former NBA players Nando De Colo, Vincent Poirier and Gershon Yabusele also see big minutes.
France has been extremely impressive in going 4-0 so far in Tokyo, and advanced to the semifinals after a hard-fought 84-75 win over Italy. They’ve already proven they can beat the United States, and if those two match up again with everything on the line, we may be in store for a classic.